The quest for the ever-elusive six pack is one that confuses and frustrates millions of guys every day. From fitness magazines to bloggers, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. One school of thought still believes in crunches while another prefers the modern health tools of today. There’s even a rogue sect of the fitness community that doesn’t even believe in core work. If you have no idea where to start, it’s important to know that you can get there without doing a million crunches. While they’re still effective, crunches are more focused on spot training as opposed to overall core strength. If you want killer abs, you have to work your entire core.
Your core is a complex combination of muscles that include not only your abs but also your lower back and your glutes. It’s one of the most important areas of your body for lifting and for everyday activity like sitting and standing. Crunches might give you an aesthetically pleasing midsection, but it takes a different approach to activate your entire core.
Stick to Your Normal Workout
One thing you might not realize is that you’re already using your core in tons of exercises. When you squat, you’re utilizing core muscles to power up from the floor. When you bench press, you have to keep your core actively engaged to power the bar back up to start position. During your workouts, take pains to keep your core tight. This focus will help improve your form in individual exercises and you’ll be working out this muscle group without doing any core-specific exercises.
A former Marine officer recently broke the world planking record. He stayed locked in position for 9 hours and 11 minutes. You don’t have to plank this long, but you do need to plank. Planks engage all your core muscles. Additionally, they help tone your tummy and enhance your posture and balance. Not to mention, after just 45 seconds of planking, you’ll break a serious sweat.
Bird Dogs and Dead Bugs
Though they might sound like titles of children’s books, bird dogs and dead bugs are fantastic foundational exercises for core strength. Bird dogs involve getting on the floor on all fours. Then, you simultaneously push out your right arm and left leg. It takes great balance to keep yourself steady and avoid falling over. Then, you switch and push out the opposite arm and leg. That’s one rep. Dead bugs involve laying on your back in a position like a dead bug, with your arms and legs raised in the air. You’ll move your right arm back and left leg forward while keeping your back pressed against the floor. Then you’ll bring them back to the starting position and switch to the opposite arm and leg.
Both exercises rely heavily on your core muscles to maintain balance. You’ll probably feel a little awkward and wobbly the first time around. But after a few sets, you’ll have abs of steel.