SET UP: Lie on your back on a decline bench. Place the weights above your head, parallel to each other. Engage your core muscles. Make sure the leg pad sits comfortably on your shins.
ACTION: Lift just your shoulders off the bench, contracting your upper abdominals as you do this. Hold for one count, then repeat.
TARGET MUSCLES: intercostals, serratus anterior
SET UP: Lie with your upper back on a bench so that your lower body is suspended in the air. Keep your core engaged to support your back, and firmly place your feet on the floor just ahead of your knees and hip-width apart.
ACTION: Bring the weight behind your head, then contract your abdominals and bring the weight forward so it’s parallel to your face. Inhale as you lower the weight back down; exhale, contract your abs and repeat.
TARGET MUSCLES: rectus abdominis
SET UP: Stand facing the weight stack with your feet together. Hold the ends of the rope in your hands at chest height. Keep your elbows tucked against your ribs for support, and keep your shoulders pulled down.
ACTION: Using your abs, not your arms, to crunch forward, contract your abdominals and hold for a count, then slowly come back to the starting position, resisting the pull of the weight as you do.
Another abs mistake? Doing the same old crunches every day and doing dozens, if not hundreds, of them. Crunches certainly have their place,
but by only doing crunches, experts say critical parts of your core are being ignored.
Your core is made up of all of the muscles that run from your glutes to your shoulders. They include the pelvic floor muscles, external obliques, rectus abdominis (most often referred to as the six-pack), multifidus, serratus anterior, erector spinae and transverse abdominis. If you want a strong, slim core, you have to train all these muscles. The best way to do this, explains Seabourne, is by changing your regimen every now and again – vary the exercises so you can train these muscles from different angles.
And of course, doing hundreds of reps of any exercise isn’t only an inefficient use of time; it’s also an ineffective way to train. “Although that will increase muscular endurance overall, your muscles also need muscular strength,” says Seabourne. If there’s enough challenge, just six minutes
of core training two or three times a week should be all you need.
Timing is everything
So now that you know the parameters for building your core, one question remains: When should you train your core – before or after cardio?
For optimal results, do abs first, advises Seabourne, because if you do cardio first (like running for 30 minutes on the treadmill) you’ll deplete your muscles of glycogen stores, needed for that abs session. However, a by-product of high-intensity abs training is lactic acid, which your body converts into glycogen. If you do abs first, your body can then use that glycogen to help fuel your cardio. The exception? If you’re a highlevel athlete, training in your sport should probably come first, as that’s a higher priority. So throw out those misconceptions you’ve had about core training, and start training your abs the right way, starting with this workout.