3 Ab Exercises For 3D Abs
By Nick Nilsson
Six pack abs, flat stomach, strong core...when a client walks in your door, these are just a few of the "big" ones that they're looking for. But what to do you if that client tells you that they've tried every abdominal exercise in the book and they want YOU to teach them something new!
You're going to look them right in the eye and tell them you've got EXACTLY what they're looking for! These 3 ab exercises, using only very simple equipment, will hit your clients' abs in ways they've NEVER felt before.
Each exercise targets one of the three major planes of movement (sagittal, frontal and transverse - explained in more detail below) for a true total abdominal workout. To fully develop the core, you MUST work the core musculature in all three major planes. Standard crunches and leg raises? They only work one!
Exercise #1 - Inverse Crunches - Sagittal Plane
The first exercise is going to target the abs in the sagittal plane. The standard crunch works the body in the sagittal plane - it basically divides your body in half, left and right. When you crunch up, you're moving in the sagittal plane.
The Inverse Crunch is one of the most powerful "low-equipment" exercises you can do. It takes the weight of your entire lower body and places it directly on the abdominals in a crunching movement rather than a leg raise movement. It'll have your clients' abs burning on the very first rep!
For this exercise, you will need a pole or a similar solid vertical surface. Even a door frame or solid table leg will work. I will use a pole as the example. Lie on your back and brace one shoulder against the pole. Grasp the back side of the pole with both hands about 18 inches up and grip it hard.
To get into the start position, raise your legs up off the floor and slightly bend at your knees and hips. Lock them into this position - your lower back should be flat on the floor at this point or very close to it.
For this exercise, you are going to be doing a movement similar to a crunch but reversed. I'll explain...the major difference with this exercise is that instead of raising your shoulders up off the ground to bring your rib cage closer to your pelvis (the anatomical description for the way the standard crunch is performed), you're instead going to be locking down your shoulders and bringing your pelvis up towards your rib cage, similar to a leg raise but placing more tension on the entire rectus abdominus wall.
Why is this effective? What weighs more, your shoulder girdle or your entire lower body? THAT is why it's more effective - more resistance!
Let's start the movement. Get into the start position mentioned above. Now pull FORWARD and DOWN hard with your arms. Since your upper body is locked down and your lower body isn't, this will raise your entire lower body off the floor. This should NOT be viewed like a leg raise. Visualize that you're trying to pull the pole down and forward. Since the pole won't move, your lower body comes up. The pivot point for this exercise is your upper back/bottom of rib cage area, not the hips as in a regular leg raise. As you bring the lower body up, exhale through pursed lips.
Bring the legs all the way up as high as you can, squeezing the abs hard.Now lower VERY slowly, fighting against gravity as it pulls your legs back down. Stop the lowering phase just before your lower back touches the floor. Be sure you don't let your lower back go flat on floor between reps to keep up the most tension. Reverse the direction by pulling on the pole again and bringing the lower body back up.
This exercise hits the abs from a very different direction and with very different tension. It's something you will most likely never have felt before! Switch which shoulder is braced against the pole on your next set.
Adjusting the Difficulty
The difficulty of this exercise can be adjusted in several ways. You can adjust the difficulty by moving your hands closer down to your shoulders, making the exercise harder. The higher you place your hands on the pole (as long as your elbows aren't straight), the easier the exercise will be as your abs will have greater leverage.
You can also adjust the amount of resistance that your abs must work against by changing how much your knees and hips are bent. If you bring your knees up towards your chest, there is not as much resistance further out from the body, and the exercise will be easier. The straighter your legs and hips, the harder the exercise will be. If you're adventurous, you can even try this exercise with ankle weights on!
Exercise #2 - Side Ab Push-Ups - Frontal Plane
The side abdominal wall and obliques are often worked using exercises such as dumbell side bends. But these have a tendency to put painful torque on the lower back because the obliques are forced to work in isolation rather than as a unit with the rest of the core musculature, which is how they're meant to work. When you think about it, how often is a client going to lean directly to the side in the frontal plane and pick up a heavy object beside them!
The frontal plane splits your body front and back. If you stand and bend your body directly to the side, you're moving in the frontal plane.
Side Ab Push-Ups, by contrast, work the obliques and entire side abdominal wall in a VERY functional manner in the frontal plane. The entire core is engaged and stabilized while the obliques perform the work. This keeps lower back strain to a minimum while still directly working the side abdominal musculature.
Sit on your left side on the floor (with your left hip on the floor) with your left hand propping up your body, fingers pointing directly in line with your body. Keep your left arm straight and locked. Your legs should be extended straight down. Your body will be bent sideways at the waist, like you're about to push yourself up to get up. Your feet should be together, legs straight. If you like, you can brace your feet against a solid object like a wall or machine. Place your right hand on your lower left rib cage - this will help you to feel exactly how the abs are contracting as you do the exercise and help you make sure you're doing it right.
Now, using side abdominal contraction, raise your hips directly up in the air until you've come up as high as you can (it will look like a sideways pike position), using your right hand to feel for that ab contraction. Squeeze the side abs HARD at the top, holding for several seconds, then lower your body slowly.
At the bottom, try to keep your hip off the ground to get a good stretch on the side abs - you can rest your hip on the floor between reps if you need to, though.
Make sure you are on your side as much as possible throughout the movement - some forward bending is natural due to abdominal function in that area. Try to imagine that you're also pushing up with your arm to get the strongest effect on the abs. Lean your head down towards the floor as you come up.
Because this exercise operates in what is most likely an unfamiliar plane of movement (frontal) for most people, keep a close eye on form and tell your client to let you know if they feel strain in the lower back. This exercise really tightens the entire side ab wall effectively. It's practical, functional and requires zero equipment.