When planning a workout program, you’ve likely heard time and time again that focusing on compound movements is going to be key.
Squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, bench presses, lunges, bent over rows, pull-ups, and so on – all of these will enhance both your physical appearance as well as your strength level.
This said, one cannot overlook the core muscles. While doing crunch after crunch on the ab mat isn’t the best way to get six pack abs fast as that it is going to be more of a function of your body fat levels, you can’t neglect strengthening the core as this will be important for performance on all the other exercises you’re doing as well as to help prevent injuries.
While the core muscles will be worked during those compound movements as they will be required for stabilization purposes, you can deepen the strengthening benefits you receive.
Let’s take a quick peek at the top core moves that you can be including in your workout program plan.
The very first exercise that you should be considering doing is the plank. The plank is a primary movement that will hit all the muscles running up and down the core while also slightly strengthening the upper body muscles as well.
This is an isometric contraction movement, so one that’s going to be slightly different than many of the other core movements you’re doing due to the fact that you will be required to maintain that position for an extended period of time.
With most abdominal movements, you’ll be doing a dynamic movement pattern, which will have you constantly moving throughout the exercise.
The plank is also nice because there are a number of variations that can be done to increase the intensity.
Apart from the standard plank, you can also do a plank on one leg by lifting one leg up off the ground and holding in that position. This decreases your base of support, so makes the muscles work that much harder.
The second way to boost the intensity is going to be to place either the feet or the hands up on an exercise ball. Since you now will have this instable surface underneath you, that will really get your core muscles contracting hard.
You will definitely notice the challenge difference when going with this variation, so do anticipate it. It’s one of the most advanced abdominal moves you can do.
When doing the plank, just be sure that you don’t allow the body to rise up or lower down from parallel at any point as that will place extreme stress on the lower back vertebrae.
Weighted Decline Sit-Up
Moving along, the second exercise to be considering to strengthen the core is the weighted decline sit-up. The decline sit-up is already going to be placing more strain on the core muscles due to the fact you’ll be working against gravity, but when you add the extra weight on them as well, this further intensifies it.
Hold a plate weight across the chest while doing this exercise and make sure that you move through the movement pattern slowly to keep maximum tension on the muscle tissues.
From there, if you want to add extra difficulty to the movement, consider adding a twist to the movement pattern as well. This will target the oblique muscles to a larger degree, giving you that ‘ripped’ up look on the side of the body if you are at a low enough body fat level.
Most men will want to use weights for this exercise, however females may prefer just to use body weight instead as adding the extern weight could slightly increase the size of the muscle fibers in the core, creating a thicker look to the mid-section.
Prone Ball Roll-In
Next up we have the prone ball roll-in. This is another unique exercise because it takes you away from the typical crunching movement patter and has you face down to the ground.
For this one, you’ll place your feet up on an exercise ball with the hands supporting your body underneath you, the body in a flat position.
From there, once you’re fully balanced, you’ll roll the ball directly into the stomach until you’re as far as you can go (the knees will be next to the chest at this point), you’ll pause in this position, and then you’ll roll the ball back outwards again to complete the rep.
This exercise requires a high amount of balance and agility as well, so great for overall conditioning purposes.
Lying Leg Raise
Finally, the last of the core movements that you’ll want to consider including in your workout routine is the lying leg raise.
This movement is going to be really great for targeting the lower abdominal muscles to a higher degree and will build up your muscular endurance as well.
To do this one, you’ll simply lie flat down on the floor and keeping the lower back pressed into the floor as best as possible, you’ll lift the legs upwards until they’ve reached 90 degrees.
From there, lower back down in a slow and controlled movement pattern until they’re almost touching the ground but not quite. It’s important not to let them drop to the floor as keeping them hovering above the ground is what helps you maintain optimal tension on the core muscles.
From there, lift them back upwards to complete the next rep.
One variation of this exercise that brings about more challenge is to start forming a circle with the legs as you complete this exercise. That will target the obliques to a higher degree as well, so giving you a more total core workout.
So next time you are heading to the abdominal mat to perform your core workout, keep these exercises in mind. Doing one or two per workout is a great way to maintain a strong core, firm and flatten the abs if you’re also at a lower body fat level, and prevent injuries.