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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

5 Killer Stomach Workouts for Impressive Abs and Core

5 Killer Stomach Workouts for Impressive Abs and Core
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Having a well-chiseled six pack is the ultimate fitness goal for many people, and it’s okay if you want great abs as well. Stomach workouts are great for building core muscles, but they’re also great for improving posture, supporting your spine and back, and offering a wider range of motion.

The problem is that many people never succeed in carving out the core of their dreams! For some people, the problem lies in their approach to working out, while others have got their nutrition wrong. Either way, there’s a remedy, and you can commence your journey to an impressive six pack starting today!

In this article, we’ll go over the non-sexy reasons for having a strong core. I’ll also be sharing some proven stomach workouts and core exercises that’ll help you carve out an impressive ab.

Why You Need Rock-Solid Abs

Believe it or not, there’s actually more to having a strong core than just good looks. Core muscles are required for just about everything we do on a daily basis, from sitting, to walking, running and throwing things around.

Before we go any further, though, you should probably know that there’s more to the core than just the abdominal muscles (abs). It also includes hip and pelvic muscles, as well as mid and lower back muscles. All these muscles work together to support movement and maintain stability.

Here are some benefits of having a strong core:

1. Helps Your Posture

When you engage in core-strengthening stomach exercises, the thorough working of the torso helps to maintain a balanced posture. The posture balance, in turn, helps to reduce the risk of vertebrae degeneration and disc herniation.

2. Reduces Back Pain

Having a strong core also helps to alleviate back pain by providing adequate support for the spine. Research has also revealed that having strong core muscles reduces the risk of back injury during workouts[1].

3. Improves Athletic Performance

You’re going to have a hard time finding a sport that doesn’t rely heavily on core muscles for effective performance. From running, to rowing, baseball, football, and tennis, every sport you could possibly think of engages the core in one way or another.

So, if you’re planning to become an athlete, then strengthening your core is absolutely indispensable.

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4. Makes Life Easier on the Job

Life will become a whole lot easier for you on the job if you can manage to strengthen your core. The reason is simple—just about every activity you engage in at work engages your core, from standing to lifting, twisting and even sitting.

Therefore, if you’d like to be a bit more comfortable and energetic at work, then strengthening your abs and back muscles would be a great place to start.

Now let’s get to those stomach workouts that will help strengthen the all-important core.

5 Amazing Stomach Workouts

Before diving into the specific workouts that will finally send your abs out of hiding, there are a couple of anatomical jargon you need to be familiar with. These are just fancy names for the muscles that make up the abs, and they are:[2]

  • Rectus abdominis (front abs, commonly known as six-packs)
  • Internal and external obliques (side abs, found around the waist).

Got it? Great! Keep those in mind because I’ll be mentioning them a lot in the coming paragraphs.

Now, let’s move on to the actual workouts.

1. Crunches

Regardless of the negative media crunches may have received over the years, one thing is for certain—they work…when done correctly!

Crunches are great for eliciting muscle activity in the rectus abdominis, and this helps greatly in strengthening those muscles.

How to Do Perfect Crunches
  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet closely together and flat on the floor. You may want to hold on to something with your toes to make it easier.
  • Place your hands behind your head (without interlocking them) or across your chest.
  • Keep your elbows open to the sides.
  • Gently tighten and pull in your abs.
  • Curl forward, lifting your head and shoulder blades off the floor towards your knee.
  • Hold it for a moment and lower back down slowly.

Several variations of the traditional crunch have been developed to focus on other core muscles ignored by regular crunches. One of these is the bicycle crunch or bicycle kicks. The bicycle crunch impacts the external obliques (on the side of the waist), in addition to the rectus abdominis, and this helps to work the torso.

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How to Do Bicycle Crunches
  • Start in the same position as a traditional crunch.
  • Lift your right knee off the floor, toward the left side of your chest, and simultaneously lift your left elbow to meet your right knee.
  • Repeat this process for the left knee and right elbow, and keep up this cycle until your abs are thoroughly worked.
  • Be sure to completely lift your shoulder blades off the floor to keep the action concentrated on your core.

Check out this video on how to do the bicycle crunch:

2. Planks

There’s a good reason why the plank has gained so much attention in the fitness industry—it works. Not only does it crush the rectus abdominis, but it also greatly impacts the external obliques and transverse abdominis, making it one of the best stomach workouts.

In simple terms, it rocks your abs in a way regular crunches don’t and also doesn’t give you back pain, no matter how long you hold out doing it.

Planks aren’t just a great workout for abs, though. It also does a great job strengthening the arms, shoulders, and glutes.

Just like the crunch, there are several variations of the plank, each adapted to focus on specific muscle groups that may have been ignored by others. Here, I’ll be discussing just two of them: the front plank and the side plank.

How to Do a Front Plank

The front plank is the basic plank position, and it targets your rectus abdominis. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start in the pushup position with your arms placed shoulder-width apart, and place your feet shoulder-width apart or together.
  • Rest your weight on your forearms, with your palms facing the ground, and maintain a 90-degree angle between your shoulders and forearm.
  • Raise your hips slightly, and form a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Hold the position for as long as you can before your form collapses.
  • Rest for a few minutes and repeat.
  • If this isn’t challenging enough, raise an arm and a leg to increase the difficulty level.

How to Do a Side Plank

Apart from strengthening the front abs, the side plank also works the external obliques and transverse abdominis, helping you to carve out that dreamy physique in your midsection.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your right side, supporting your body by placing your right forearm on the floor.
  • Place your left leg on the right leg while maintaining this position.
  • Lift your hip off the ground, maintaining a straight line from your shoulder to your feet.
  • Lift your left arm into the air to maintain balance.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (one or two minutes is fine).
  • Rest for a few minutes and repeat for the other side.
  • To increase the difficulty level, you can raise the top leg.

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3. Russian Twists

The Russian twist is an amazing workout for just about every muscle in your core as you twist from side to side. The obliques are the more obvious beneficiaries, though, as the side-to-side motion really impacts the torso and helps to carve out an impressive side.

And just like the other stomach workouts listed so far, no serious gym equipment is required. All you need is some floor space and the will to keep going!

How to Do Russian Twists
  • Sit on the ground, and bend your knees to create a 90-degree angle between your upper and lower legs.
  • You may place your feet under something immovable or lift them slightly off the floor.
  • Tilt your back towards the ground at an approximate angle of 45-degrees with the ground.
  • Hold your arms straight before you and twist as far as possible to one side before doing the same thing on the other side.
  • To kick things up a notch, hold a mildly heavy object in your hands as you twist from side to side.
  • Aim for 10-12 reps on each side, rest, and repeat the process 3-5 times.

4. Hanging Leg Raise or Knee Raise

This is another exercise that will rev up your core and leave your abs strengthened for days. The most beautiful thing about this workout is its scalability. You can start off with bent knee raises, and then you can move on to straight leg raises, and ultimately to toe-to-bar raises.

How to Do the Hanging Leg Raise or Knee Raise
  • Grab the pull-up bar, ensuring that your arms are straight and your feet are totally off the ground.
  • Keep your legs straight and firmly together.
  • Tighten your abs, and use your core to extend your legs forward until they form an angle of 90-degrees with your midsection.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
  • For the knee raise, bend your knees before raising them to a 90-degree angle with your midsection.
  • For either movement, make sure you get your legs up using only your core. Avoid swinging them up with momentum.
  • To make things a bit more challenging, try placing a medicine ball between your ankles or knees.
  • Aim for 3-5 sets in the 10-15 rep range, and you midsection should be burning for days to come.

5. Ab-Wheel Rollouts

Alright, this one of the stomach workouts that may require a trip to the gym, but trust me, it’ll be worth every minute of your time.

If there’s one thing those infomercials got right, it’s the fact that ab wheels produce better muscle activation than crunches and leg raises[3].

As you roll out on the wheel, your trunk fires up in order to maintain spine neutrality and prevent collapsing[4]. In other words, it does a great job of crushing your abs and carving out those much-desired six packs.

How to Do Ab-Wheel Rollouts
  • Get into a tabletop position, and place some pads under your knees for protection.
  • Place your hands on the ab wheel, and take a deep breath.
  • Push your belly backward to prevent it from sagging as you roll out.
  • Roll out the wheel as far as you comfortably can, and keep your core tight.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds, and roll back in, fully engaging your abs as you do so.
  • To kick things up a notch, strap on a backpack containing some weight as you roll in and out.
  • Aim for 2-5 sets in the 10-15 rep range, and you’ll definitely feel it in your abs for days to come.

Bonus Tip: Your Other Muscle Groups

Before you dash off, don’t ignore other muscle groups!

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Here’s a little fact you need to wrap your head around—doing only ab exercises won’t give you six pack! Here’s why:

Your abs are invisible because they’re covered by a layer of abdominal fat.

Excessive body fat results from a calorie surplus, which means you take in more calories than you burn. And the abdomen is just one of the several fat-storage spots in the body.

Lowering your total body fat should be the first course of action, and that requires a full body workout.

Contrary to what some marketers would have you believe, you can’t directly target abdominal fat for elimination; there’s simply no scientific evidence behind this hocus pocus.[5]

Although research has revealed that training a particular muscle group does increase lipolysis (conversion of fat into energy) and blood flow in that area, the effect is usually too negligible to matter.

So, training a particular muscle group doesn’t make them cannibalize the fat covering them, although it does help those muscles to consume more energy as they get bigger.

You may do hundreds of crunches and leg raises, but you still won’t see those abs if you don’t reduce the percentage of your total body fat 15% or more[6]. Fat loss is a full-body process, and that means you need to stick to a calorie deficit and train all muscle groups to achieve it.

The Bottom Line

There are no magic tricks to carving out an impressive core with stomach workouts! If you want great abs, you need to do three things—eat right, train right, and burn fat!

Here’s the thing, thoughyou can do it!

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Start today, take it one day at a time, and a few months from now you’ll look in the mirror and love what you see. Stop sitting around; get out there and get it done!

More Great Stomach Workouts

Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Richard Adefioye

Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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Published on July 23, 2021

7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation
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Foam rollers are one of those pieces of equipment where if you do it right, they can provide you with a deep-tissue massage. They’re commonly cylinder-shaped and they push up against sore muscles while you lay on the floor.

Because foam rollers are such handy tools, there is a wide selection of foam rollers you can choose from. Depending on what kind of exercises you do, a foam roller can aid in relaxing different muscles in your body. Below, I picked out the best foam rollers available on the market depending on the types of exercises and needs that you have.

How I Picked the Best Foam Rollers

Before jumping into the list, here are the criteria that I used when putting together this list of best foam rollers.

  • Weight – Foam rollers, as their name suggests, are designed to be light enough for you to roll around without exerting effort.
  • Compact – Because you’re laying on the ground, you want to have plenty of space. As such, a roller should allow you to lay down and easily perform the exercises you need without too much issue.
  • High-density – The material should also be dense enough so that you won’t accidentally crush the roller under your own weight. The rollers on this list are very durable.

1. Best Overall: LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller

    From dealing with sports injuries to relieving tension points in your body post-workout, this premium high-density foam roller is the best. This foam roller is entirely made from molded polypropylene foam, which means that it has a high density and won’t be losing its shape for a very long time, even if you use it daily.

    Beyond that, it can also repel liquid so it won’t get soggy or wet if you’re particularly sweaty or you’re using the roller near water.

    It comes in three different sizes and can be used to assist your core, cover spinal stabilization, balance, re-educating your muscles, and boost stamina.

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    Pick up LuxFit’s foam roller here.

    2. Best Grid: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

      If you’re new to foam rollers, this one might be the best choice for you. The reason for that is that each purchase of these TriggerPoint GRID foam rollers comes with a free online instructional video. This video shows you the best practices and how to use a foam roller properly.

      As for the roller itself, the big benefit here is the overall design. It has a rigid hollow core, and the materials used to make this roller are rigid so it won’t be breaking down easily.

      Another aspect to it is its multi-dimensional surface, making it a go-to roller for masseuses to athletes. These rollers can also assist in oxygen flow and heal tissues.

      Pick up TriggerPoint’s foam roller here.

      3. Best for Physical Therapy: Rolling With It Therapeutic Grade Premium EVA Foam Roller

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        Even though this roller is fantastic for physical therapy, it can also be helpful for general use, particularly before you go to work out. By rolling in advance, you’re allowing your muscles to get warmed up for the exercises that you’re doing.

        This is big because when muscles are more relaxed, you’ll be able to extend the period of your workout. You’ll want to care about this if you normally do high-impact routines such as Crossfit, bodybuilding, or general weight training.

        Using this regularly is smart and unlike LuxFit’s roller, this one is eco-friendly and resists flaking and chipping.

        Buy Rolling With It Therapeutic’s foam roller here.

        4. Best Half Roller: OPTP PRO-ROLLER Soft Density Foam Roller

          While rollers are nice, they do have a tendency to slip and slide around. If you prefer to stay still and relax your muscles, OPTP’s half-roller will be a good fit. It’s highly durable with its cross-linked, closed-cell foam. Because of that, it has a perfect balance between softness and firmness.

          Beyond that, because it’s a half roller, you have the option between a flat surface or a rounded surface for versatility. If you’re looking for a softer roller, this one is a good option.

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          Buy OPTP’s foam roller here.

          5. Best Stick: Tiger Tail Massage Stick

          While your standard rollers are great for back rolling, they’re only able to cover large areas of muscles. This becomes an issue if you’re looking to relieve tension to smaller muscles or in specific areas.

          This is where massage sticks are able to shine as they pinpoint specific areas in your body. Out of the various massage sticks we’ve checked, the one from Tiger Tail is ideal. It has three size options to pick from (11-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch) letting you have good flexibility in what you’re looking for.

          The Tiger Tail is made from a high-quality, non-absorbent, and non-deteriorating closed-cell foam. This ensures that it won’t hurt your skin when using it, making cleaning easier, too. It’s also ergonomically designed so that your hands won’t tire out when using it.

          Buy Tiger Tail’s massage stick here.

          6. Best for Cyclists: Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release

            While it’s no foam roller, lacrosse balls are excellent ways to relieve tension in areas where foam rollers are awkward to reach, such as shoulders, glutes, and neck. All in all, they’re a great addition to your muscle relaxation routine.

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            Every purchase of these lacrosse balls provides you with two balls to use. Through these durable balls, you’ll be able to reach smaller muscle groups easier than you could with any typical foam roller.

            Purchase Kieba’s massage lacrosse balls here.

            7. Best for Shoulders: RumbleRoller Beastie Bar and Stands

              Lastly, if you’re looking for a great way to relax your shoulders, this product from RumbleRoller is ideal. The thing with foam rollers is that reaching your shoulders with these rollers can be awkward. Paired up with shoulders tend to carry a lot of stress, we’re more likely to experience muscle pain in that area.

              Instead of pulling out your roller, this option could be significantly better. This wand features two “Beasties,” which are spiky foam massage balls. Similar to Lacrosse balls, these are able to target small pressure points on your body—in this case, your shoulders and neck.

              It comes with stands that are detachable so you can use just the ball to relieve various points over your body too if need be. Each of the balls is durable and firm so you shouldn’t have issues in relieving muscle pain.

              Buy RumbleRoller’s beastie bar here.

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              Final Thoughts

              You don’t need to be constantly seeing a masseuse whenever you experience muscle pain. In many cases, it’s simply that you put your body through a bit too much stress. Whether it’s from your posture or from working out, foam rollers and other physical therapy tools can help you in dealing with those aches and pains. Just try out a few products from this list of the best foam rollers out there, and choose one that best fits your needs.

              Featured photo credit: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett via unsplash.com

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