The ab exercises I can’t get enough of

When it comes to strengthening my core there are three fundamental moves that I can’t get enough of…

1. Oblique crunch

Erin Maw doing an oblique crunch

There’s no one abdominal exercise that comprehensively works all the muscles of the core, but the oblique crunch come close. It’s an excellent exercise for building core strength and shaping your waistline. What’s more, it’s pretty easy to do well.
The secret to a perfect oblique crunch:

  • Start with your hip and knee joints at 90 degree angles
  • Keep your fingers to your temple, to avoid cradling and lifting your head
  • Focus on lifting right shoulder to left knee as you extend the right leg (then swap sides)
  • Don’t rush, slow, methodical movements help maximize muscle activation
  • Ensure you twist from the centre of the chest to get the obliques working

I find three sets of 25 reps is the perfect challenge.

2. Side plank

Erin Maw doing a side plank

Not only does this move provide an intense core challenge, you can strengthen your arms, shoulders, back and legs while you’re at it – it really is a full body functional exercise. Maximizing the results comes down to nailing your technique:

  • Start on your side, keep your feet together and your hand directly below your shoulder
  • Brace your abs and raise your hips, so that your body is in a straight line
  • Lift your top arm above your head and raise your top leg – this forces your core to work harder to maintain balance.

Try and hold the plank for as long as you can, then switch sides. Whatever you do, keep your hips up in the air.

3. Double extension

Erin Maw doing a double extension

Using your arms and legs as levers is an excellent way to challenge your core, and there is plenty of scope to adjust the intensity. To get the full benefit of this ab exercise you need to focus on your breathing and whatever you do, don’t arch your back.

  • Start with your knees hugged into your chest and your head and shoulders lifted
  • As you exhale, engage your core muscles to extend your legs to 45 degrees and reach your arms back
  • Inhale and pull your knees and arms back in

If you need to make it easier, simply keep your knees bent as you extend out. To increase the challenge lower your extended legs closer to the floor ensuring your back doesn’t arch.

If you’re keen to enjoy the benefits of these key core moves give a CXWORX workout a go. In a 30-minute CXWORX workout you focus on the torso and sling muscles; tightening your tummy and butt, as well as improving functional strength and assisting in injury prevention. Find a class here or workout On Demand.

Erin Maw is a global fitness pro who stars in numerous LES MILLS™ workouts and travels the world training Les Mills instructors.

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