The elusive six pack is what is sought for by so many people but there are a number of factors that will lead to the washboard stomach. More important is to work on achieving a strong core as this will help to protect your lower back and be a large factor in you achieving other big lifts. The aim with ab exercises, although it may seem obvious is to engage your core. If you are getting lower back pain then you are not engaging your core enough and you should ensure you have the technique correct.
A slight variation on the standard situp that requires you to lift your legs off the floor.
Lay on the floor with a neutral spine, your fingertips touching your temples. Engage your core – pulling in your tummy button to your spine – and lift your legs off the floor until they are almost vertical. Use your abs to lift your upper body off the floor and reach with your hands to touch your toes (or as close as you can get). Lower your upper body to the floor under control and return to the starting position.
Repeat for 3 sets, 12 reps per set.
Ball crunches to Mat crunches
You will need an exercise ball for the ball crunches. If you don’t have one, you can still do the mat crunches.
For the ball crunches, you want to sit on the edge of the ball so that your back is supported by the ball when you lie back onto it. Keeping your core engaged throughout the whole exercise, start sat upright on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and your fingertips at your temples. Slowly lower yourself onto the ball until your spine is straight then contract your core to bring you back up to the starting position. Keep your neck neutral throughout the exercise – you should start off looking forward and be looking at the ceiling as you lie back onto the ball. Do you bend your shoulders or neck to get you back up, all of the effort should be in your abs.
Repeat for 15 reps then hold the position for as long as you can. Then move onto the mat crunches with no rest.
The mat crunches start with you lying on your back on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. With your fingertips at your temples, and keeping your eyes looking straight – you will go from looking at the ceiling to looking more forward by the time you reach the top of he exercise. Contract your abdominals and raise your upper body until your shoulder blades are off the floor. Lower your body back to the floor, keeping your abs engaged.
Repeat for 12 reps.
Repeat the combination for a total of 3 sets.
Weighted oblique twists
You can use a medicine ball for this exercise or alternatively use a dumbbell.
Lie on the floor on your back. Bend and raise your knees so that your feet are off the floor. Hold the weight in both hands in the centre of your body and lift your upper body until your shoulder blades are off the floor. This will leave only your lower body and buttocks on the floor. Move the weight over to your right side until it touches the floor (don’t put any weight on it, you just want to tap it onto the floor). Bring the weight back to centre and keep moving it over to the other side. The movement should be fluid from one side to the next. At no point should your shoulder blades or feet touch the ground – keep them raised.
Repeat for 3 sets, 20 reps (10 each side).
If you are struggling to do the exercise with both your shoulder blades and feet off the floor, try doing it with your feet on the ground, knees bent, until your abs are stronger.
A classic but a great was of strengthening your core. If you have never done the plank before you will probably need to build up the time you can hold the position. You shouldn’t really be shaking whilst holding the position. If you start shaking, lower your knees to he floor for a few seconds then head back into the exercise.
Start by lying on the floor on your tummy. Curl your toes under and raise your upper body onto your forearms. Your body should be a perfectly straight line so make sure that your bottom is neither dropping to the floor or pointing up to the ceiling. Your shoulders shouldn’t be rounded or up around your ears – keep them down.
Aim for holding the plank for 1 minute. Repeat 3-5 times (or for as long and as often as you want!)
If you aren’t able to get the position straight away, start by trying a plank with your knees on the floor. Your knees should not be under your hips, they should be further behind you so that you can still get the straight plank position. This will make the exercise slightly easier.
The key to making this exercise more difficult is keeping your legs as close as you can to the floor. The higher they are, the easier the exercise.
Lay on the floor on your back with your arms down by your sides. Engage your core and lift your legs from the floor, keeping them straight. Alternate the raising and lowing of your legs (as if you were doing back crawl leg kick) but keeping your feet and legs off the floor. Keep your core engaged and continue alternating the leg kicks for 40 seconds. Repeat 3 times.