The core area includes the abdominal muscles and lower back which are directly related by their positioning and function. These muscles support each other and you can’t have strong abs without a strong lower back. Training for powerful abs will not be as effective unless your lower back can endure the job to fully support these muscles. In turn, you can’t effectively train your lower back without your abs assisting in the movements.
Below are a few key exercises that will work on both of those areas. These may provide some new and creative alternatives to your regular core training exercises. These movements are not intended for those with present lower back injuries. You should be injury free and always consult with a physician prior to starting any new exercise program.
Ball Busters are similar to the Superman exercise with one key variation – you will be holding onto a ball with your hands and your feet while performing it. This adds extra resistance to your muscles as well as forcing your body to keep its balance. This is an isometric exercise that will leave you shaking by the end of each repetition even though you are not moving.
The Ball Buster exercise targets your lower back to help build strength and power, while simultaneously working your glutes for a tighter butt and your hamstrings for trimmer thighs. The addition of the two balls also strengthens your arms and shoulders very well. Your lower back muscles are both stretched and strengthened when performing this movement which makes it an essential exercise that works key muscles all over your body!
Ball Toss Crunch
Position your upper body onto an exercise and carefully grab a medicine ball and hold it firmly in both hands. Then slowly crunch up and toss the medicine ball straight up in the air and then catch it to complete one full repetition. The Ball Toss Crunch is a wonderful exercise to practice alone or with a partner and it’s designed to strengthen your back, abs, shoulders and arms while increasing your ability to balance which is vital for a strong and healthy body. If you do this move with a partner, it is best for your partner to be standing near your feet so you can throw the ball back and forth to each other.
After you become more advanced at this move, your partner can throw the ball at slightly different angles to ensure that you are working all of your core muscles. As with all exercises, proper form and technique are extremely important to ensure that you are getting the most out of each repetition while staying safe and injury-free. To keep the exercise ball from rolling out from underneath you, make sure to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground with your core tight so you can absorb the force from the medicine ball. By the end of your core workout with this exercise your abs will be on fire and screaming for mercy!
The Proper Crunch
To do a crunch the correct way it is always a good idea to keep your feet up with your knees bent to a 90 degree angle. This way you can keep your transverse abdominus in check during the movement. This also prevents injury to the lower back. I used a step to prop my legs up for these photos but you can use a bench, chair or any other item which is positioned at the proper height. This style of abdominal crunch is much more effective than a traditional sit-up, which many personal trainers no longer suggest for ab training since they can put stress on your neck muscles and your lower back. The crunch exercise targets your abdominal muscles very well. If you are more advanced, you can skip the leg prop and just bend your knees at a forty-five degree angle for added resistance. This exercise helps to stabilize the core of the body, contributes to a healthy back and can greatly improve your posture which is especially important if you have an office job where you sit behind a desk all day.
You should exhale on the way up as you crunch your abs and make sure your chin is not resting on your upper chest. Try to keep your face parallel to the ceiling. Don’t worry about raising your upper body too high when doing this crunch because you’re not supposed to. As long as the movement is slow and controlled – even just a few inches – will provide an excellent abdominal workout. Focus on keeping your lower back flat on the ground and really try to feel those abs working as you complete each repetition!
As an added reminder, all effective fitness routines should incorporate some type of cardio workout plan a few times a week along with a clean nutrition plan packed with nutrient dense whole foods. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen not the gym, so if you want a washboard stomach with ripped 6-pack abs you need to focus on the foods you’re eating because all the crunches in the world will not remove the layer of fat that covers your abdominal muscles if your diet stinks.