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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

hey beautiful. i see you.

The name's Annie.

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Fitness, Uncategorized, Women's Health

February 5, 2018

3 Best Exercises for Abs: Never Do A Crunch again…DO THESE INSTEAD

You want abs? STOP DOING CRUNCHES.

I’d like to point out that we all have abs. The anatomy is there, but those abs might be hiding behind some unwanted visceral fat…which is minimized mostly by nutrition my friend.  As it turns out, you do need a strong functional core and that is why you’re here…To “get” abs.  Really, to work those abs in a functional manner.

We first need to determine what abs are meant to do.

Abs function mostly as a stabilizer. Think of your core as a tree trunk. It needs to know how to stay in a neutral and engaged position while your limbs move around it.

It should also be able to bend side-to-side, front and back and rotate, but THAT is not how you get abs.

Having a strong core can improve posture, reduce back pain, carry over to heavier lifting, and of course, increase the physical appearance of “abs.”

I have a few rules for ANY ab exercise

  1. Think of engaging the whole core.
    1. your “whole” core includes every muscle from the top of your hips to your shoulder complex (think hips to armpits).
  2. DO NOT think about or attempt to pull your belly button to your spine. NOPE.
    1. See how my stomach is actually pushing out during my plank? That is because I am simply tightening up all the muscles in my core. I am in no way trying to suck in.
    2. Sucking in can actually prevent your core from engaging properly
  3. Think “ribcage pinned down”.
    1. You generally want your ribs and hips stacked directly over one another.
      1. Avoid flaring through the rib cage or letting your lower back sway.

Without further ado, I bring you three exercises for that oh so desired 6-pack of yours.

1. PLANKS + VARIATIONS OF PLANKS

Planks might just be the simplest and obviously one of the most effect exercises for developing core engagement.  Because it is a static exercise, it allows you to get in touch with your body and really think about HOW you are engaging the core.

  • Ribs pinned down?
  • Actively squeezing your glutes to ensure your spine is neutral?
  • Actively PULLING your elbows towards your toes? This helps to engage the ENTIRE front side of the body.

 

OR, are you just hanging out in a disengaged “plank”?  One will get you to your goals and one will likely cause more back pain…

TECHNIQUE

For the front plank:

  • Shoulders over elbows
  • Elbows shoulder width
  • Eyes slightly in front of hands
  • Neutral neck (not hanging down or cranked up)
  • Straight line from shoulders to hips to heels (room for variance based on the lady lumps)
  • Feet shoulder width or together
  • Tight glutes
  • Ribs pinned down
  • Active lats (pulling elbows towards toes

 

Want abs? Stop doing crunches. Do these 3 exercises instead.

For the side plank (and any variation of):

  • Shoulders over elbows
  • Supporting arm and raised arm make a straight line perpendicular to the floor
  • Eyes straight forward
  • Neutral neck (not hanging down or cranked up)
  • Straight line from shoulders to hips to heels (room for variance based on the lady lumps)
  • Tight glutes
  • Ribs pinned down

 

Want abs? Stop doing crunches. Do these 3 exercises instead.

APPLICATION

Try adding a little circuit to your warm ups like three rounds of 30 seconds of each plank variation.  You don’t have to do your side plank with the foot elevated. You could have your feet stacked on one another or even be on your knees.  Rest 30 seconds between sets, or don’t rest at all.

 

2. FARMER CARRIES

 

Pick something up, hold it by your sides, put in on your back or throw it over head and start walking sister.

You think I am joking?  Prepare to be humbled.

Carrying objects engages your core in a 360 degree fashion. Want to feel like a drunken sailor walking the plank?  Try single arm farmer carries with a heavy DB or KB. Maybe it was just me?

Maybe you will have more success than me when you take a stab at farmer walks.

You can do carry variations with almost any object; barbells, yolks, sand bags, trap bars, dumbbells, kettle bells, humans…

Today I am sharing a common and easy entry level version – the kettle bell farmer carry.

Here are your coaching cues for carries + two video demos below

TECHNIUQE

  • Neutral spine
  • Shoulders packed (down and back)
  • Ribs pinned down
  • Tight lats (don’t just let the weight hang by your sides, control it)
  • No leaning side to side or twisting through the core

 

Watch the video below for visual reference.

 

APPLICATION

Depending on the weight you are using, carries are UH-MAZING for increasing grip strength.  Your abs will probably not feel these directly but they will certainly be worked + engaged.  Carries are also a great exercise for the abs while also causing a cardio effect.

My favorite way to implement carries is in a circuit with other exercises. For example, carry for 40 yards, 30 second plank, 15 kettle bell swings for three rounds.  Another great way to put these to practice is in tabata form. THIS will get your grip. 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds. You can do two kettle bells or alternate one side at a time each 20 second interval.  This tabata could be at the beginning as a warm up or at the end as a burner.

 

3. PALLOF PRESSING VARIATIONS

 

The super sexy exercise selection continues…

The pallof press can be done with resistance bands or on a cable machine.  The goal is to keep your hands moving along the same plane the entire time while keeping the resistance the same.  The pallof press forces your core to engage in order to avoid leaning or rotation through your abs.

There are several variations of this exercise; standing, kneeling, split stance and more.

The half kneeling and standing are shown below.

TECHNIQUE

  • Hands at nipple level (specific I know)
  • Feet or knees shoulder width (if standing or kneeling)
  • Ribs pinned down
  • Shoulders packed (not deflating chest or letting shoulders creep up by ears)
  • Tight glutes (back glute if in a split stance)
  • Keep band or resistance tension the same the entire movement
  • Avoid leaning side to side or twisting through the core

Half kneeling pallof press shown below:

Want abs? Stop doing crunches. Do these 3 exercises instead.

Want abs? Stop doing crunches. Do these 3 exercises instead. Standing pallof press shown below:Want abs? Stop doing crunches. Do these 3 exercises instead.

Want abs? Stop doing crunches. Do these 3 exercises instead.

APPLICATION

I suggest starting in a standing position for this exercise as it is the simplest.  Add these to your warm up or the end of your workout (difficult if your workout was mostly upper body).  Try performing 3 sets of 12-15 on each side with no rest between sets. You should feel the fight through resisting rotation and leaning.

HAVE A FRIEND WHO WANTS ABS, OR WANT TO STRENGTHEN THEIR CORE?

Spread the word my friend. Tag them in the comments below!

 

Psssst. You’re an early bird.  This is not live to my social media following yet!

JOIN MY FREE “EDUCATED MOVEMENT CONTEST”!

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

hey beautiful. i see you.

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The name's Annie.

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