Thursday, December 8, 2011

Men's Health - Four for Your Core

The pressure on men to be ripped and have six-pack abs has never been greater. I'll bet that 10 of 12 Men's Health magazine covers list an article on getting ripped abs either through exercises or diet.

However, good fitness does require strong abs, or better yet, a strong core. Whether or not one can show a six-pack of abs has nothing to do with strength and everything to do with bodyfat percentage - and most of us will never need or want to be that lean.

This article from Men's Health is less about having ripped abs, although they mention that you can have that too, and more about building a strong core. In that realm, these are good exercises to add some variety to your core work.

[Personal preference: substitute a BOSU for the kettlebell in #1 - round side down. You get all of the instability with a lot less risk to wrists and shoulders. If you have access to heavy kettlebells, try a one-arm farmer's walk for core strength.]

Four for Your Core

Transform everyday gym equipment into ab-sculpting power tools
By Jill Yaworski, Photo Illustrations by Mitch Mandel
Posted Date: October 5, 2011
Infomercials are right about one thing: Exercise devices can put you on the fast track to a six-pack. But the best ones don't go by names like Ab Rocket or Torso Tiger, and you won't see them on late-night TV. They're already in your gym, says David Jack, general manager of Competitive Athlete Training Zone in Acton, Massachusetts. Add these four to your ab routine to accelerate your gains.

1. Kettlebell

Kettlebell mountain climber

Lay a kettlebell flat side down with its handle facing away from you. Place both palms on the round part, and assume a pushup position. Slowly bring one knee as close to your chest as you can. Touch the floor with your toes, and quickly return to pushup position while maintaining good form. Repeat with the other knee. Alternate legs for 30 seconds.

The instability of the kettlebell forces your abs, lower back, and hips to work harder than they do in a traditional mountain climber.

2. Resistance band

Anti-rotation band speed fly

Anchor one end of a resistance band at hip level. Grip the handle with your right hand and cover that hand with your left. Kneel on your right knee (with the anchor point on your right) and press the handle in front of your chest. With your elbow slightly bent, let your right arm open toward the anchor point, and return explosively to the starting position. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.

You're not only strengthening your pecs but also carving your abs as they fight to prevent your torso from rotating.

3. Barbell

Overhead barbell walk

Grab the bar using an overhand grip that's about twice shoulder width, and raise it directly overhead. (Add weight only when you can maintain proper form.) Keep your arms straight, your body tense, and your head back. Walk forward for 5 to 10 seconds, pause, and then walk backward for 5 to 10 seconds. That's 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 2 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Balancing the bar targets your shoulders as well as your torso's stabilizing muscles, including hips, obliques, and lower back.

4. Medicine ball

Windmill slam

Hold a medicine ball at waist height and assume a staggered stance, your left foot 2 to 3 feet in front of your right, knees slightly bent. In one smooth "windmill" movement, swing the ball counterclockwise, arc it above your head, and slam it to the floor outside your left leg. Then catch the bounce. Do this 10 times, switch legs, and repeat.

You'll send your calorie furnace into overdrive while chiseling your rectus abdominis—better known as your six-pack.

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