5 of The Best Ab Exercises You’re Not Doing
In fact, I would compare doing these exercises to training your legs with only leg lifts. If all you do is train your legs with leg lifts, you will miss working your other important muscles, like your hamstrings, your glutes, your hips, and all the other little stabilizer muscles. In fact, you’ll probably create muscle imbalances that will not only look funny, but can actually decrease your performance and lead to injury.
You develop the same limitations and imbalances if you train your abs using primarily sit-ups and crunches. You’ll miss all the other important muscles that make up your core and ab musculature, and you will end up with an unbalanced midsection. And, if you’re into sports, training your abs like this will also reduce your power and speed.
So, let’s take a look at how we can round out our ab workout so that we are hitting the core from many different angles. The following great exercises will give you some well needed variety and challenge your ab muscles in many different ways.
One note to all you hard core crunch enthusiasts, some of these exercises won’t give you the “burn” that you are used to when you do crunches. That’s fine, they aren’t supposed to. Muscle soreness is not really a true measure of your workouts effectiveness anyway. A better way to judge is to see if you are getting stronger and able to add additional weight or hold the position for more time.
Palloff Press and Hold
One of the primary functions of your ab muscles is to stabilize your spine. Yet, when most people do an ab workout, they completely ignore this important point. Instead, the do predominantly flexion exercises like sit-ups and miss working some very important muscles.
The Pallof Press will help you work on this stabilizing motion, or rather lack of motion. It’s a nifty little exercise that really challenges the core, and not just the abs. As you can see from the demonstration video, to resist the pull of the weight, you will need to engage your abs and strongly contract them to brace yourself against the pulling weight.
This video shows the exercise done from a kneeling position, but you can also do this standing. Just be sure to “be tall” with your body. Also, for those who don’t have a cable system, you can always use exercise bands instead.
Overhead Walking Lunge, Offset Dumbbell
Try holding a heavy dumbbell, in one hand, over your head for about 30 seconds. Be sure to use one hand and not two, because that will really change dynamics of this exercise. By the way, holding a weight on one side but not the other is called an offset position because you can’t counter balance yourself using a weight in the opposite hand.
Do you notice how hard your abs have to work to support your body and keep it from leaning? It’s hard work and it’s a great way to work on more of those stabilizer muscles.
Now, to make really hard, try and do that same movement while doing walking lunges. A heavy weight can be really challenging not only for your abs, but your entire body. I noticed after doing this exercise, I was easily able to resist people who tried to move me off the ball when I played soccer. Your core becomes a rock when you do this exercise!
The windmill is an exercise that is as old as bodybuilding. If you look at pictures of the old time bodybuilders, you will see that they used to do the windmill. In fact, there are some pretty impressive pictures of these guys doing windmills with a fully loaded barbell. These old timers not only had ripped abs, they were strong abs.
One of the great things about the windmill is that it benefits more than your abdominal muscles. The exercise also will help in developing shoulder stability and strength too. I often do the windmill before my shoulder workouts in order to ensure my shoulder is well aligned and some of the supporting muscles are engaged.
However, the reason the windmill makes our list of best ab exercises is because it really works your obliques in a big way. You’ll see this in the exercise video below. Also, please note that you can do this with a dumbbell even though he demonstrates the exercise with a kettlebell.
Go slow with this exercise to get started. You probably won’t want to use, or even need, much weight.
Side Plank With A Row
Another great stabilizing exercise that works all your ab muscles. It builds on another seldom used ab exercise, the side plank. Only with this one, we add an additional challenge and some instability by introducing a row into the movement.
This one may be a little tricky at first, so my suggestion is to use a lighter weight to start and then gradually build up. You can do this exercise either for repetitions or for time. Personally, I like to do this one for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
The Russian Twist
No, this isn’t a version of a white russian with vodka, and I doubt you will ever see “The Dude” trying this move. Sorry, but I love that movie and don’t get to pull out a Big Lebowski reference very often…This is a great oblique exercise and it does a great job of making your other core muscles do some hard work as well. In fact, your lower abs are probably going to get a good workout.
The demonstration video shows the exercise being done without weights or props. However, you can add a dumbbell, if you’re strong enough. You can use a medicine ball, too.
So, that’s the wrap up on the best ab exercises that most people never do. I hope you get a chance to incorporate these into your next workout and start ripping up those abs.