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What is a core workout that will get me 6-pack abs?

man flexing 6-pack abs, illustration

Regular core workouts are one of the best things a beginner can do.

From sitting to standing to getting out of the car, we use our core strength for everything. So it should come as no surprise that our core strength is associated with a lot. For a beginner, or someone less experienced with regular exercise, a daily core workout can help improve the following:

  • increased mobility

  • better posture

  • reduced risk of injuries (especially low back)

Without core strength, and without training our core in multiple directions and with various intensities, we risk losing these vital pieces of our mobility. So it's important we take care of it by consciously practicing functional movements that mimic those we perform on a daily basis.

What exactly is our "core"?

Located in the abdominal region, the term "core", commonly referred to as "abs", is used to reference a group of interconnect muscles. When we talk about a core workout it means we focus on building strength in the abdominal region via the associated muscle.

There are 4 main abdominal muscles.

- transverse abdominis

- rectus abdominis

- external oblique muscles

- internal oblique muscles

There are three planes of motion.

In exercise they reference the directions forward/backward, sideways, and rotation with specific words. These words help us determine which muscle groups we are targeting with an exercise.

  • frontal

  • sagittal

  • transverse

Exercises like crunches are frontal. Exercises like oblique crunches are sagittal. Exercises like Russian twist are transverse. You may notice a correlation with these words and some of the scientific terms for the abdominals muscles listed earlier.

Many trainers (including us) utilize exercises which may not seem to directly target the abs as a way to increase the functional strength gains we attain when completing the overall workout. Heres an example:

Let's say we're doing a lower-body workout using kettlebells. Maybe we want to add in a core focus block to our training program. For this we might choose to include 3 rounds of dual kettlebell farmers carry for 20 seconds each round.

The purpose of this is to build compression resistance in the core. Our biggest obstacle in day-to-day activity is gravity, as it constantly weighs on us. Core exercises such as these will translate into increased core strength and better posture if completed regularly.

There are many, many more exercise, some of which we have included in our 7-Day Abs Workout which can be downloaded here for free.

For an added bonus, give this morning mobility flow a try. This flow was specifically designed (by us) to help wake up the core. For more of an explanation on what it means to "make up" a muscle, check this video description.

Abs = abdominals.

Think of this as a solo training block with singular focus.

Abdominal training typically involves a 3-4 set block. The intention here is to increase strength via load and intensity. It will usually be found either at the end of a workout, or made into a complete workout of its own.

Many ab workouts consists of the classical exercises such as crunches and sit-ups. This type of training may not take into account the associated movements of the sport or training purpose, but can be great for building strength in targeted areas, or to include as an active rest day recovery.

Core = more.

Think of this as more movements with a larger focus.

Core workouts consists of exercises which target all of our "global" and "local" stabilizing muscles of the core. These are the muscles responsible for bending over, leaning backward, reaching sideways, and turning around.

In contrast to ab work, core work is designed for the purpose of increasing core strength as it relates to the entirety of the training focus. Core is often included as part of a larger workout and may or may not be seen as a block of its own.

We designed our 7-Day Abs Workout to provide the exercises need for a complete core workout, or an additional to a weeks worth of programming.

Should I add a core workout to my training every day?

The short answer is yes. The minimum we want to train our core is 2-3 x per week with the goal of increasing core strength over time, not over night. When designing our own core training plan we can easily test how functional our program is by answering the following questions:

1. Does this mimic a movement I perform every day?

2. Does this mimic a movement I perform for my sport?

3. Will improvement of this exercise improve my daily tasks?

Assuming the answer to all 3 is yes, we have built an effective plan. If we continue to train 3-5 days per week, it is recommend to include core works during every training session and leave ab focused training during active recovery days or rest days.

If performed daily there is little risk of injury, however, to reduce the likelihood of overtraining or injury we would recommend modifying the direction (plane of motion) of focus on each day to ensure we never overuse any muscles, build imbalance, or impede our other workouts.

1) A weak core may lead to low-back pain, but so can a weak low-back. When performing exercises in the sagittal direction add low-back exercises as a complimentary movement.

2) Weak lats may cause a pull in the muscles which cover the ribs. This can sometimes feel like shoulder or trap pain so be cautious of moving too fast too soon, or too high of a load.

For a great beginner - advanced morning routine that will help with core and building long-term core strength, check out the following video. Make sure the sound is on (at least for the first time through - you'll learn why)


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