Looking great in a two-piece swimsuit may be a great motivator for toning your abs, but a strong core can be so much more than something nice to look at. Your core is the place from where your balance and body strength both stem. It protects the organs hidden beneath, and helps you sit and stand tall. Keep it strong and you can help avoid injuries from everyday activities, as well as exercise, and help keep you free from back, neck, and shoulder pain.
Past ab work for you may have meant core crunches, planks, or leg lifts–all great ways to get a tighter midsection. However, if you’re making any of the following mistakes, your core work may be working against you.
- Avoid the Gym-Class Sit-Up: If you’re only doing the traditional sit-up as your core work, you need to switch things up. Often times, the sit-ups we learned in gym class work your hip flexors and lower back muscles more than your actual abdominals.
Be Ab-Awesome: Skip the gym-class sit up and add in compound exercises to strengthen your midsection as well as other areas of your body in a more efficient manner. Sample exercises include: deadlifts, squats, overhead dumbbell lifts, and pull-ups–assisted or full-body weight.
- Cool It on the Crunches: Crunches may be great, but they too typically only target your upper abdominals–leaving you with a four pack instead of a six.
Be Ab-Awesome: There are lots of ways to work your core, and in ways that are way more creative–and wide-spanning–than a crunch. Try instead a pike roll-out on an exercise ball, or holding a barbell plate on your chest and lifting it toward the ceiling as you raise your body to a seated position.
- Stop Pulling on Your Neck: Core work is supposed to help prevent injury, not cause them. When you clasp your hands behind your neck or head, it’s easy to want to try and pull your body up instead of using your core to lift your body and your hands to simply support your head.
Be Ab-Awesome: Focus on form. Good form is essential no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing, so keep it in mind when blasting your abs. Try adding in more Pilates-style exercises, where arms are extended from the shoulder forward or hands are clasped at the chest. Wherever your hands may be, keep the muscles being worked engaged.
- Forget Constant Forward Motion: Your core isn’t just where your six-pack you should be. It’s also encompasses your obliques and back. If you only do sit-ups that go up and down, with a forward motion, your core is getting cut short.
Be Ab-Awesome: Change directions. Think of how your body naturally moves–side-to-side, twisting, backward, diagonal, and so on. Keeping your core strong will help make sure that no matter what way you move, you’re body will stay pain-free and safe. Sample exercises: seated and standing twists, dumbbell side bends, supermans, side planks, and bicycle crunches.
If you’re going to exercise, you might as well as get something out of it. When you put your abs to work, make sure you aren’t sitting up with nothing to show for it.
What is your favorite ab exercise? Share in the comments!