What’s a good ab exercise?

Anyone who has been to the gym on a regular basis at one time or another has heard it.  Just ask that guy or gal who wants to look good this summer, or if you are in San Diego, it’s all the time, “What are you going to work on today/next?”  Answer:  “I’m going to do abs.”   Based on my last post about how to train the core, I think it’s important to define what the core is.

What most people are focused on

The truth is, the way most people look at “ab” training needs to change.  The “abs”, or more technically the rectus abdominis, are only part of the equation.  Your core (I wish I had a better term that wasn’t so butchered) should be defined as the scapula, trunk and hips.  Just look at the picture below.  This is not one simple muscle to train. 

In the last post I talked about how lumbar rotation is not a good idea.  Well, the glutes are the biggest muscles in the body and they, as well as the thoracic spine, should be a large factor in how the body rotates.  Just consider that there are 37 muscles that attach to the hips and pelvis.  In this diagram there are only a few pictured but probably the ones people are most familiar with.

So, if we can throw out this idea that the core is the six pack and obliques, and determine that there is more to it, what now?  Again, the role of some of these muscles is to prevent flexion, extension and rotation.  Tying in the hips to the midsection and scapula looks like it might be a good idea.  What are some good exercises to do if side bends and the ab lounge aren’t the best choices?

Just say no.

Some of my favorites include the Get Up, which ties in shoulder and core stability as well as hip mobility, ball or ab wheel rollouts if you want to feel like you are directly hitting the abs and med ball wall throws which have some similarities to the kettlebell swing as far learning to use the hips with some power. 

What is the basic take home message here?  Consider your core to be many muscles not just six.  Crunches are out.  Stay on your feet most of the time and use multiple muscles and joints no matter what area you are trying to target.  That’s how to build a solid foundation regardless of your training goals.

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