To get your abs to pop, you need to lose body fat and strengthen your abdominal muscles. While doing crunches and situps may activate the abs, these exercises don't target as many core muscles, like your obliques, compared to more functional movements. We consulted Travis Brown, M.S., C.S.C.S., about how to train the entire core to really get ripped. "The core needs to be trained in different planes of motion and the problem with a typical crunch or situp is that is working in one plane of motion," says Brown. "The body is basically a cylinder or a spiral and therefore muscles attach not just north and south but they attach and function by twisting, rotating, pushing, and pulling." Build strength, improve performance, and get ripped using these eight functional core exercises.
Add one of these exercises to the end of a strength and conditioning workout. Do 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps. If your core is your weak point, start your workouts with one of these exercises.
THE BIG 8
1. Pushup with Renegade Row
Place two dumbbells vertically on the floor shoulder-width apart. Get in a pushup position while holding the dumbbells. Do a pushup, then row with the right arm while the left arm is down. Put the right arm back down on the floor and row with the left arm. Place the left arm back down on the floor. Repeat.
2. Pushup on Suspension Trainer (i.e., TRX, PurMotion)
Start by facing the ground with your left arm extended inside of a suspension sleeve/handle and the right arm pulled back with your hand in the other sleeve/handle at shoulder height. Push down with the right arm to extend it as your raise the left arm. Repeat.
3. Dumbbell Lunge w/Rotational Press
Hold two dumbbells at shoulder height. Step forward and lunge with the left leg while taking the right hand and pressing the dumbbell diagonally across the face. Rotate your shoulders to the left while pressing the dumbbell. The left dumbbell remains at your shoulder as the right one is being pressed. As a beginner move, lunge first, press second. As a more advanced move, perform the movement all at once. Stand up and bring both feet together. Alternate by stepping out with your right foot.
4. Medicine Ball Lunge w/Rotation
Extend your arms straight out while holding a medicine ball. Perform a lunge then rotate your torso left and right. Bring feet back together, switch the lead leg, and repeat.
5. Dumbbell Lunge w/Alternating Overhead Press
Step out with the left leg holding both dumbbells at your shoulders. Press dumbbell vertically with your right arm. Bring your feet together. Step out with your right leg and press the dumbbell with your left arm.
6. Medicine Ball Lunge to Overhead Raise
Extend your arms overhead while holding a medicine ball. Lunge with your left leg, reach down toward your toe with the medicine ball, and raise the ball back over your head. Keep your arms straight. Bring your feet back together. Repeat.
7. Single-arm Barbell Lateral Pull
Stand in a lunge position perpendicular to the barbell. If your left foot is out front, your right foot is back and right arm is on the bar. Pull the barbell from the floor to the shoulder. Rotate your shoulders toward the bar while pulling. Switch arms. Repeat.
8. Medicine Ball Lunge w/Overhead Tilt
Extend your arms overhead while holding a medicine ball. Step forward with your left leg in a lunge position and tilt toward the left and right. Switch lead legs. Repeat.
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