Abs…they’re adored and sought after by men and women alike. They may be the one body part that everyone trains consistently, week after week.
But core training is also one of the biggest things that people in the gym do wrong.
In this article, I am going to outline a few mistakes people make with their core training, as well as give you some exercises you should be doing if you want strong, washboard abs.
Core Training Mistakes
Mistake #1: Your Diet is Shit
No amount of crunches, planks, or hip hop dancing is going to let you see your abs. Visible abdominals are mainly due to low body fat percentage (~10% for men). Yes, you can increase the size of your abs by targeting them with isolation exercises, but if they’re covered in a layer of flab, it won’t matter. Get your diet in check first!
Mistake #2: Only Using Isolation Exercises
Isolation exercises have their place and should be a part of any ab training program. But you are missing out on some great core strengthening benefits if you aren’t including compound exercises as well.
Exercises like the squat, deadlift and overhead press, in addition to working most major muscle groups, also target the core. In fact, most beginner trainees will get great core work just from performing these exercises. Your core plays an important role in stabilization and force production when performing these lifts, so your abs, obliques, and lower back all get a lot of work.
Speaking of lower back…
Mistake #3: Ignoring the Lower Back
Your core is made up of all the muscles in your mid-section, and that includes your lower back. By only focusing on your abdominals and neglecting your spinal erectors you can create a strength imbalance; one that could lead to injury.
Mistake #4: Training Too Often or Too Much
The muscles in your core are like any other muscle. They need time to rest and recover. There is no reason to train them every day. They also don’t require a lot of isolation work, especially if your program already includes a lot of compound exercises. 15 minutes at the end of your workout, once or twice a week is sufficient.
Core Exercises You Should Be Doing
(See linked videos for demonstrations)
Compound Exercises: Squat, deadlift, OHP. Do we really need to discuss this again? Didn’t think so. Do them!
Ab Wheel Rollout: Rollouts are like planks on steroids. However, they differ from planks in that the rollout forces your abs to work harder at the bottom to the movement to prevent your back from going into extension. This makes your core work overtime, making the muslces stronger and more defined.
Deadbugs: These may look funny and simple, but they are anything but. When done correctly, deadbugs will fry your abs. To perform a proper deadbug, you need to make sure your lower back is pressed hard into the floor. This will engage your abs as they have to work to keep your spine from going into hyperextension, or coming up off the floor.
Pallof Press: Another uncommon, but fantastic core strengthening exercise is the Pallof Press. The Pallof Press is designed to increase core stability by using your core to help prevent the weight from pulling your upper body into rotation.
Your core has to work to keep you in a stable, upright position, which in turn helps increase strength in the abs and obliques. The biggest mistake people make with the Pallof Press is going to heavy. Keep the weight light and focus on strict form.
Hyperextensions: Remember I said for complete core training you have to target the back as well as the front? Well, hyperextensions do just that. Specifically, hypers target the spinal erectors, the main posterior core muscle.
The main thing to keep in mind when performing this exercise is not to swing too far in either direction, meaning you do not want to arch your back at the top, nor round it at the bottom. To make this exercise more challenging, try holding a weight plate in front of your chest.
Farmer’s Walk: Farmer’s walks are really a total body exercise. They work everything from your shoulders down to your legs…and that includes your core.
The farmer’s walk is fantastic for building strength in your midsection because it requires a ton of core stabilization in order to maintain good posture through the movement. It’s this need for stabilization that will help build strong abs and lower back. To target your core even more, try one-arm farmer’s walks or overhead carries. Both require even more stabilization in order to maintain good posture.
Core training doesn’t need to be complicated, but it requires more than just throwing in 1000 crunches to the end of your workout. Use your diet to reveal your midsection, and your training to strengthen it. A strong core not only will increase your performance in the gym, but outside of it as well.