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Crunch Pulldowns For a Great Six-Pack
Two Exercises With a Twist For Rock-Hard Obliques and Explosive Core Power
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The Best Ab Exercise You Never Heard Of

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Build 3-Dimensional Abs In 2010
The Effectiveness Of Sand Bag Training For Abdominals
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Old School Workouts To Develop Granite Hard Abdominals
The 3 Best Abdominal Exercises that Are Not Abdominal Exercises!
2 Challenging Exercises For Powerful Rock Hard Abs
How To Get Six Pack Abs Using Neglected Cable Exercises
Attack Your Abs With These Underground Power Moves
Killer Abs At Home In 12 Minutes

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7 Ways To Injury Proof Your Back And Build A Bulletproof Mid-section
By Kyle Battis, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, ATC

Kyle BattisEverybody covets a nice, well-defined mid-section and in this article I am going to show you some powerful ways to train your abdominals that will also injury-proof your back. You see, many people train their abdominals in ways that do not improve the health of their spine - and it shows! Did you know that 80% of Americans are estimated to suffer from back pain in their lives? In fact, most abdominal training programs I see people performing actually lead to more back pain and an increased risk of injury. If you want to improve the health of your back while developing bullet-proof, lean abdominals then read on.

Of course the biggest “secret” to great abs is getting rid of the fat that covers them up. All the abdominal exercises in the world will not solve an excess body fat problem, as spot-reducing is more of a dream than it is a reality. A combination of the right mindset, supportive eating, full-body resistance training focusing on multi-joint complex exercises, and various types of cardiovascular exercise will bring you 90% of the way towards your goals of revealing your abdominals.

I will leave the topic of dieting to strip the extra fat off your midsection in the capable hands of the fat-loss Guru Tom Venuto and focus-in on exercise in this article. Once you have your diet dialed-in and you are following a well-designed resistance training program, try implementing the following seven exercises into your routine to build a strong, coordinated mid-section and a healthy back.

1. Standing Lumbar Full Circles (Z-Health)

When it comes to improving abdominal and low back health, you must understand that there is a big difference between ‘abdominal strength’ and ‘abdominal coordination.’ A lot of people injure their back during relatively-easy daily tasks such as picking a pencil up off the floor. Many times the result of this injury is not due to low levels of strength but instead due to a poor coordination of the muscles that are supposed to be supporting and protecting your spine (you abdominals and low back muscles).

Think about it this way. Picture a very large, very powerful cannon from the 1800’s. Despite its great power, it was not terribly accurate. If you compare that 1800’s cannon to today’s artillery, you will note that today’s weapons are still very powerful, but are much more accurate. In warfare and in injury prevention, "accuracy" is the key to success.

Many people spend a lot of time trying to improve abdominal and low-back strength in hopes that it will protect their back from injury when in reality higher levels of strength have not been shown to prevent injuries. Researchers like Stuart McGill and Dr. Eric Cobb have actually shown that low-back endurance and coordination are better goals than low-back strength for preventing back injuries..

Simply put, your body adapts to what you ask it to do so if you want to improve abdominal and low back health you must train standing up some of the time, you must train at different speeds, and you must train through different ranges of motion.

Coordination patterns built laying on the floor with traditional abdominal exercises do not carry over very well to what we do in daily life (because most activities of daily life are done standing in the upright position).

So without further adieu, here is an exercise that will help teach you how to develop abdominal coordination in a standing position. It will also teach you how to balance out tension and relaxation and improve the mobility of your low back.

This exercise is taken from Dr. Eric Cobb’s Z-Health system and I highly recommend learning more about Z-Health as it will help you do everything that you do better! Here is a picture sequence of Dr. Eric Cobb performing the Lumbar Full Circles:

Lumbar Circles

lumbar circles

1.) Assume a shoulder width stance with both feet facing straight ahead. Begin by running your hand down the outside of your leg and tilting your low back out to the side. Try to completely relax your upper back and your neck. Let your arms and your head completely hang with no tension at all. Try to keep your spine lengthened out as much as possible throughout the entire movement.

2.) As you reach down the side of your leg as far as you can without creating tension, create a semi-circle motion out around the front of your feet. Round out the front of the circle to the other side of your body.

3.) As your approach the side of your body, drop your head back while maintaining long spine. Lead the movement with your eyes and think about tracking around towards the wall behind you in an arching motion. As you arch back be sure to breathe out throughout the entire range of motion. Round out your circle to the side that you started on and return to a long spine, perfect posture.

4.) Repeat the movement twice each direction (completing two complete circles each direction).

Options and Tips for the Full Lumbar Circles

  • Use caution, stay within a comfortable range of motion and do not move into pain
  • To learn how to perform this exercise properly I recommend visiting

2. Turkish Get-Ups with a Sandbag

The Turkish get-up was a favorite of old school strongmen. This fun and different movement trains your abdominals in ways you never imagined, trains you stabilizers, hits your all-important core muscles, and improves balance as well as functional strength. It is also building effective coordination patterns for your abdominal and low-back muscles that will actually carry-over to what you do in the real world.

Compare how the abdominals are working in this movement compared how they work in typical abdominal training machines. The strength developed on machines is misdirected and not useable in certain ranges of motion where as the strength and coordination developed by an exercise like this has great carryover to your daily activities (and your training should help enhance your life right?).

Here's how to perform this movement

Turkish Get Up With Sandbag

1.) Lie on your back on the floor. Hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, or even a sandbag (as shown above) in one hand extended in the air above you. You can see that by using a sandbag you may have to use two hands to perform the movement properly which increases the difficulty of this exercise even further. Your elbow should be locked and you should keep your arm perpendicular to the floor throughout the entire movement.

2.) Your goal is to stand up with the weight, without unlocking your elbow and keeping the sandbag in the air above you. The first step is usually to turn to your side and prop yourself up on one hand (you can do this if you are using a dumbbell, kettlebell, or a barbell but if you are using a heavier sandbag as shown above you will have to use both hands to stabilize the weight). Another option is to use a lighter and smaller sandbag and using only one arm to perform the movement.

3.) Try to get up on one knee. The arm with the weight should still be completely vertical and locked tight.

4.) Now stand up completely.

5.) Reverse the movement until you’re back at step one — lying on the floor with the weight still extended above you.

Options and Tips for the Turkish Get-Up

  • How you get up isn’t all that important as long as you keep the weight above you and the arm straight and a long spine. Experiment with different strategies and have fun with this one.
  • Dumbbell too easy, tough guy? Try a barbell like the old timers used to. In fact, a couple of them could do this exercise using a load exceeding their body weights!
  • Start out with a light weight so you can get a feel for the movement.
  • There are several ways to work Turkish get-ups into your routine. You can use them as a warm-up or as a "finisher" at the end of your workout. Try to do one heavy set with each arm or do multiple "reps" of a lighter weight (I would not recommend performing sets of more than 5 repetitions though because it is such a challenging movement).
  • Don’t drop the weight on your head. Pretty common sense isn’t it? If you start to lose control of the weight it’s better to just get out from under it and let it hit the floor rather than your head. Be sure you have enough space to perform this movement safely.

3. Standing Ab Crunches with "Iron Woody" Bands

Who ever said abdominal exercises needed to be done lying on your back squirming around like a fish out of water? This will help develop some abdominal strength levels in a standing position.

band crunch start positionband crunch finish position

1.) Start by looping or “choking” an Iron Woody Mini-Band around the top of a squat rack. Grab both sides of the Mini-Band and hold them tight against the top of your collar bones.

Mini-Band ‘choked’ around the top of a squat rack:

rubber band around squat rack

2.) Walk away from the rack so that there is some tension at the top of the range of motion. Assume a shoulder width stance and start the movement with a long spine position. Flex forward at the waist trying to bring the bottom of your rib cage towards the top of your pelvis.

3.) Continue flexing forward at the waist until your abdominal muscles are fully-contracted. Hold this position tightly for a second and then slowly uncurl back to the start position.

4.) Repeat for a set of 8-12 repetitions.

Options and Tips for the Standing Ab Crunches

  • This exercise can be performed at multiple different angles and in multiple ranges of motion. Try flexing down more to one side versus another to train your abdominals in multiples planes of motion.
  • These movements can also be performed with a cable pulley system if you have access to one.

4. Lying Trunk Twists

This is a great rotational exercise that can be performed with minimal equipment that really recruits your abdominal and low back muscles very strongly.

lying trunk twists 1ab wheel finish position

lying trunk twists 3lying trunk twists 4

1.) Lie on floor or a workout mat. Place a Dumbbell on each side of you (to hold onto and keep your upper torso stable!).

2.) Raise your legs so they are perpendicular to the floor (note: bending knees will make this exercise easier if the movement with straight legs is too difficult)

3.) Brace your abdominals, lower body muscles, and upper body muscles.

4.) Slowly lower feet in an arcing motion to your right side (feet should stay in same plane of movement). Keep muscles tight and stop movement when feet are right above the floor (or as far as your range of motion will comfortably allow).

5.) Reverse the motion by pulling your lower body back to the start position with your oblique and rotational muscles. Repeat on both sides for the desired number of repetitions.

Options and Tips for the Lying Trunk Twists

  • To make this exercise easier put a bend in both knees which will reduce the challenge of the exercise.
  • To increase difficulty of this exercise, tightly squeeze a medicine ball between your feet.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions for this exercise for best results.

5. Plank

As I stated earlier, researchers have found that developing a good mix of the proper coordination patterns and abdominal/low back endurance are key traits in preventing low back injuries. This exercise is one of Dr. Stuart McGill’s top exercise choices for improving abdominal and low-back endurance and coordination. I tend to work this exercise into the end of my client’s training sessions but it certainly can be used in the beginning of your training sessions as well.

The Plank Exercise For Core Stability

1.) Lie on the floor in the Plank position shown above.

2.) Maintain a long spine position and keep your body straight as a board. Assuming this long spine position will engage the stabilizing abdominal and low back muscles.

3.) Do not hold your breath, be sure to breathe as naturally as you can while holding the Plank position isometrically (meaning no movement!).

4.) Keep your abdominals, low back muscles, shoulder, arm and lower body muscles tight throughout the duration of the exercise.

5.) The exercise should be stopped before technique breaks down. Focus on quality over quantity!

Options and Tips for the Lying Trunk Twists

  • Start with 30 second holds and increase difficulty by adding more time to each set. Try to work up to 1 minute holds
  • I typically have my clients perform 1-2 sets of Planks at the end of their training sessions

6. Side Plank

This exercise is also a great choice for improving low back and abdominal endurance. It looks really easy but this exercise is surprisingly challenging. I like to work this exercise into the end of my client’s training sessions but as I stated above with the planks this exercise can be performed at the beginning of the workout as well.

The Side Plank Exercise For Core Stability

1.) Lie on the floor in the Side Plank position shown above.

2.) Maintain a long spine position and keep your body straight as a board. Assuming this long spine position will engage the abdominal and low back muscles.

3.) Do not hold your breath, breathe as naturally as you can while holding the Side Plank position isometrically (meaning no movement!).

4.) Keep your abdominals, low back muscles, shoulder, arm and lower body muscles tight throughout the duration of the exercise.

5.) The exercise should be stopped before technique breaks down. Focus on quality over quantity!

Options and Tips for the side plank

  • Start with 15 second holds and increase difficulty by adding more time to each set. Try to work up to 30 second holds
  • I typically have my clients perform 1-2 sets of Planks at the end of their training sessions

7. Horse Stance Exercise

This exercise is a one of the top exercises for low-back health and improving levels of low-back endurance. Back-health expert, Dr. Stuart McGill uses this exercise in many of his low-back rehabilitation and injury prevention programs. This exercise will help balance out some of the abdominal work that you have been doing and improve the health of your back. It also improves the coordination of the small back muscles that help protect your spine during daily activities.

horse stance exercise starthorse stance exercise finish

1.) Kneel on floor with knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Keep a slight bend in elbows (i.e. do not lock elbows out).

2.) Lengthen out your spine as much as possible (think “Long Spine”). Assuming this long spine position will engage the abdominal and low back muscles.

3.) Slightly lift your left hand off of the floor first and then lift your right leg off of the floor while being sure to keep the mid-section stable and your spine long.

4.) Extend the hand as far forward as you can while simultaneously extending the foot back as far as you can (really try to stretch yourself in both directions!). Be sure not to hold your breath.

5.) At full extension pause and squeeze your back and abdominal muscles for a second and then slowly lower your arm and leg while keeping core stable.

6.) Repeat on opposite side and continue alternating repetitions until you have completed the set.

Options and Tips for the Horse Stance Exercise
  • I typically have my clients perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions 2-3 days per week
  • To increase the difficulty of this exercise you can hold the top position of the exercise for longer holds (Dr. McGill recommends not holding the fully contracted position for more than 7 seconds but some coaches hold the contractions for up to 30 seconds on each side). I use a little bit of both and I find both methods to be effective.

So there you have it. 7 exercises to help injury-proof your back and build a bullet-proof mid-section. Some of the concepts conveyed in this article may go against conventional abdominal training ideas but I challenge you to think outside the box a little and give them a try. I think that you will find that these exercises will deliver tremendous improvements after only a couple weeks of working these exercises into your training routine.

Train with purpose,

Kyle Battis

Professional Fitness Coaching

About Kyle Battis

Kyle Battis Kyle Battis owns and operates Professional Fitness Coaching based out of Concord, NH. Kyle specializes in athletic performance enhancement, injury rehabilitation, and body transformation programs. Kyle graduated from Colby-Sawyer College with a Bachelor of Science degree with dual-specialization in Athletic Training and Exercise Science. Kyle is passionate about helping people achieve their fitness goals, he contributes articles to various magazines and websites, and he operates many successful fitness websites.

Kyle holds the following certifications and credentials:

-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National
Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
-Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
-Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) through the National Athletic Trainer's Association (NATA)
-Certified Club Coach through United States Weightlifting (USAW)
-Certified Renegade Trainer
-Level 1 Certified Z-Health Trainer

Kyle stays active with Olympic Weightlifting, Kickboxing, Basketball, Mountain Biking, Running, Hiking, and Fishing. Kyle may be contacted through his website at, where you can get dozens of great ideas to add variety to your training as well as access to some amazing audio interviews Kyle has hosted with top-fitness professionals. You can get a special Free Report, “The 7 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Building There Home Gyms,” just for visiting.

Kyle's best selling programs include:

Home Gym Secrets A home gym can be an incredible time saving resource. Between hectic schedules and fighting crowds at commercial gyms (especially if you train at night after work), home gym training is the most convenient, private and distraction-free way for people to squeeze effective workouts into busy schedules. It can also save you a small fortune on health club membership dues or simply be a nice convenience to have in addition to your gym membership. However, if you don’t understand how to set up your gym properly and how to purchase the right equipment (or build your own), you could waste thousands of dollars on cheap machines that are ineffective or even dangerous. The Home Gym Secrets e-book teaches you exactly which machines and equipment to buy, and which to avoid. This resource guide teaches you how to design the perfect home gym based on your budget and available square footage. You’ll also learn to set up home workout routines that build muscle, burn fat and improve your fitness level in the most time efficient manner- even with no equipment right in your own living room. For more information, visit:

Traveler's Training The only book of it's kind on the market, the Traveler's Training guide solves one of the biggest dilemmas faced by thousands of "road warriors" across the globe: How to stay in shape and stay on your workout program while your're on the move and living in hotels. You will learn not just how to "stay in shape" but how to actually improve your fitness level and muscle to fat ratio - even when you go on very long trips and have no equipment available whatsoever. It includes simple, fun and innovative body weight exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime. All these problems are solved: (1) interruption of your training schedule, (2) poor food choices available, (3) hectic schedules, (4) unfamiliar surroundings, (5) time zone changes, (6) travel stress, (7) no gym available, and (8) unfamiliar equipment. Best part - it's an e-book, so you can take it with you on disc, laptop or PDA and it doesn't take up any space in your luggage! For more information, visit:

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