deconstruct your ab routine
Abs. They’re highly coveted but we’re consistently going about them the wrong way. Your ab circuit is probably lacking, and maybe your six pack is too. You may set ambitious goals for yourself—completing 100, 200, or even 500 crunches—moving up and down from the floor vigorously until you feel a burn in your stomach, but you still are not seeing the results you want. If you this sounds like you, its time to change your approach.
First, ab training is all about quality over quantity. Cut out crunches from your ab routine. Crunches don’t functionally translate to strength because they put your body in a posture that doesn’t resemble a movement you would do in the gym or real life. Train your abs for functional movements (such as a squat, hinge, pull, push, etc.) by utilizing exercises that work in multiple planes of motion.
Next, a sedentary lifestyle can stick you in an “extension based pattern”. This posture causes you to hyperextend at the lower back which can contribute to overactive hip flexors in the front of the thigh, added pressure on the lower back, and weak abs and glutes. As a result, most people can’t relax the hip flexors during core movements, so they overwork their hips and underwork their core. Solution: pair an abdominal workout with a proper hip mobility sequence (such as the one below) to optimize ab engagement.
Finally, if you want your abs to be visible, you need a body fat reduction to shed off that front layer of fat hiding your abs. You can train to help develop your abs, but only a reduction in body fat will show them off.
The following ab workout will optimize your abs for both aesthetics and function. You’ll start with a high-intensity, full body, conditioning exercise for 60 seconds to help remove that top layer of fat. When done intensely, the conditioning exercises will activate your core and burn more calories. Then you will go into an ab exercise. The key here is to slow down the tempo and engage the core properly. Focus on getting the most out of every single rep. No wasted energy here. Repeat each pair for two to four rounds. Take 45 seconds rest between rounds.
This workout doesn’t require any equipment, which means no excuses to put in work. Let’s get after it.
Start off with a hip mobility sequence to shut off the overactive hip flexors to let you activate your core (here’s one of my favorites)
Squat Jump to Powerful Pull (60 seconds): Stand in a squat position with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed forward. Extend your arms in line with your chest. Brace your core, drive the hips down and back, and explosively jump straight up as high as you can. At your peak jump, pull your arms towards your body as if you were performing a row. Stick the landing, absorb that movement, and get right back up. Make sure you’re jumping up from the heels, not the toes, and landing without a knee buckle.
Side Plank Crunch (10 each side): Set up in a side plank position with your right elbow on the floor directly beneath your right shoulder, and left foot stacked on top of your right. Brace your core and squeeze from the bottom glute to help maintain that posture. Raise your left leg and extend your left arm overhead. Keeping your torso stable and waist lifted, drive your left knee and left elbow toward each other until they touch. Extend back out. Try to keep your leg elevated during the entire set. To decrease difficulty, set up in a high side plank position with your supporting arm fully extended. Move only at the knee.
Mountain Climber to Squat Jump (60 seconds): Set up in a high plank position, long flat back, shoulders stacked over the wrists. Drive the knees in towards the chest while keeping your hips down and core braced. After 6 mountain climbers, explosively bring the feet towards the hands and jump up. Stick the landing and get back into mountain climbers. Repeat. Make sure to control the hips and keep your glutes down to maintain intensity in the core during the mountain climbers.
Hollow Body Flutters (60 seconds): Lie on your back and reach your arms overhead while extending your legs in front of you. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button towards the floor so your core hollows. Lift your legs off the floor while you raise your shoulders at the same time. Your arms should stay straight above you and next to your ears. Now alternating fluttering your legs while keeping your toes pointed. Keep that constant tension from head to toe. To increase difficulty, sit your upper body up to a 45-degree angle with the floor.
Pushup to Heel Tap (60 seconds): Set up in the top position of a pushup. Lower your chest towards the floor. As you press your body up, kick the heel of your right leg towards your glutes and meet it with your right hand. Time it so your heel meets your hand as you reach the top of the position. Maintain tightness in the core and stabilize with your supporting limbs to keep your body squared. Alternate sides after each rep. If you need to modify the pushup, just lower yourself as far as you can to get a quality range that is good for you. The focus here is more on the explosive core movement, not the pushup.
3D Plank (5 each side): Begin in a high plank position. Tighten up the belly and elevate your right leg. Drive your right knee toward your right elbow. Return to start and keep your foot off the ground. Next, drive your right knee toward your left elbow. Return to the start once again. Now, drive your right knee toward your right elbow and hold briefly. Then sweep your knee across your body, bringing your right knee toward your left elbow and hold briefly. Return to start and switch sides.
To see more from Darren, follow him on Instagram: @darrentomasso