Tighten Abs Without Crunches on the Total Gym
Why settle for the six-pack when you can own the entire brewery? Conventional exercises such as the abdominal crunch can be useful for some, but the prominence of this single plane exercise leaves the entire core unbalanced.
The core muscles work synergistically to provide three dimensional stability and mobility for optimal upper and lower extremity function. The main components of the core are the rectus abdominus, obliques and the inner-core (transverse abdominals (TA), diaphragm and pelvic floor). To sport flat abs, ensure the lower portion of the TA is activating and the internal obliques are not overcompensating. To simplify this, lie on your back and lift your head away from the floor. Do you notice your lower belly pushing outward or do you feel the area below the belly button activating and pulling backward toward your spine? To assist with the activation, tighten the pelvic floor first then feel the lower abs kick in. Use this to your advantage during abdominal exercises and help train your core as a team!
Comprehensive Core: Sample workout
Start by sitting on the glideboard with feet placed toward the bottom of the squat stand. If you notice that your tailbone tucks under when you place your feet in position, try raising the incline until you can sit comfortably in an upright, neutral posture. With both hands reaching forward and palms facing up, twist and slightly hinge back at the hips as you reach toward the tower with your right hand. Return to the start and repeat with the left hand. Continue for one minute.
Plank: Start with the kneeling version of the plank to practice your inner-core activation and establish a neutral spine. Once you have the inner core dialed in, slowly lift the knees from the glideboard and straighten the entire body while keeping the shoulders directly over the hands or elbows. Maintain neutral spine positioning and continue to breathe into the belly throughout the exercise.
- Before adding variations, increase your time in the plank position by small intervals.
- If a straight-arm plank creates wrist discomfort, perform the plank with elbows and forearms on the glideboard.
Torso Rotation (Static/Dynamic)
Begin from a seated or kneeling lateral position and grasp the front handle with both hands. Sit or kneel tall in a neutral spine position. Start with the hands placed close to the body near your belly button. Take a deep breath to prepare and then exhale as you slowly press the handle away from you. Repeat for 30-45 seconds. Take a short rest before moving into the full torso rotation exercise for 45-60 seconds. Repeat both exercises on the opposite side.
- Focus on maintaining a triangle between the arms and torso. This will ensure the movement emanates from the core rather than the shoulders.
- Feel the muscles work in both directions as you move through the exercise.
Core-dination: Start with a low incline level and pulley attached to the glideboard. Holding the handles, lie back and raise your feet so your hips and knees are both at a 90-degree angle. Bend the elbows and hold the handles close to the shoulders. Activate your inner core, maintain a neutral spine and slowly extend the left leg toward the squat stand and the right hand toward the tower. Slowly switch to the opposite position without moving the glideboard up or down the rails. The main focus should be maintaining a neutral spine and breathing throughout the entire set.
- Keep the tempo slow and the inner core engaged throughout the exercise.
- Progress to a straight-arm version of the exercise and remember to keep the wrists in a neutral position.
Perform the exercises two to three times per week or as a primer for your total body workout. Focus on the techniques above for a solid month or until the inner-core activation becomes second nature!