By Nick Nilsson
Author of "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of"
Training the core effectively does NOT require endless crunches or useless machines or informercial "bear-trap-like" contraptions that fold neatly up and fit under your bed.
Training the core effectively requires only your bodyweight and a patch of floorspace!
Today, I've got two unique core-training exercises that utilize nothing but bodyweight to get the job done. Next time you train abs, try 2 or 3 sets of each one and see how your abs feel the next day...
Just fyi, I will have a link at the end of the article where you can go to see pictures and video of these exercises in action so you know EXACTLY what you're doing every step of the way.
Exercise #1 - Side Ab Push-Ups
This exercise targets the entire side wall of the torso...obliques, intercostals, transversus. It looks like a side plank exercise but adds movement to the plank position.
Sit on your left side on the floor (with your left hip on the floor) with your left hand propping up your body, fingers pointing directly in line with your body. Keep your left arm straight and locked.
Your legs should be extended straight down. Your body will be bent sideways at the waist, like you're about to push yourself up to get up. Your feet should be together, legs straight. If you like, you can brace feet against a solid object like a wall or machine.
Place your right hand on your lower left rib cage - this will help you to feel exactly how the abs are contracting as you do the exercise and help you make sure you're doing it right.
Now, using ab contraction, raise your hips directly up in the air until you've come up as high as you can (it will look like a sideways pike position), using your right hand to feel for that ab contraction. Squeeze the side abs HARD at the top then lower your body slowly.
At the bottom, try to keep your hip off the ground to get a good stretch on the side abs - you can rest it on the floor between reps if you need to, though.
Make sure you are on your side as much as possible throughout the movement - some forward bending is natural due to abdominal function in that area. Try to feel like you're also pushing up with your arm to get the strongest effect on the abs. Lean your head down towards the floor as you come up.
Watch out for lower back on this exercise as this is not a common plane of movement (the frontal plane). This exercise really tightens the entire side ab wall strongly. It's practical, functional and requires zero equipment.
Do 5 to 7 reps on each side per set of this exercise.
Exercise #2 - Flexed Arm Hanging Leg Raises
The hanging leg raise is one of the most commonly used lower ab exercises you'll see in the gym. As tough as it is, it can be done much more effectively with a small modification.
Instead of hanging down with your arms straight, do the hanging leg raise in the Flexed Arm Hang position! This not only makes the exercise tougher, it has the added bonus of removing much of the tension from the lower back that can happen with the standard hanging leg raise.
All you'll need to do the exercise is a chin-up bar (or something else to hang on). The nice thing about this version is that the bar doesn't have to be as high as with the regular version. You can do it in a power rack using an Olympic bar. Just set the bar to a level just about at your forehead. The exercise itself will be done exactly the same.
So grab the bar about shoulder-width, with your hands in an underhand curl grip. Pull yourself to the fully-flexed arm position and hold your body there.
Now do a leg raise/knee raise movement, bringing your legs up towards your chest. As you come up, don't just bend at the hips but be sure to actually curl your pelvis up as well. This is what activates the abs.
I like to do this exercise with the knees to further remove stress from the lower back. Because of the increased tension of the exercise, it's still plenty tough!
Hold at the top then lower down and repeat.
This reason this works better? Your abs get NO rest at the bottom, like they normally do in a hanging leg raise. When you're doing the flexed arm hang, your abs are contracting isometrically to support the weight of your legs.
They're also contracting to support the tension of the arm hang! It's double-trouble on the abs to start with then you throw in a leg raise. Very challenging!
Perform as many reps as you can on this one or until you can't hold yourself in that flexed-arm position any longer!
One Arm Version
If you're strong and are feeling adventurous, you can do this exercise with a one-arm hang. Instead of gripping both hands onto the bar, grip with one hand, then grab your wrist with your other hand.
This not only makes it harder, it sends more tension through the obliques as you do the exercise. Be sure to work both sides to keep things even.
PICTURES AND VIDEO:
To see pictures and video of these exercises in action, go to:
Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of the online training company BetterU, Inc. He has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been inventing new training techniques for more than 17 years. Nick is the author of "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of," a book packed with 77 of the most unique and effective ab-training exercises you've never seen before!
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.