First things first.
Your abs are just muscle, the same as any other muscle on your body and they respond to training just like any other muscle in the body.
So why treat them any differently?
And by that I mean why get on the floor and bang out 50+ reps of every variation on the crunch you can think of?
Is that what you do for the biceps? How about the quads?
I thought not, so here’s a few of the drills I like to use to put some load through not just the abs, but the whole core as a unit.
The Squat is probably the top choice for anyone looking to put on mass. When we load the bar on the front we load our abs much more directly than when on the back. Done well, you’ll feel as if the weight is sitting on the solid wall created by your rectud abdominis.
Bring the weight even further forwards by using a pair of kettlebells instead of a bar and suddenly your abs become the weakest link in the chain.
If you look up you may let the back arch or if you try to rescue a rep that went out too far or two fast, you may feel the pressure in your back. Keep the head down and if it goes to far, simply drop to the floor. More advanced guys can do this from an elevation, or from standing onto a low up ramp.
You’ll need a barbell anchored at one end and loaded on the other.
Hold the loaded end at arms length out in fron of your face.
Now turn to one side, allow the rear foot to pivot as the bar lowers in an arc to your waist.
Explode back up to the start point and then lower slowly to the other side.
Don’t cough for the next few days…..
Planks are usually touted as a great core drill, but in my gym we usually call them a “rest period”.
Instead of just hanging out in the plank, make it dynamic and the mountain climber does just that.
From your plank, run on the spot, get the knees to come right into the middle of the chest but keep your hips low.
You can play with bringing the knees out to the elbows if you wish.
Whereas the previous drills have all been strength based, this one slots nicely into your conditioning sets. Anything done on one limb.
Be that a 1 arm overhead press, a 1 arm row, a single leg deadlift or a 1 arm farmers walk, the options are endless. But regardless of the lift being loaded through one limb asks the entire core to kick in and keep the body stable and safe.
Try some after your main lift, do the accessory work as unilateral lifts and feel how much extra work your core needs to do.
Use one arm carries as a finisher to your workouts, maybe alternate them with the mountain climbers from above to get some cardio core work.
I’m not saying to never do crunches again, what I am saying is there are better ways to stimulate the growth of the muscles so that when you strip down the bodyfat they’ll pop. Use the crunches just to sharpen them a little.
Dave is the Strength Coach for Wild Geese Martial Arts and Fitness.
He holds several black belts himself and has competed in Kettlebell Sport competitions, although these days he spends most of his time training his clients which range from Mums to Mountain Bikers, Fighters to Free Runners and everything in between.
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