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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

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!

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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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

As a general rule, everyone wants to have a sexy and strong body, but no one wants to put in the work. We see a whole lot of excuses being thrown around every time fitness is mentioned, and it’s frightening that only about 3% of people in the US subscribe to the healthy living philosophy.[1]

That being said, have you ever stopped to think about why all these people fail to get in shape? Sure, there are some who are lazy, some with legitimate medical issues, and the readily available cheap junk food doesn’t help, but I think there is something more to it.

People are pressed for time, scared, and confused. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Most people either can’t make it to the gym, don’t have a lot of money to drop on long-term membership fees, don’t feel comfortable exercising around others, or they simply don’t even know what to do when they do get to the gym.[2]

Well, with a few useful tricks, some good information, and a bit of determination, you can create all the right conditions for building an impressive physique without ever leaving the house. Here’s a few things to have in mind:

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Fixing your posture and getting limber

The biggest issue most beginners have when they start working out is the fact that their bodies are so used to sitting scrunched up in front of a screen that they have trouble moving around freely. The human body can be amazingly limber and assume all kinds of positions, but for most people, this is going to require extensive work.

Start by gradually improving your posture over a few weeks, using small exercises, more ergonomic furniture, and just being mindful of how you stand, walk, and sit.[3] You can combine this with a short and sweet stretching routine, done about twice a day, to get your body ready to perform the basic exercises correctly.

Learning the basic movements

While there’s a lot of science behind both getting stronger and getting leaner, it can all be boiled down to a few core concepts and a number of the most effective exercises. Here are the best movements for overall development that you’ll need to master (you can find examples of how to perform all the exercises mentioned here on Bodybuilding.com):

  • Squats: the king of all exercises, the squat builds most of your leg muscles with an emphasis on quads and glutes, if you go nice and deep like you should. It can be a good core and thoracic extension exercise if you hold some weight in front of you, as in the Goblet and Zercher squat variations.
  • Lunges: a great exercise for the quads and glutes that also targets the hip extensors. It also teaches you to keep your balance.
  • Pushup variations:[4] the pushup is so versatile that some call it “the poor man’s gym”. The standard close grip pushup works the triceps, front shoulders, and chest, while wider variations put more emphasis on the chest. Raising your legs pushes the focus towards the shoulders and the upper chest, while the handstand pushup is predominantly a shoulder and triceps exercise.
  • Dips: another great exercise for the lower chest and triceps, this is an incredibly fun movement that can slap mass on you quickly when done correctly.
  • Pull-ups and chin-ups: grab a bar, hang from it with arms almost fully stretched out, and then pull yourself up until your chin raises above the bar. This is a fairly straightforward, yet difficult movement that builds a big back, biceps, and forearms. Position your hands facing the head for more bicep activation, and go a bit wider with palms facing away from you to target the lats better.
  • Rows/inverted row: a horizontal pulling motion that will add slabs of meat to your back and while improving that often lagging back head of the shoulder muscle. It even improves posture by strengthening the spinal erectors to an extent. You can bend over with the back straight and row a weight from the ground, with one or both hands, or you can grab the underside of a horizontal bar, feet on the ground, and pull yourself into it.
  • Glute bridges: a great way to really isolate and work the butt. It also gets the hamstrings, which are often neglected by people working out at home.
  • Floor hip extensions: a good addition that also focuses on the glutes and hamstrings, resulting in well-toned and balanced legs.
  • Calf raises: the calf is a small muscle but an important one, especially for the ladies who want to look great in heels. It’s also easy to just throw in at the end of the workout.
  • Planks, leg raises, and ab wheel rollout: of course, the abs need some attention too, but go for planks, hold for time, side planks, hanging or lying leg raises, and ab wheel rollout for the best results.
  • The Superman: the spinal erectors need to be strong if they are to keep your back healthy, balance out those abs, and keep you nice and tight during most of the other exercises on the list, so definitely give this one a go.

Take a few weeks to just get the form down pat on all these movements and make sure that you are doing a full range of motion and slower, deliberate movements. Don’t just bounce all over the place. Establish and build momentum. You can use a good bodyweight strength training program to make sure you hit all the muscles, keep progressing, and get enough time to recover.[5]

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How to progress on bodyweight exercises

Now, if you want to have a great and lean physique — and this goes for ladies as well — you need to build some muscle to give your limbs that lovely shape you are after, before you can lose the excess flab, and expose that Greek statue of a body. Don’t try to combine endurance work with your strength exercises. Focus on building strength with the exercises above and dedicate some time every other day for things like swimming, jumping rope, or cycling to burn some calories and improve your cardio.

Okay, so the main question is, how does one progress on bodyweight exercises, short of gaining more weight to make them more challenging? Well, there’s a few things you can do. The first thing to do to challenge yourself is to add more reps.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that when you can easily perform 15-20 reps of an exercise and still have a few reps left in the tank, it’s time to make it more challenging by doing one of the following:

  • Add an additional set. If you started at 3 sets of 5-6 reps and you’re now comfortable with 3 sets of 15-17 reps, then you can simply throw in a fourth set into the mix.
  • Do it slower. Busting out 20 quick reps isn’t quite the same as doing 10 slow and controlled reps, where you can even add a short pause when your muscles are fully relaxed before contracting them for the next rep.
  • Shorten the rest period between sets. 60-90 seconds is the sweet spot for resting between longer sets of 10-20 reps, but when things get easy, you can shorten this rest period progressively by 10 seconds, until you are only resting about 30-40 seconds between sets, to make it more difficult before moving on to a more challenging variation or adding weight.
  • Move on to a more difficult variation. When you get comfortable, focus on a variation of the movement that provides a bit of a challenge, e.g. one arm on ball pushups and then single arm pushups, pistol squats, and so on.
  • Add some weight. While you might not have access to barbells, you can always get a fairly inexpensive dumbbell set, a few different sized bags filled with sand, a backpack with some rocks, and even big water bottles and milk jugs will do the trick, just as long as you keep adding weight.

Work hard on your form, then try to go as hard as you can each session without overdoing it. I’d say stop a rep short of failure and rest until you feel you can go for another full set.

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Determining the type of cardio you need to do

Cardio is not that difficult to figure out and it basically boils down to a few simple rules, depending on your shape and goals:

  • If you’re skinny and want to get sexy and muscular: Do light and steady cardio, like a brisk walk for an hour, 5-6 minutes of jump rope here and there, or even just 10 minutes of shadow-boxing or dancing every day. Don’t let it cut into your calories too much.
  • If you’re a little overweight and want to lose 10 pounds or less and build muscle: It’s the same as the previous example, just add 2-4 more intense sessions of running, swimming, circuit training a week into the mix to cut the weight first. Revert to the previous example once you have lost the weight and recenter your focus on building muscle.
  • If you’re seriously overweight and your main concern is cutting 20+ pounds: Again, it’s the same as the previous example, only you can go with even more intense workouts, or daily moderate cardio sessions of about 20-30 minutes for a while. Once you’ve lost most of the weight, revert to the previous example, and then to the first example when you’ve shed all the extra pounds you’d like to get rid of.

You can choose any activity that you like, from jump rope, cycling, and swimming to hiking and and other high-cardio sports.

A look at diets and keeping them reasonable

As far as the diet goes we’ll keep it extremely simple:

  • Try to eat diverse vegetables with every meal
  • Eat fruit, seeds, and nuts instead of sweets
  • Go for lean meats instead of processed meat and cooked food instead of fast and fried food
  • Start counting your macro nutrient intake[6]
  • Cheat if you must, but keep these meals small, few, and far between

As long as you can stick with the program for about 80% of the time, you’ll be on your way to better health and an amazing body!

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DIY home gym basics

Some essentials that can help you get better results at home include:

  • A dumbbell set
  • Pull-Up bar
  • Ab wheel
  • Big ol’ sturdy bags filled with sand

You can do tons of great exercises with these simple tools, but if you can’t shell out for them right now, good alternatives include five gallon milk jugs filled with water, a bunch of books stacked in a backpack, using a friend/partner to lay on you, push, or pull to provide extra resistance, or just lifting heavy furniture and moving it around the room.

It pays to be creative. Look at how certain exercises are performed and on what type of equipment, and try to replicate it using household items. For example:

  • Two chairs = dip station
  • Anything that you can hang off = pull up bar
  • A stack of large blankets on the floor = bench
  • Stick and some rope = forearm exercise machine
  • A towel wrapped on a bar or dumbbell grip = thick grip for hand and forearm strength
  • Car = prowler device for pushing to build endurance and power in the legs

It’s all fairly cheap and you can get as creative as you like, just remember to be consistent with your training in order to see the results you wish to see.

All it takes is a little ingenuity and elbow grease, and you’ll set up a decent home “gym” and adopt some great habits along the way. It’s all about being consistent and trying to progress on each session, or at least each week, as you keep adding reps, using more complex movements, and adding weight, all while eating right for your current goals. Give it a shot and always remember, 90% of all this is your commitment and the intensity with which you attack these positive life changes.

Featured photo credit: Minna Hamalainen via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Atlantic: Study: Less Than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle’
[2] Men’s Fitness: 6 Not-So-Obvious Newbie Training Mistakes
[3] Perfect Postur: Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics
[4] Men’s Fitness: The Top 15 Pushup Variations
[5] Men’s Fitness: 6 Bodyweight Workouts That Actually Build Momentum
[6] On the Regimen: How To Count Your Macros – A Comprehensive Guide

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