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Everyone wants that washboard, the love bumps, six pack attack, abs of steel, the middle earth, the between two ferns abs... however, everyone is doing leg lifts and knee raises to hit the abs! What if I were to tell you that hanging knee tucks and leg raises do not use the abs as the primary mover? Rather, it is the psoas (a hip flexor) that makes these movements possible.
The roles of the core include rotation, lateral flexion, coronal flexion, extension, hyper extension, and stability. The muscles of the core include the erector spinae, rectus abdominis, external oblique, quadratus lumborum, transverse abdominus, transversospinalis, internal oblique, multifius, and some would argue the lats play a minor role as well.
Like any other muscle group, variation in the movement and type of training are key to continued progression, enhanced performance, and improved aesthetics. From my experience, most of the fitness population only trains two parts of the core, the rectus abdominis (the six pack you want) and the obliques.
Here are a few movements you should be doing--but probably are not--to get the stomach youve always wanted. These movements are progressions of simpler movements or regressions of complex movements. The foundation of each lies in the development of a solid, strong core.
TRX Body Saw
This movement is a great plank position movement, as it adds variability to the tension placed throughout the core. Its going to hit the stability muscles, which is imperative if you are looking to hold your own in big lifts. You cannot squat 600 pounds without your body being able to support it! This movement is also an amazing prehab or injury prevention and mobility movement for the shoulders.
Swiss Ball Plank Circles
This is another complex variation of a plank. It puts less emphasis on the normal core muscles engaged in a plank due to the upper body being at a higher angle. If you have problems with planks, this is a good starting point. This move also adds shoulder mobility and packs the shoulder into the glenohumeral socket to help prevent injury.
TRX Roll Outs
Continuing with the stability movements, TRX Roll Outs allow you to focus more on the hips in stability. This movement, when done correctly, forces you to push the hips forward and lock in the body from knees to head. It is also a great regression to the Dumbbell Pull Over in that it uses all of the same muscles in the shoulder. If you are looking to step it up a notch, standing and doing a full body roll out is incredibly taxing on the body. This is one of the best movements you can do for shoulder prehab and core integrity.
Parissi Side Plank
A variation of the side plank is the Parissi Side Plank. The side plank is a movement meant to train core stability; adding instability makes your body work harder. There are two movements to reteach your body the mechanics of running, the “A Skip” and the “B Skip”. Performing these movement patterns in the top leg of a side plank not only adds instability, but also instability to a movement pattern which could be very beneficial to athletes.
Kettlebell Figure 8
This movement utilizes the stability training in a standing position for those who cannot get down. There is also a large tension placed on the obliques and erector spinae. When performing this exercise, be sure to keep the torso still and not sway side to side. This adds strength in the core to keep it solid and strong!
While working lateral flexion, stability, and the rectus abdominis, you hit shoulder strength as well as core strength. This movement is very hard but really rewarding once you can master it. Remember to tighten your core to keep it flat; don’t let the butt come up high. Two tips: bend at the bottom of the ribs and focus on pulling your hips to your elbow. The second tip is to press down towards your feet with the hand that is on the side you are flexing.
This is a movement you may not have done before. If you are having difficulty coming to a full standing position in this movement, try swinging your arms from overhead to straight out in front of you as you sit up. If you are still having an issue, try holding a 5-10 pound plate in your hands while swinging your arms in the same way. This movement puts a lot of stress on the 6 pack attack muscle, also known as the rectus abdominis.
Dragon Flags are incredibly challenging. If you can get one, you are in an exclusive club. If you can get more, you are a certified tough guy or gal. Remember, when doing this movement, be sure to keep your body as straight as possible and go as slow as you can. This is the end-all-be-all core movement so have fun and work towards it!