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Inverted crunches are one of my favourite ab exercises, or maybe I just like hanging out/hanging upside down. No, they are effective as well. They fall in my top 5 favourite ab-focused exercises (others include; hanging leg raises, resisted ab wheel roll-outs, stir-the-pot, and ball transfers). Note: squats and deadlifts awesome for abs but are not ab isolation type exercises. Crunch into the fetal position as best you can, and try to pause when the abs are in the shortened position and lower down slowly. Exhale as you crunch, inhale and you return to the starting position. I don’t like performing crunch-type exercises excessively too frequently (not more than once or twice per week) due to the shearing force that occurs between disks. If you are using inversion boots it is safer to do this exercise with a training partner.
Resisted Power Wheel Roll-Outs
Resisted Power Wheel ab roll-outs are probably one of the most difficult ab exercises you can perform (other honorable mentions include hanging leg raises and crunches using inversion boots). Attach Strength Bands to the handles and attach the other ends to your workout partner’s ankles/calves. On your knees, roll-out until you get a stretch in your abs, then return to starting position. Keep your abs and glutes contracted. Inhale as you roll-out and exhale and you return. Do not let your lower back sag too much.
Strength Band Wood Choppers
Woodchoppers can be performed straight/standard,incline, or decline. Here I am performing standard. Each angle targets the obliques and abdominals slightly differently. It is good to do all angles but if you play a particular sport, use the angle that emulates your sport movements. For example, decline for golfers and hockey players, standard or incline for baseball players, and all angles for tennis players. Exhale as you are twisting and inhale on the return to the starting position.
V-sits target the whole abdominal region, stressing upper, middle, and lower fibers. Sitting on your tail bone, crunch up and cross hands bringing you into the fetal position. Keep the abs engaged throughout the movement and lower yourself slowly. Exhale as you crunch and inhale on the way down.
Hanging Leg Raises
Standard hanging leg raises using Harbinger ab straps (the best quality straps on the market - being the most comfortable and durable). These are in my top 5 favourite ab exercises. Even though “upper” and “lower” abdominals all contract at the same time, the hanging leg raises place an emphasis on the “lower” abs. Beginners can perform these with bent knees and work up to doing straight leg. The more advanced can try these with light ankle weights. Try to feel your lower back rounding and hips rotating up. If possible slightly pause at the top of the movement and lower the legs down slower than raising them. Exhale as you lift your legs, inhale as you return to the starting position.
Hanging Ab Wipers
Hanging Wipers are a great, challenging exercise for the abs and obliques. Do not try these until you can do full range of motion hanging leg raises (being able to bring legs way past the horizontal plane). Try to bring your hips up doing this motion. Rotate clockwise for 5-10 reps then rotate counter-clockwise. An even more challenging way to do this is to fight the momentum and go back and forth.
Strength Band Ab Crunches
These strength band crunches mimic cable crunches that you can perform at the gym. I am actually not a huge fan of the gym and prefer to train outdoors when the weather permits. I rigged up this band crunch to place focus on my middle and upper abs. I am using an extra heavy strength band here (the second heaviest band you can find). These are slightly different from cable crunches because it is very difficult to finish the crunch, rounding into the fetal position as the resistance become greater throughout the movement. I do not perform ab crunch type exercises with resisted spinal flexion too frequently and with excessive resistance as shearing forces on the disks can be an issue. To perform these, crunch almost into a ball and bring your elbows to the ground. Pause at the bottom and return slowly to the starting position. Exhale as you crunch, inhale on the return.
Stability Ball Roll-Outs
Stability ball roll-outs are a great exercise for the deeper core muscles that stabilize the spine as well as obliques. Having deep core muscles will help you perform heavier and safer squats, deadlifts etc. Roll out until your body is off the ball. A good goal is to roll out until your elbows are at eye level. Start will holds for 3-5 seconds and work up to 10 second holds. Roll the ball in to the starting position, rest for a couple seconds, and roll back out. 10 repetitions is a good start. Exhale as you roll out and inhale on the return.
Bird-dog is a great exercise for abs, obliques, lower back, and glutes. Add an ankle weight to make this exercise more challenging. Extended the leg back and bring your arm up over head at the same time while keeping your spine neutral. Pause at the end of the movement. Exhale as you extend and inhale on the return.
Supine Leg/Hip Raises
This is a basic beginner's exercise that targets the lower abs. Lie flat on your back. Keep your legs as straight as possible. Raise them until your butt comes off the ground. Your toes should be pointing behind you. Your lower back rounds. Lower your butt and legs down slowly. Feel your spine return slowly to the starting position. Exhale as you lift, inhale on the way down. When this exercise becomes too easy, add some ankle weights.
Cable Woodchoppers or Twists
Cable twists are a very good exercise for core and obliques. This exercise is great for racket sports athletes, baseball players, hockey players, golfers, among others. There are three different ways to perform cable twists or woodchoppers – high to low, low to high, or standard (hip height). Each way stresses different muscle fibers. In this video I am performing the standard ones. Exhale as you twist and inhale on the return.
Stability ball transfers are a great exercise that stimulates the upper and lower abdominals. Hold a small to medium-sized stability ball between your legs. Crunch up until your lower back is off the floor and transfer the ball into your arms. Exhale as you crunch and inhale on the return.
Stir the Pot
The “stir the pot” exercise on stability ball is a great exercise for the abs and obliques. It is a staple exercise for many athletes – especially fighters. With forearms resting on the ball, make clockwise circles – try 5-10 if you are a beginner. Then reverse the motion. You should be on your toes with feet shoulder width apart or further for a more stable, wider base.
TRX Side Planks
Side planks using TRX is a great exercise for core and obliques. Set the straps at about bench height or 2 feet off the floor. Use only one strap and fit your feet into the handle. At the top of the plank your body should be in a straight line parallel to the floor. Exhale as you are getting into the plank and inhale on the way down. Pause at the top for around 3-4 seconds then lower your body slowly to the floor. 8-10 reps is a good starting point for this one.
Crunches on a BosuBall allow the exercise to be performed with a greater range of motion – you get an ab stretch at the bottom of the movement. This exercise stresses the middle and upper external abs – rectus abdominis. Lie with your lower back on a Bosu, knees bent 90 degree, and feet flat on the floor. Crunch up about 45-60 degrees and return down in a controlled fashion. Exhale as you crunch, inhale on the return.
Side Planks on Bench
This exercise targets the obliques. Have one bent arm on the bench. Drop your hip slowly until you feel a stretch in your obliques. Inhale as you are lowering. Come up and exhale and pause at the top for 2-3 seconds. Repeat. The pressure can be rough on the shoulder that is supporting your bodyweight. If so, use your free hand for a bit of support and to push off. Side planks can also be performed with legs up on a bench.
This ab exercise is for beginners. Lying on your back, raise the opposite arm and leg. Pause at the top of the movement while exhaling. Lower the arm and leg slowly while inhaling. Alternate arms and legs.