I’ll be honest, the extent of my core/abs training (aside from bracing with my core when I’m performing any exercise) is adding an abs exercise here and there between sets of another exercise. I almost always pair exercises together because I like to keep myself moving throughout my workouts, so adding a few core exercises is a simple and efficient way to train another muscle group in the same time frame.Why is a strong core important?
A strong core is SO important, it’s not allllll about sexy looking abs (though that is important too🤩)- a strong core will help prevent low back pain and injury, help with everyday tasks, and heavy lifting. It will improve your posture, balance and stability, not to mention the layers of abdominal muscles helps to protect your organs and central nervous system. Those are all important things to protect!
Best way to train your core:
There are countless ways to structure your workouts so that you get your abs training in, I think that most importantly it comes down to the quality of your movements, and fully engaging the working muscle(s) as best you can. Like I mentioned earlier, most of my core training happens indirectly when I am doing other exercises. Heavy lifting and/or keeping your balance is only possible if you fully engage your core. When I’m lifting heavy things I contract my core and create internal pressure so that I protect and keep my back safe from injury.
When I do specific core exercises I tend to “weave” the core exercises in-between sets of other exercises, rather than devoting a block of time to perform a series of abs exercises together (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s just my preference!
🤓 A little core anatomy:
When training your abs (or any muscle group) it’s helpful to know some basic anatomy, especially if you put together your own workouts. Every muscle has different attachment points which allows for it’s own unique function/movement pattern. That’s why it’s beneficial to perform a variety of exercises for the same “group” of muscles.
When we talk about your core, there are 4 main muscles that make up this area:
- Rectus Abdominis – the “6 pack” muscle. The muscle performs the task of flexing your torso forward. When you preform a basic curl-up or crunch, curling straight forward and back you engage your rectus abdominis.
- Internal Obliques – Internal means inside, so they are located underneath your external obliques, deeper into your body. The muscle fibres run on an angle opposite to the fibres of the external obliques, making their function to laterally flex the trunk and rotate to the opposite direction.
- External Obliques – these muscles are on either side of your rectus abdominis. The muscle fibers run in the opposite direction to your internal obliques (in the direction of reach down into your pockets). They help to flex and rotate your trunk.
- Transversus Abdominis – this is the deepest of all the abdominal muscles, the muscle runs horizontally and acts almost like a belt that wraps around your trunk. Its function is to stabilize your pelvis and low back, it activates the other core musculature, and is engaged almost anytime you move your limbs.
Putting it all together –
When you put together a core routine as a series or perform them like I do, it’s important to choose a few different movements so that you engage all core muscles. I’ve put together a small series of exercises using 1 dumbbell. Below the video are the details 🤗
DB Crunch Press x 8-10 each arm = 16-20 reps per set
- Lay on the floor and hold a DB up above your head. Bend your legs and keep your heels resting on the floor.
- Curl up one vertebra at a time bringing your shoulder blades and then mid-back off the floor. Reach up as high as you can with the DB while keeping your shoulders level.
- Curl back down in a controlled movement bringing each vertebra back to the floor one at a time.
***Focus on squeezing your abs as fight as your can as you curl and reach up
***Modify: get rid of the DB and just hold your arm straight up above your head
DB Figure 8s x 20-30 handoffs
- Hold the DB in one hand, tilt your upper body back, bend your legs about 90 degrees and lift your feet just slightly off the floor. Balance on your bum/tailbone.
- Scissor your legs in and out, as you do so, begin to pass the DB through your legs back and forth making a “figure 8” pattern with the DB
- Go as slow as you need so that you are able to keep balanced.
***Modify: get rid of the DB and try clap your hands every time one leg is fully extended and the other in bent
DB V-twist x 20-30 twists
- Sit back on your bum/tailbone (like the DB Figure 8s) and lift your feet just slightly off the floor, now hold that position.
- Holding the DB with both hands out in front of your chest, begin to move the DB in an arch from one side to the other. Twist your shoulders from side to side (exaggerate your shoulder twist to fully engage your obliques). Maintain your balance and do not rush through your twists.
***Modify: swap the DB for a stability ball. *** if you have a difficult time balancing on your bum, rest your feet on the floor while performing the movement.
3-4 sets of each exercise.
Option 1: Perform all three exercises so that it’s a stand alone abs workout (or tacked on at the end of a regular your training session) which will take about 10 minutes. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets. **Also easy to lay on the floor at home (in front of the TV;) and get a little as work in!
Option 2: Take each exercise and alternate with another exercise you are performing. For instance, 1 set of walking lunges, then straight into 1 set of DB Crunch Press. Here you would need little to no rest between exercises, alternate back and forth for 3-4 sets. Move on to your next exercise and pair with the next abs exercise, and so on.