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Abs Tight, Abs Right!
Written by Zach Erick

If you haven’t already noticed from the 90 degree heat we’ve been dealing with, summer is right around the corner. You know what that means? BEACH SEASON! Time to tear off that shirt and show off what you’ve been working for all year.

We all get our pump on during the strength and conditioning portion of the workout; however, some people feel the need to do some accessory work for their abs at the end of the class. Nothing wrong with that, but the three most common ab-shredding exercises I see people do are:

1) Sit-Ups

2) Hollow Holds

3) Plank Holds

While these are all great core exercises, there are a few more that often get neglected.

1) Weighted Plank Holds: No, not with a plate on your back. The weight will be hanging from a weighted belt as you hold a plank position on top of 2 boxes. The boxes will be spaced apart so the weight can hang between the two boxes. Make sure you are holding a “hollow position” without over-extending your back or piking the hips up.

2) Russian V-Outs/Ab-Wheel Roll-Outs: The Russian V-Out are performed with a pair of rings that are adjusted so that they are at knee height. Depending on where your feet are placed depends on the difficulty of the movement. The farther you walk backwards from the rings, the more difficult it is. You will start as if you were going to do an inclined push-up with the rings. Once you establish a hollow position, you will slowly raise your arms out in front of you making a “Y” shape. Continue raising your arms until they are in line with your head. If you cannot raise your arms that far out, go as far as you can while still maintaining a hollow position. Personally I like to add a tempo to these to ensure I’m getting the most bang for my buck. Typically I use a 4111 tempo, but you can use whatever you want, as long as the eccentric phase is somewhat slow and controlled.

If the Russian V-Out is too difficult or taxing on the shoulders, a good alternate is the Ab-Wheel Roll-Out. Place a Ab-Mat underneath your knees, grab the ab wheel, and start in a “hands and knees on the floor” position. Keep the arms locked and slowly start to extend the hips closer towards the ground. Again, make sure you are maintaining a hollow position as your chest and face gets closer to the ground. Go as far down as possible while maintaining a rock solid hollow position; this will vary person to person depending on core strength. Throw a tempo into the mix to spice it up a little.

3) Strict Toes to Bar/L-sits: Last but certainly not least are strict toes to bar. This movement is the most difficult of the five I’ve listed. Start hanging from a pull-up bar with at least a few inches of clearance between your feet and the ground. Pull the shoulder blades back and down as if you are doing a “Scap Pull-Up”. Now, while squeezing the glutes, quads, and pointing the toes, bring your feet all the way up to the bar, and slowly bring them back down until your hips are fully extended. A great assistance for this movement is to have a friend place their hand on your back so you can generate a little more power, and avoid uncontrollably swinging back and forth on the bar.

If you are having trouble channeling your inner Shawn Johnson, you can use the parallettes to complete the L-Sit. The L-Sit is simply keeping your body suspended over the ground while keeping the feet in line with the hips. If this is too difficult, you can alternate extending your left and right legs, while bringing the opposite leg into the body. If alternating between legs is still out of your realm, you can simply keep both legs tucked into your body as you hold yourself over the ground.

Hopefully I have expanded your arsenal of ab-shredding exercises to help you get that 12-Pack before you hit the beach this summer. If not, you will still have the core of a strong wooden oak that has stood since the dawn of man.

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Ronda Myhre
Ronda Myhre

How many reps/rounds of the russian v/outs, ab rolls and strict TTB would you recommend?

Ben Sullins
Ben Sullins

What is the difference between having the weight on your back versus hanging down from a weight belt in example #1?

Zach Erick
Zach Erick

There are a few reasons I prefer weighted planks using the weighted dip/pull-up belt over a plate on the back. First, if you have a really strong core you can use more than a 45lb. plate to weigh you down, it’s also much easier to set yourself up, you do not need a partner to put a plate on your back. Another reason is that when the plate is on your back it’s typically over the shoulder blades so it’s really just being supported by your shoulders. With the weight around the waist it is isolating the core muscles.