Ab training is overrated. Crunches, sit-ups, bicycle leg-kick thingys. Who has time for all of that on top of the main training that they should be doing— strength work and conditioning sessions?
I’m not here to jump on the functional bandwagon because I believe that has been used and abused for years too. I’m here to talk about efficiency and effectiveness of a training session for women who are busy and who are sometimes confused about the best way to make their bodies look amazing.
So, how do we get that amazing, lean and bad ass body? Let’s start with the number one most important abdominal exercise that you may not think of— your diet.
What are you stuffing in your mouth every day? Is it beneficial to your quest for that lean body? For most people, I would say no. Having a discussion about exactly what you should be eating is a different article for a different day. Today I just want to make you aware that when you strength train and you think you’re getting “bigger,” I would have to tell you that yes, you’re probably gaining muscle but you’re also still fat. Sad state of affairs, but it’s true.
If you want to get lean, you must lose body fat. That all comes down to dialing in your nutrition.
Now that we’ve got that foundation set, let’s talk about the best ab exercises that you may not think of. These are all exercises you should be rocking if you want to lean out and look amazing.
1. Barbell Front Squats
A front squat is one of the best movements for the core and the body in general. It’s a much more athletic movement than a traditional back squat and places less stress on the spine. The front loaded action of the barbell requires more core stability, which is of course why it’s on my list. Added bonus— front squats make your butt look awesome.
2. Barbell Deadlifts
I was going to leave this exercise as simply deadlifts, but I believe that hitting the barbell is crucial for strength and also confidence for women. There’s nothing more bad ass than pulling some serious weight on the deads. Similar to the front squat we have a front loaded action— as you pull the bar off the floor, you get some serious core and abdominal engagement.
The push-up is one of my ultimate favorite abdominal movements. Doing push-ups correctly requires abdominal bracing through the entire movement. One mistake a lot of women make is to release the tension as they lower their bodies, which takes away a lot of strength and also createsthe elbow flare-out. Concentrate on keeping constant tension on the way down and then powering up with tight abs, glutes and lats. One of my favorite little tricks is increasing the difficulty by adding chains.
4. Kettlebell Swings
Swings are in my top five because of their incredible dynamic element. This movement fries your cardiovascular system due to the high demand of muscular recruitment and it requires a huge abdominal contraction at the top of the movement in order to avoid killing your lower back.
Driving the bell with your hips and using your arms as a hinge makes this one of the top movements for lower body power development and core strength.
The chin-up is my favorite upper body movement by far. The problem is that most women are unable to do chin-ups and they don’t understand progressions to build up their strength. (Side note: I don’t consider lat pulldowns to be a progression for chin-ups.)
Here’s the great thing about chin-ups: they get you stronger, they create the illusion of a smaller waist because you’re developing that upper body “V” look, and any large muscle group movement like this hits the abs in a huge way.
Great progressions for chin-ups are:
Using a band under your foot for assistance.
Using a partner to raise your knees (not always optimal because you can’t gauge the assistance).
Once you are able to do 1-2, you can “grease the groove” and perform 1-2 reps followed by a 10-second rest and repeat this for several sets.
Sprinting is one of the most underrated exercises on the planet. This one is really simple. When you’re running as fast and as hard as you possibly can, what is holding you up and helping you generate power? Your abs. Ever rock a sprint workout and your abs are really sore the next day? That’s exactly why.
Use anywhere from 40-100 meters for your sprints. Perform 1 rep all out, then rest 1-2 minutes and repeat for 10-12 cycles. Your abs, legs and upper back will thank you.
All of these movements are crucial for a lean body and they’re also some of the best exercises for your core and abdominals. So get off the isolated movements and get your body moving with these athletic exercises.