The Best Core Workout for Optimal Results
Getting a “six pack” or achieving rock hard abs is all about utilizing certain exercises in the most efficient way possible.
Whether you are a man or woman, most people consider a perfect core as the basis for being ultimately fit. Achieving this feat isn’t impossible, just don’t expect it to happen overnight.
“It takes time to develop six pack abs, but realistically, this isn’t what you should initially be aiming for,” says Sean Wells, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and the fitness expert at BistroMD. “Hitting the gym hard with these workouts will not do you any benefit without some background knowledge on the specific muscles involved.”
With help from our fitness expert, we are reviewing the best ways to sculpt your core, and why understanding how these muscles work is just as important as utilizing them through an effective workout.
Know How Your Core Works
“In order to avoid injury, and to maximize results, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of these muscles, before diving headfirst into a core workout,” says Sean.
Your core is actually made up of 29 different muscles, divided into two parts—your local (inner) unit, and your global (outer) unit.
Your inner unit is made up of muscles that are predominantly involved in joint support and stabilization, and are not specifically involved with movement. Your global unit, or outer unit, are the muscles that everyone raves about on TV and in magazines. These muscles are responsible for movement in your core, and attach from your pelvis to your rib cage, and your lower extremities.
“In order to get the best results from your core, it is important that any exercises you do encourage these two muscle groups to work in harmony,” says Sean. “This is why background knowledge on these muscles is so important. 75-90% of the population who work out experience back pain that is due to a poorly conditioned core. This is often the result of doing inappropriate activities in order to achieve these results.”
Tips on How to Start
“In order to achieve the best core workout, it’s important that you perform exercises that incorporate activity of the deeper muscles, (your stabilizers), and then progressively integrate superficial movement of your global unit, (your movers),” says Sean.
To begin your workout, start out by doing exercises that encourage you to position and hold for specific periods of time. These activities will help you develop your local core, which should be mastered first. Here are some activities to begin with:
1. Isometric Plank Hold
Do the isometric plank hold for 2-10 seconds between 12-20 times.
2. Prone Floor Cobra
After completing your bouts for the isometric plank hold, do the prone floor cobra for 2-10 seconds, between 12-20 times.
3. Try to repeat these exercises for 1 to 3 sets.
4. Utilize and master this routine for about 4-6 weeks, at about 3 times per week, on non-consecutive days. One you master this routine, you can then move on to more global core training.
Global Core Training
“Once you have successfully mastered a routine for your local core, you can then move on to training activities that focus on your global core that promote active movement,” says Sean.
Here are some training techniques to utilize:
1. Stability Ball Crunches
At a moderate pace, do 12-20 stability ball crunches, and immediately follow this up with 12-20 reps of bicycle crunches at a faster pace. Don’t over-exert yourself, and take a rest once you feel your muscles are tiring.
2. Reverse Crunches
At a moderate pace, do 10-15 reverse crunches, immediately followed by 5-10 vertical crunches at a slower pace. Make sure your legs are positioned perpendicular to the ground. (See below).
3. Stability Ball Back Extensions
After completing your reverse crunches, do 12-20 stability ball back extensions for 12-20 reps at a slow and gradual pace.
4. Try to repeat these exercises 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days for about 4-6 weeks. Make sure you are comfortable with this workout before you progress to more advanced core exercises.
“Some of these exercises can be difficult, which is why it is important that you pace yourself in order to avoid injury,” says Sean. “I would even recommend doing these exercises with a workout buddy, or consulting a professional if you are worried about possible injury.”
In order to utilize the best core workout for your goals, it is important to pace yourself and to mix up your routine with various training techniques, performed at a variety of different paces.
“Always pace yourself when it comes to your core workout, and never jump headfirst into these activities,” says Sean. “You can’t get a six pack if you are lying in a hospital.”