In this post I want to share with you 2 exercises that are incredibly beneficial for the abdominals, although they are tough, they are both very challenging and fun and it's easy to make them more challenging so you don't get bored.
Exercise 1 - Weighted Planks
The plank is very common to do but is often one of the most butchered exercises. People actually do all sorts with the plank, except for the plank itself.
The whole point of doing the plank is to focus on anti-extension of the spine, which basically means to keep the spine in a neutral position and prevent the back from arching, to do this we need to contract the rectus abdominus, while under tension, with the tension in this case coming from the weight plate.
A Couple of Key Points:
If you are a beginner, I would suggest doing the plank for no more than 10-20 seconds at a time.
When you can do 10-20 seconds with your bodyweight, add a 5kg plate to your back to train the abs harder.
Keep the weight plate centre toward your upper back as this is where you are strongest and less likely to get injured.
This is quite a simple, yet tough exercise. You are required to sit straight up, with a completely flat back (no rounded shoulders), and press a pair of dumbbells, or a barbell above your head.
What makes this exercise difficult is that your abdominals and your hips flexors need to contract and tense in order to keep your torso upright. Any time you allow your body to lean back, you need to reinforce the position.
The most difficult part of the exercise is when you have to press the weight back up. This is because if your shoulders fatigue, your body will automatically want to use your chest muscles to press, and to do this your chest needs to be facing the ceiling, so your body will compensate by leaning backwards, and that is why you also want to use a lighter weight.
You will also feel your shoulders blades working hard to engage thoracic extension, which is the same as trying to keep your chest up as your press.
Don't think of this as a pressing exercise though, think of it as an abdominal and upper back strengthening exercise.
Sets and Reps?
The plank with every weight plate for 10-30 seconds. When you can easily do 10 seconds, increase the weight you use.
Z-Press, 3 sets of 10 reps. Ensure you feel your hip flexors, abs and upper back really working.