Welcome back to the Mastering series. For those who don't know, every month we have a 2-part blog that details how to master a certain section of your body. This month - it's your core and abs.
In volume one we are going to discuss basic anatomy and our favourite exercises and in volume two we will touch on the specific frequency and volume you should hit in order to hit the best strength advancements and tone your core.
Core and Abs Anatomy
The most important aspect to understand about core and ab training is to throw away the idea that the abs only run vertically. Instead, think of them as a series of muscles that wrap and connect your upper torso to the lower legs.
By this definition, the abs become the most important set of muscles in the human body, especially for strength.
The most important muscles you need to know are the transverse abdominus, rectus abdominis and the obliques/serratus anterior. Not only do these muscles take much of the work in rotation, but they also help to flex the spine and stabilize all movements.
Best Exercises For Core and Abs
Start off the ab training you should always look to develop a base level of strength - which will come from planking exercises. I know, I know - planks are boring but trust us, they are essential for strong and sexy abs.
Once you can hold a plank for 3-5 minutes without fail, in proper alignment it's time to start training is isotonic movements - crunches, raises etc.
Here are our favourite exercises for developing a strong and sexy core.
Hanging Knee Raise
Perhaps the best of the best for core training comes from a hanging position. This will help to develop full stretch and a full contraction in the ab muscles on every rep. Keep your body aligned and work on your grip strength to progress to more difficult variations.
This exercise will mainly target the rectus abdominus and serratus anterior.
Many people perform this exercise with their feet in the air, but we would suggest keeping the heels planted. In this way, you can help to develop the connection between the hip flexors and core - as this will be essential for doing more complex core exercises.
This exercise will mainly target the transverse abdominus and obliques.
Lying Leg Raise
This one comes with a warning - if you do not feel strong enough to do these, or your experience back pain you should stop and go back to planking exercises. If you feel strong enough, lying leg raises are one of the best ways to develop the stability and definition you see from many elite athletes.
This exercise will mainly target the rectus abdominus and deep core muscles.