The “core” is actually a group of muscles, rather than one specific end all muscle. Often, people train their core with the same exercises over and over again, never overloading their muscles or challenging them to adapt to new stressors.
The core is comprised of the:
- Rectus Abdominals: the “six-pack muscles”
- Internal and External Obliques: the “cuts” on the side of the torso
- Transverse Abdominals: the muscle that lies below the rectus abdominals and obliques, responsible for structural support and breathing
- Erector Spinae: the “lower back” and surrounding areas of the hips
The Best Core Exercises that Aren’t Sit Ups
Instead of performing endless sit ups, perform these challenging exercises to build new lean muscles throughout your entire core to burn body fat and get results.
1. Medicine Ball Slams
This explosive movement is an amazing way to build lean and tone abs. The explosive nature of this movement requires maximal recruitment of the core muscle, specifically the rectus abdominals and obliques.
The added benefit of increased caloric expenditure and metabolic demands of this challenging exercise will surely leave you sore and sweaty.
- Stand over a weighted 10-30lb slam ball with your feet hip width apart
- Squat down and grab ball, using a flat back
- Explosively stand up lifting ball over head, going into a jump
- At the top of that jump, slam the ball as hard as you can into the floor, landing softly in your squat
- Repeat for reps
2. Barbell Landmine Twists
This is a challenging alternative to oblique twists, allowing you to add load and a full range of motion; both of which will lead to increased muscle activation and caloric expenditure.
- Load barbell into Landmine holster, or in a sturdy corner at the base
- Stand facing the barbell end with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, placing your hands at end of bar
- With bar pushed out in front of you, softly lock your elbows and rotate the torso in unison with your feet, similar to a tennis or baseball swing
- Descend into a lunge with the tip of the barbell near your thigh, and re twist to top position
- Repeat to other side and repeat for reps
3. Weighted Plank
This timeless classic is found in every ab training regimen, yet seldom actually perform it correctly or progress it enough to produce real results. Assuming a perfect plank position, you can add load to intensify this core strengthening exercise to build a tighter and leaner midsection; from the inside out.
- Assume the perfect plank position
- Assuming you can hold a perfect bodyweight plank for more than one minute, add a weight plate to your lower back, of 25lbs to start. Any lighter and you may just be wasting your time (literally)
- Work up to holding that weight for 60 seconds, no less than 20 seconds
- Slowly and steadily add load over time to build true core strength
4. Weighted Back Extensions / Glute Ham Raises
You may not think you lower back is important when seeking a six-pack, but think again. The strength and endurance needed to perform the most effective exercises (http://j2fit.com/the-best-exercises-for-real-strength-and-lean-muscle-mikes-five/) for building muscle, burning fat, and getting fit requires a lean and strong lower back. Additionally, by addressing the lower back specifically, you will target those love handles and hips.
- Load yourself into either the apparatus
- Squeeze your glutes and flex your adds before initiating the movement to infinite your muscles
- While keeping a stiff, flat back, lean forward throughout the full range of motion
- Slightly pause at the bottom, flex your glutes, abs, and lower back, and pull yourself back up. The best way to not hyper-extend at the top is to make sure your abs are flexed and back flat
- Build basic endurance by performing these with your bodyweight. Once you can perform 20 unbroken reps, add weight or hold a dumbbell and repeat
Related: Improve Posture: 5 Simple Exercises
5. Hanging Straight Leg Raises
This simple and highly effective exercise has been around for years, yet like the plank, people seldom reap the benefits from them. Building an amazing midsection is as easy as just hanging around…
- Start by using your own bodyweight and hang from a bar with a pull up grip
- With feet pressed firmly together, toes pointed to the floor, and abs and upper body flexed, SLOWLY pull your toes to the sky, minimizing the amount of swinging (cheating)
- Pause slightly at the top, and then lower your toes back to underneath you, minimizing swinging
- To minimize momentum and target the abs maximally, you need to remain focused and flexed throughout your entire body, specifically the midsection and legs
- If you have issues with the standard straight leg version, start by pulling your knees to your chest, pausing, and lowering under control
Visit J2Fit for more exercise and nutrition tips from Mike Dewar MA, CSCS, USAW, ReebokONE Fitness Ambassador.
Related: The Best Core Workout Ever