- Why doing just abs doesn't work
- Why you should do HIIT
- The exercises you should if you want strong abs
- Some final tips...
- Los ejercicios en PDF
Si fuese un hombre de apuestas (ok, tal vez lo soy, pero es otro tema de conversación) apostaría 10.000 dólares a que si le preguntase a un nuevo cliente de entrenamiento cuál es su objetivo PRINCIPAL para ponerse en forma, tendría que ver con alguna variación de “ver mis abdominales”. Puede que digan que quieren un vientre más plano, o verse bien en un traje de baño, pero lo que visualizan cuando dicen estas cosas es… ¡el todopoderoso y poderoso 6 PACK!
I get it. There is something pretty darn cool about owning a set of hard and well-defined abdominal muscles. It means you have little body fat AND have likely done a good bit of training to get there. It is a visible TROPHY if you will that you can carry in pride, showing off your hard-earned accomplishments. And because of the esteem this chiseled midsection affords us, most of my clients ask for more workouts to focus on their ab muscles. They want to do more crunches, more sit-ups, and more leg raises. And I flatly REFUSE to do it.
WHY!!!!??? You ask in horror that a trainer could be so callous as to refuse the wishes of their AB starved clients…well BECAUSE…if you want abs, then exercise is the smallest part of the equation…
Why doing just abs doesn't work
Verás, TODOS tenemos músculos abdominales, sólo que no todos podemos VERLOS. Y aunque hayas escuchado el dicho “Los abdominales se hacen en la cocina”, probablemente todavía tengas arraigada la creencia de que lo que se necesita para hacer brillar a esos bebés son más sit-ups. No es así, simplemente no lo es.
You MUST reduce your percentage of bodyfat and once the fat begins to disappear, the abs start to magically APPEAR. And while that sounds pretty darn simple, eating to lose fat can be a hell of a lot harder than knocking out endless sets of burpees. (really.) So, if you want to see a flat cut set of abs, cut OUT the junk. Eat whole foods, very little processed foods, and very little sugar. In addition to that, you will want to exercise with INTENSITY.
Why you should do HIIT
High intensity interval training (or HIIT) is a fantastic way to burn a ton of calories in very little time. A good HIIT session can last 20 or 25 minutes and allow you to burn the same number of calories as you would if you jogged on the treadmill for an hour.
A HIIT session is simply a bout of slow, controlled exercises (think medium paced walking) followed but a period of incredibly INTENSE exercise (think sprinting at an all-out pace.) Combine 8-10 of these INTERVALS together, and your workout is FINISHED. Pretty coo, eh? Yep, and it works! But…what about all those AB exercises??
Sure, movements like crunches and sit-ups DO hit your ab muscles to a degree, but they are far less efficient than their popularity would have you believe. The fact is, doing these exercises all the time is probably just as likely to hurt your lower back as it is to help you create and amazing set of abdominal muscles.
These muscles require you to use your lower back as the fulcrum for the movement and depending on your form, the rocking motion can cause serious pain. AND, unless your form is spot on PERFECT, much of the movement may result in your working your upper thigh muscles and your hip flexors while NOT working your abs hardly at all.
So....what exercises should you do?
As a trainer who is concerned about their client’s safety and overall health (as well as how awesome they look on the beach) I take a more well-rounded approach to the AB area. Instead of just focusing on your frontal abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominus) I prefer movements that will challenge your entire CORE area.
“Espera Mac, ¿el CORE y los abdominales no son lo mismo?”
In reality, your CORE refers to all of the muscles that responsible for preventing your spine from twisting AND allowing your trunk to rotate. So, there are sets of external and internal muscles that work together para que estés seguro y tengas movilidad. Basically, your lower back, all of your ab muscles and even your BUTT comprises your CORE muscles. And exercises that hit all of these areas can give you more BANG FOR BUCK in terms of having a super strong AND super sexy core.
Sound cool? Ok, then let’s list a few that you can start doing today to help you hit your 6 pack goals!
Below is a list of recommended core exercises as well as some variations that can give you next level intensity as you progress towards your goals:
- Forearm plank
- Side plank with rotation
- High plank sweeps
- Bird dogs
- Dead Bugs
- Glute bridge
Most should be familiar with this core staple. Performed on your forearms in the LOW PLANK position or with arms straight in the HIGH PLANK position, you simply hold your body completely straight for a specific duration. Your muscles work hard preventing any movement and this move is a fantastic way to build strong and DENSE core muscles.
Next level plank variations
There are a myriad of variations to this movement, but the most common are performed by dramatically increasing the tension of your plank by pulling DOWN with your elbows and IN with your toes as you are in position. This will force a maximum contraction of your core muscles and the durations will be very short, maybe only 10 to 15 seconds. In addition, adding side planks is a great way to increase variety and focus on your oblique muscles.
2. Side plank rotation
Since we're talking planks, the side plank with rotation is a great plank variation if you want to strengthen your abs. This exercises works your entire core with a focus on your obliques (those side ab muscles that give you a sexy waist).
Start in the forearm side plank position. Extend your free hand into the air above you, then reach under your hips, twisting your torso. Remember to keep the tension in your abs throughout the movement to really make the most of the exercise.
Do 30 seconds on each side.
Next level side plank variations
If you really want to challenge yourself, you can add weight to this exercise. Perform the same movement holding a dumbbell in your hand. It's hard, but this will burn your core like crazy! Start with a light weight and gradually increase as you get stronger.
3. High plank sweeps
This plank variation is hardcore. It justn't does activate all your core muscles - in particular your lower abs, it also targets your shoulders, arms, legs, glutes and back muscles.
Start in the high plank position, forming a straight line with your body from shoulders to feet. Keep the tension in your abs and take your right knee to your left elbow. Repeat the other side. Do 2 rounds of 30 seconds with a 15 second rest in between.
As I said, there are an infinite number of plank variations. Try our 5 minutes plank challenge or take a look at more of our core and ab workouts here.
4. Bird dogs
This is another fantastic exercise to help build a bulletproof core. Bird dogs are great for para aliviar y prevenir el dolor lumbar. Simply get on all fours on the floor, and slowly extending 1 arm up and forward while doing the same with the opposite leg. Finish with those limbs in a straight (or slightly raise) line. Then gently bring them back to the staring position and repeat with the other limbs.
Repeat the exercise for 30 seconds and do 3 rounds in total.
Next level bird dog variations
Just like in the plank variations, maximizing the INTENSITY of the movement is the first and best way to increase the effectiveness of this movement. Rather than just raising your limbs into position, really focus on CONTRACTING the limbs into position and ensure all the muscles involved are working to slowly create the extended position. In addition, you can also try wearing ankle and leg weights while performing dead bugs to really challenge your core muscles.
5. Dead bugs
To complete this core movement, lie on your back with your arms pointing straight to the ceiling and your knees up, thighs perpendicular to your body and lower legs parallel with your body. Now, slowly move one arm backward and you extend one leg forward…finish with each limb just above the ground, the slowly move back to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite limbs. This move can take a bit of practice, but with just a few reps completed, you will definitely feel it working!
Repeat the exercise for 30 seconds and do 3 rounds in total.
Next level dead bug variations
Follow the tips above for the bird dog variations to make this movement more challenging. But simply going SLOWLY and focusing on perfecting your movement will give your core muscles all the challenge they need.
This exercise isn't really aimed at beginners, as it requires a minimum amount of strength and coordination to be able to do correctly. That said, if you can do it, it's a fantastic core exercise.
To do a V-up, lie on your back on your mat with your arms extended behind your head, and your legs extended. As you exhale, bend at your waist at the same time you lift your arms and legs. Keep your core tense as you reach for your toes, forming a V shape with your body.
Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
Next level V-ups
Start each rep with your arms and legs hovering above the mat. This will really test your core, but it will be worth it!
7. Glute bridge
I know what you're thinking....isn't this an exercise for your glutes? Yup, it is, but it's also a great exercise for activating and strengthening your core muscles. Plus, another great benefit of the glute bridge is it doesn't put any pressure on your lower back and even can help you alleviate back pain..
Start by lying on your back on your mat with your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes as you push through your heels to lift your hips into the air.
Hold this position for 30 seconds, rest 20 seconds and then repeat 2 more times.
Next level glute bridge variations
A great way to up the intensity is to perform the exercise on your tiptoes.
Por otro lado, si quieres hacer este ejercicio más dinámico y desafiante, sujeta una mancuerna con las dos manos y colócala sobre las caderas. Empuja las caderas al techo, luego baja a la posición inicial. Esto es una repetición. Intenta completar 3 series de 10 repeticiones. Este ejercicio se denomina “Empuje de cadera”.
Some final tips...
Now, there are certainly a plethora of other exercises you can do, but in order to really be successful at something, it is often the simplest approach that yields the best results. So, if you are after that elusive 6 pack, simply:
- Eat healthy WHOLE foods that are not processed and low in sugar.
- Complete HIIT workouts 3-4 times per week (along with some weight training)
- Hit your core muscles with compound movements and focus on the INTENSITY of each movement.
Good luck with your goals and here’s to hoping you are rocking that 6-pack on the beach this Summer!
Mac is a certified personal trainer with over 24 years experience.He has hundreds of clients who speak wonders of his style of training.
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