Hard Core - Exercises to Strengthen Your Abs For Better Performance

author : Team BT
comments : 55

A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce your fatigue in the long run.

"If your core is weak, nothing else can be strong"

By Justin Maguire
B.T.com contributor

Thought I'd capture some simple thoughts about the importance of core work, and then share my favorite core workout dreamed up by my evil, whip brandishing trainer...er... I mean... my wife.

Sit-ups suck!
Yes... most core work sucks when your core is out of shape. I too used to hate doing this, but it's helped my swimming, biking and running immeasurably. So suck it up and make this a part of your routine (I'd recommend twice a week). Welcome to the world of a strong core and ripped abs.

Why is core work important?
Strengthening your core will allow your body to efficiently transfer force from the lower to the upper body and back again, thus ensuring that any force you exert to move your body forward isn't wasted in moving your body sideways, etc. A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce your fatigue in the long run (good form usually takes less energy than bad form).

The problem is that most people equate "core" with abs only. The reality is that your core includes your upper back muscles (head carriage), gluteals (pelvis stabilization), oblique and what you consider "abs". My wife is the person who initially built this little core routine for me (thx Trish! - I think!). I really like this session because it works most of your core muscles & challenges the body to stabilize itself throughout multiple axes of movement, while keeping it interesting and broken into manageable chunks.

"Around the world"
This set should be considered reasonably advanced. If you have not done core work before, then you may consider doing some basic crunches before stepping up to this workout. Before I describe each exercise it's important to remember the following 5 things:

  1. As with anything new, introduce your body to these gradually. These will work your body in a very different way than you are used to, so take it easy!

  2. If you aren't breathing while doing these, then you're doing them wrong.

  3. Go slow. Speed is not important, and will usually lead to using momentum to cheat your way through the exercise.

  4. Quality over quantity.

  5. Do these with other people. It's great fun, and will keep you motivated.

I call this "Around the world" because it works all of your core muscle groups. There are 15 different core techniques to this routine - 3 for each side (the front goes twice). You'll start by selecting your interval. The total number of reps you will do in this routine is based upon the number you choose here x 15. So, if you select 25 then you will be doing 15 X 25 = 375 reps. For beginners I'd choose 10, intermediate 15, advanced 20-25, Elite 25-35. At the end, lay on your stomach for 2-3 minutes and gently come up into a cobra position to stretch your stomach muscles. Make this a part of your workout routine twice a week, and you'll be amazed at how much stronger you will feel come race day.

Core Set

1. Standard Crunch - Think about a string attached to your belly button & running through your body pulling your stomach towards the floor.


2. Knee-up crunches - Focus on keeping the small of your back against the floor even throughout the range of motion. SLOOOW. :)


3. Hip lifts - Keep your legs straight and don't let them rock back as your lift your hips. YES - I'm pushing down w/ my hands so I could hold this forever for the camera, but you should put your palms facing up! :) These are tough... don't speed through them.


4. Oblique crunches - You should feel your ribs pressing pinching into your side. Try not to fold forward, but rather bend up trying to get your elbow to touch your feet.


5. Side Plank Dips - Keep your body in a straight line (one plane) and keep the movement smooth and slow. Your hips should just touch (but not rest on!) the ground.



6. Oblique Leg Extensions - This not only works your obliques, but should also engage your piriformis & hip flexor as well. Don't let your leg touch the ground, and when the leg is fully extended your butt should be tightly squeezed rotating your leg out ever so slightly (this is the piriformis part).



7. Supermans - Each side counts as 1/2 of a rep. Your stomach muscles should be engaged when you lift up. Think about your arm and leg not only being pulled up, but also out. Hold it at the top for 2 seconds.



8. Bridged Leg Lifts - Each leg counts as 1/2 of a rep. Keep your butt down. You don't need to lift your legs super high.



9. Pushups - Keep your head raised and looking forward, and your body in a perfect horizontal plane. Your elbows should bend back, not out to the side.



10, 11, 12. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6, but do the other side.

13.  Heel Touches - Each heel touch counts as 1/2 of a rep. Keep your shoulder blades off the ground, remember to breathe, and make sure your feet are far enough away from you that you have to really reach to touch the heel.



14. Bicycle Crunches - Each leg counts as 1/2 of a rep. Each twist w/ leg extension should take you long enough to say "one one thousand" to yourself, no faster. Try to keep your shoulder blades off the ground.


15. Half Up Twists - Sit up, put your hands on top of your knees and then lean back until your arms are straight. Cross your arms in front of you (each hand holding an elbow) and start twisting! Each side counts as 1/2 of a rep.




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date: May 3, 2005

Team BT