Think back to your glory days during gym class.
Remember the test where a fellow classmate would hold your ankles down and you’d do as many sit-ups as you could in one or two minutes?
Of course you always had the kid who loved to dig his bony little knees into the top of your feet just to be an asshole.
Well, what if I told you your mustached gym teacher didn’t have a rhyme or reason for making you do those sit-ups?
You probably wouldn’t give a damn since it was decades ago and you can’t even remember if you ever did that test, but that’s beside the point.
Needless to say, training your core, abs, or whatever you’d like to call the area between your shoulders and legs, has been around for a while.
Thankfully, smarter and safer ways to train the core have emerged since your younger days to make sit-ups and crunches a thing of the past.
We’re going to go over four exercises you may have not been introduced to during gym class, but will have a much more powerful effect than the sit-up.
Why should you care about having strong core muscles?
- Less pain in the lower back
- Your hips and shoulders move more freely (i.e. less pain)
- It doesn’t look like you’re eight months pregnant
- Your posture won’t look like someone who sits hunched over at a computer all day
- You become stronger everywhere else
The benefits of strengthening your core muscles are endless.
But let’s be real, the only reason you care is because you want to look good with your shirt off so you can get more sexy time with the misses.
If that’s the only reason you care, you’re in the right place.
But your back not feeling like a gorilla had its way with you sounds pretty great, too.
90/90 Hip Lift with Balloon
None of the following exercises will be as effective as possible unless you get your breathing down right and put your core into a good starting position. This exercise takes care of both issues.
- Lie down with your back on the floor with your feet propped up on something to form a 90 degree angle with your knees and hips
- Place a foam roller, ball, toilet paper roll (unused, preferably) between your knees and keep a slight squeeze on it the throughout the exercise
- Dig your heels into the ground so your tailbone lifts SLIGHTLY off the ground. Make sure your lower back stays flat on the floor
- Perform a quiet inhale through your nose then exhale as much of your air as you can into the balloon. Pause for 3-5 seconds before taking your next inhale
- Perform 2 sets of 5 breaths
This can be done before any workout to regulate breathing and kick your abs into gear for the upcoming workout. It can also be used outside of workouts to further work on breathing, reduce stress, and take some pressure off your lower back.
If you’re not a clown working at kid’s birthday party with an unlimited supply of balloons, you can still perform the exercise. Simply exhale all of your air with a big sigh then perform the 3-5 second pause.
Core Engaged Deadbug with Band
Now that your breathing is on point and your body is in an optimal position, you can begin to challenge your abs with a tougher exercise.
The core engaged deadbug with band is the perfect next step from the 90/90 breathing since you’re put into a similar position, but one where you have to actively control your back position while your legs move.
- Lie on your back with your head facing the band. Your head should be 6-10 inches from the band
- Keeping your elbows locked out, grab the band and pull it down towards your waist. There should be enough tension on the band where you feel your abs kick on as you pull down, but not so much where your upper body struggles to keep it in position
- Raise your legs into the 90/90 position
- Exhale your air out then extend one leg until your heel hits the floor; return to the starting position. Alternate between legs each rep
- Be sure to keep your low back pressed into the ground throughout the set. This is key
- Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps per side
All Fours Belly Breathing
If there were only one exercise I’d recommend for telling your tight as a steel cable low back to loosen up, it’s this one.
- Set up on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips
- Tuck your tail between your legs
- Push your hands THROUGH the ground. Imagine there is a candle about to burn your chest and you’re pushing your chest as far away from it as possible. Your upper back should round
- Shift your weight forward so your shoulders are out in front of your fingertips. Be sure not to let your weight shift backwards
- Once you’re in position, you’ll take breaths like you did for the 90/90 Breathing. Take a quiet inhale in through the nose, then exhale by performing a big sigh until ALL of your air is out. Pause at the end of the exhale for 3-5 seconds before your next inhale
- Perform 3-4 sets of 5 breaths
The Bear is taking the All Fours Belly Breathing one step further.
The technique points are identical to the All Fours Belly Breathing, with the exception being that you’ll dig your toes into the ground and have your knees elevated off the ground for the duration of the set.
For The Bear, you can either do 5 breaths per set, or hold the position for 15-60 seconds while still focusing on quality breathing.
The most difficult part of the exercise is going to be keeping your chest pushed to the ceiling. Once you begin to fatigue you’ll notice your chest begin to fall down to the ground and the roundness in your upper starts to lessen.
If you get to a point where this is unavoidable, cut the set short. Quality over quantity when performing this.