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Posts Tagged ‘core training’

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Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

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Core Strength Training | Decline Ab Wheel Roll Outs

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Ab Wheel Training For Real

ab-wheel
GANGSTA

I have been continuing to experiment with the Ab Wheel. It is by far my favorite piece of equipment for training the core right now. Here are a few reasons why.

1. It Works a LARGE Portion of the Body

The Ab Wheel is similar to a dynamic plank – you must create tension from the shoulder area to the knee area. Because of this large amount of muscle that is working, I find basic Ab Wheel roll-outs to be a great warm-up, and I often use it at the beginning of workouts as a bridge from my general to specific warm-up.

2. It is not ONLY Hip Flexion

So many abdominal exercises involve hip and trunk flexion – sit-ups, leg raises, crunches – all of them involve drawing the hips and rib cage closer together, potentially causing shortening of the hip flexors. I sit down so much while I work and drive, my hip flexors are short enough, so I avoid doing that movement pattern in training as well. This is something to keep in mind if you sit down a lot and your back hurts – it could be due to tight hip flexors.

3. It Doesn’t Hurt My Neck

For whatever reason, in the past I have strained my neck doing ab movements. Whether it is from hooking my hands around my head, clenching my teeth together, or whatever – it has happened, and a strained neck is one of the most annoying things for me, so I look to avoid it like venereal disease.

With these three benefits considered, the Ab Wheel continues to be something I include in my training on a regular basis.

Plus, in the long-term, I want to be able to do a Standing Ab Wheel Roll-out. It seems to be an advanced feat for this simple device, and I think if I were to train to obtain it, it would be a “Gateway Feat,” in that my core would be so strong that the increased strength would assist in many other lifts as well.

With this in mind, I have been looking for ways to gradually increase the difficulty of the more basic ab-wheel roll-outs in order to progress more smoothly to the more advanced movements.

One drill I have come up with that I have not seen elsewhere is Decline Ab Wheel Roll-outs. For these, you set the Ab Wheel up on some sort of decline, instead of a flat surface.

There are two main strength building benefits to performing roll-outs on a decline:

1. The eccentric challenge level as you roll out is increased greatly, as you must stay engaged in order to control the descent. This gives you much better stability than the basic exercise does.

2. The concentric challenge level is BRUTAL as you must pull much harder to climb back up the hill. This teaches you to pull much harder with the shoulders, lats, and core when returning to the starting position.

Decline Ab Wheel Roll-outs

There are surely many ways you could set this exercise up. One way that I think would be perfect is with an inside pitching mound, such as the one below, to begin with.

However, instead of busting out the nails, hammer and circular saw, I just dragged an extra gym mat out to the hill beside the house and used mother nature to my advantage.

As you can tell by my screams and grunts, this version of Ab Wheel Roll-outs is no joke. Far harder than the basic exercise, this one will hit you hard.

Of course, before you try this, you need to make sure you have the Basic Ab Wheel Technique down first. For a quick video on how to do them right, click here => Basic Ab Wheel Roll-outs.

Even if you don’t go for the more advanced movements with the Ab Wheel, this piece of equipment is a great investment for those with home gyms. For about $10, it takes up no room and leaves every muscle in your core absolutely destroyed.

Get your Ab Wheel here: Valeo Ab Wheel

All the best in your training,

Jedd

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How to Use the Ab Wheel Correctly

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

The Ab Wheel

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I recently wrote an article for My Mad Methods on the Ab Wheel, and since then, many people have contacted about it. It seems that many of you have thought the Ab Wheel was a bogus device that was just a scam or fad, but in reality, it is a very good piece of equipment that comes with a very cheap price tag – I got mine for less than $9.

For the record, I always thought the Ab Wheel was joke too. But that was before I ever used it. The first time I tried it, I could not do one good rep on my knees.

History of the Ab Wheel

Bob-Backlund
Bob Backlund

What gave it even more credibility for me was when my friend, Niko Hulslander, told me that Bob Backlund, legendary Champion of the WWWF back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, based his workouts primarily around the Ab Wheel.

Now, Bob Backlund wasn’t as big as Superstar Billy Graham, who held the title before Backland, and he wasn’t anywhere near the size of a more recent Bobby Lashley, Dave Batista, or John Cena by any means, but he was always in top shape, and perhaps second only to Ric Flair in their hay-days.

Plus, Backlund is still in phenomenal shape to this day, and the Ab Wheel continues to be one of his primary forms of resistance training.

While I am sure Backlund used other types of training to attain his level of muscularity and leanness, there is no denying that the Ab Wheel is able to make the entire body work, because it is essentially a Plank on Steroids.

Bob Backlund Training on the Ab Roller

bachlund-roller
I’m coming after you, Backlund!!

How to Implement the Ab Wheel

I am sure there are hundreds of ways to add Ab Wheel work into your training program, but I can tell you that I like to use it on my Back and Triceps day. If you haven’t tried training these two together, you should – the feeling is unbelievable.

Generally, one of my first movements on this day is either Pull-ups or Chin-ups, and I superset them with Ab Wheel for 6 to 8 reps. Surely, I could do much more of this, but I train this day with a partner and if we went for more than 8 reps, it would take up way too much time and mess up the rotation, so we stick with 6 to 8.

In addition, if you do your Ab Wheel reps the right way, it becomes the perfect bridge between the Lats and Triceps. The reason is because you can use your Lats and Triceps together to explosively pull your extended body back to the starting position. This explosiveness wakes the Triceps up so they can start getting worked, and it further excites the Lats, allowing you to get deeper pulls on your Pull-ups or Chin-ups.

Of course, as I stated, you have to be doing the Ab Wheel exercise correctly in order to get this benefit out of the movement. That leads me to the next section.

Ab Wheel Technique

One of my best friends from college, Chris Christian, recently began implementing Ab Wheel into his routines. I used to train like an all-out Savage Beast with this guy back in college. I was happy to hear he was getting an Ab Wheel, but I also was concerned because he did a stretch of service for our country in Afghanistan, I believe, several years ago and ended up hurting his back. So I asked him to shoot a video of him doing them, just to make sure he was doing them properly and not putting too much stress on his back.

Turns out, his technique was just a little off, so I shot a quick video for him last night and uploaded it to YouTube. It turns out there were others doing the exercise incorrectly, and putting too much strain on their backs as well, so I am sharing the video here for all of you, too.

Demonstration of How to Use the Ab Wheel Correctly

Sorry for the weird abrupt ending. The battery died right at the end…

Look, this piece of equipment is bad-ass, even if you just stick with the basic technique, on your knees. My goals is to work up to performing the reps on my toes. It may take some time, but I will get there.

If you want to get an Ab Wheel, they are readily available at most fitness stores, I saw one this past weekend at Play-it-Again Sports, and you can find them on Amazon: Valeo Ab Wheel<= That link will take you to them. Grab one up, give them a try and let me know what you think of the Ab Wheel. All the best in your training. Jedd


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Hardest Core Exercise – Part II – Dragon Flags with Bruce Lee Son!

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Hardest Core Exercise – Part II

Dragon Flags with Bruce Lee Son!

by Jim Smith, CSCS, RKC

In the first installment of Hardest Core Exercise Ever, you’ll remember we setup a sit-up to press on the GHR bench with two kettlebells.  This variation provided a high intensity, powerful contraction of the rectus abdominis and hip flexors, as well as engagement of the lats.  A contralateral torque was also was also overcome by the internal / external obliques and TA.  More so when the kettlebells were pressed independently.

In this next installment, we will target the same musculature with another high intensity exercise.  It is not called the Hardest Core Exercise Series for nothing!

For our next exercise, we’ll give a shout out to the guy with one of the best known six-packs in the biz – Bruce Lee.  No one can deny his world-class physique.  But unlike most guys, he was not only ripped, he was strong.  And one of the reasons for his strength was some of the advanced bodyweight exercises he used in his training.  One such exercise was the Dragon Flag.

Oh you’re still not convinced, let me throw in Rocky from Rocky IV (even though Rocky III was the best one!)  Sly was at his peak and wanted to show how hard he was training to conquer the evil Russian.  So again, the Dragon Flag was pulled out.

Dragon Flags

Dragon Flags are performed by bracing hard on a bench or hard surface, while locking your arms in a fixed position.  The legs are driven up as if you are performing a reverse crunch.  From there, the lifter will lower themselves down not allowing any part of their body to touch the bench except for their upper back.  This is an important form cue.  This makes the exercise so much harder.  The lifter lowers their body until it is right above the bench.  The other important coaching cue is to make sure when the lifter raises back up, they do NOT bend at the waist, but rather raise their entire body as it was lowered, in a straight line.

Why Are Dragon Flags Good?

Dragon Flags entire the entire torso.  The entire torso is (and should be considered) the core.  Isolated movements attempting to target one muscle group are not effective in the real world.  More torso rigidity for squats, deads, bench press, clean & press, sporting events, athletes, power development, etc…you name it, is developed with Dragon Flags.  Long duration tension (static and engaging strength training movement patterns) along with a full body engagement will always be preferred in the long run.

Where to Incorporate Dragon Flags?

We typically engage them after the workout.  We know that the athletes are warmed up by that time and also that none of their primary lifts will be affected by the recovery from doing the Dragon Flags.  They are a seriously powerful movement and full recovery between sets is a must in order to give an all out effort with each attempt.

If I Can’t Do a Dragon Flag, What Do I Do?

You can modify the Dragon Flags to make them easier if you can’t perform them right away.  It took me a long time to be able to start hitting them on a regular basis.  You can just perform negatives.  Lower as slowly as possible and then drop your feet onto the bench and drive back up to the starting point.  You could lower slowly as far as you can and then tuck your knees to your chest instead of raising back up and keeping your body straight.  This would be considered then next level up.  If you can hit the knee tucks AND control the negative to a stopping point above the bench and with your body in a straight line, you can then move to the full execution.

Dragon Flags

As you’ll see in the video, I hit 5 reps on the first set.  I think I could have hit a couple more with good form.  In the second set, I throw on ONE 10lb ankle weight and try it again.  You’ll have to check out the video to see how I did!

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Powering Up Your Plank – Guest Blog Post

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Powering up your Plank

By: Chris Kelly

“Plank routines are dull, unsexy, and I don’t feel the burn” is the gist of the response I typically receive from most clients when explaining my approach to core training—and I can understand their frustration.

After all, when it comes time to train there are few things as boring as holding still when you could be going to war with sit ups and crunches.

But after hundreds of hours working toward a better stomach, I have either prescribed or witnessed every crunch, leg lift and torso twist variation known to man. And though some worked better than others in “feeling the burn”, one conclusion I quickly reached is that banging out several hundred at a time is more likely to lead to a bad back then six pack abs.

My beef is not with crunches themselves, but any exercise which does not result in maximal return on investment. And much like the plank, this approach amounts to a long duration, low load stress being placed on the torso.

The difference is that much of this stress is directed toward the spine versus the abs– probably not the best idea for those already hunched over a computer several hours a day!

While neither exercise fits the bill alone, the missing link for building a ripped and functional torso is understanding how to condense sufficient intensity and density (amount of work performed) in to a routine which does not jack up the spine.

In this article, I will address the problems associated with both the plank and crunch and explain how to incorporate each exercise in to a routine which will challenge even the strongest stomach while busting your ass in the process—all in around five minutes.

Overcoming Misconceptions

While planks are intended to provide a sustained, low load contraction to build endurance in the abdominals, the static variety clearly falls short when it comes to abdominal development.

That being said, everything changes when we incorporate movement of the arms and legs. Specifically, this is done by performing moves such as crawling and stepping in a plank position while maintaining a flat back and abdominal brace.

Suddenly, this exercise becomes infinitely more difficult and offers several benefits:

  • While crunches primarily target the upper portion of the rectus abdominus (six-pack or beer gut) only, planks can be utilized to systematically hit every area of the stomach to address muscle imbalances commonly seen in the lower abdominals and external obliques (side abs).
  • While an excess of crunches creates or reinforces a kyphosis posture (or a hunch back), plank variations have a positive impact shoulder and upper back stability by forcing the user to stabilize the trunk with the arms and/or elbows.
  • By training torso stability while moving the arms and legs, plank variations positively impact athletic performance and weightlifting by enhancing the efficiency of force transfer from the lower to the upper body.

Incorporating Intensity

Especially when combined with a high stress stimulus, dynamic planks suddenly become the ultimate accessory exercise by providing prolonged time under tension for the abs while limiting spinal stress.

This is accomplished by pairing low rep exercises which involve torso flexion with planking movements to increase time under tension. The decision on which exercise to use comes down to the area of the stomach you intend to target.

In a recent article on the Best Exercises for Abdominal Activation, strength coach Bret Contreas lists several choices for each area of the stomach:

  • Rectus Abdominis– Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Ab wheel rollout Swiss Ball Crunch
  • Internal Oblique- Ab Wheel from Feet, Ab Wheel from Knees, Bodysaw, Tornado Ball Slam
  • External oblique- Ab Wheel from Feet, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw, Turkish Get Up

Picking Your Planks

After determining the target area of the stomach, the next step is exercise selection. The idea is to choose one core strength exercise followed by two plank variations performed back to back to prolong time under tension.

While Bret’s article offers a comprehensive selection for strength exercises, we want to choose plank variations which incorporate limb motion in the particular area we wish to develop.

For the rectus abdominus and anterior external obliques, this would include two frontal plank variations which involve the arms and legs. For the lateral external obliques’, this would mean two side plank variations.

We will divide these two areas in to anterior core (front of stomach) and lateral core (side abs) for simplicity.

Sample Workout #1- Anterior Core focus

This workout is intended to target the lower rectus abdominus.

In order to do so, we have chosen an exercise involving leg lowering followed by two frontal planking exercises which utilize the arms and legs.

Because the rep ranges are kept fairly low, it is important to move slowly enough to maintain an abdominal brace and build optimal fatigue

1. Stability ball leg lower — 5 reps

2. Stability ball push out — 8 reps

3. Stability ball knee tuck — 8 reps

Video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTdrbgv2VEU

Sample Workout #2- Lateral Core focus

The half get up is a favorite of mine for targetting this area while also promoting stability of the shoulder.

We follow this up with two weighted side plank variations which will the sides of the stomach. While each of these movements can be made progressively heavier, they do not require much weight to be effective (10-20lbs works well for most) and should also be performed with slow and controlled movement.

1. Half get up — 5 reps

2. Weighted side plank pulse — 8 reps

3. Side plank row— 8 reps

Video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-ujk4RBBUs

Time is of the Essence

One thing you will notice from the above is that we did not include sets with our rep ranges. In our system, this is mainly due to the issue of time.

Because our clients are often faced with time constraints and short attention spans, our solution has been to incorporate timed circuits popularized in Charles Staley’s Escalating Density Training to really ramp up the intensity.

This can be done by simply setting a clock for 5-7 minutes and performing as many rounds as possible with proper form. Ideal for the time challenged trainee, this approach is also a great finisher after your strength training or conditioning work.

Putting It All Together

With a solid core (I couldn’t resist) of planking know-how, this sequence of exercises is all you will ever need to build superior strength and definition in your torso. Simply pick one strength exercises which directly targets your chosen area of the core followed by two supplementary plank movements from the list provided below.

Because the abdominals recover quickly, training for these muscles should be performed 4-5 times per week. Generally, we will rotate exercises and/or target areas of the stomach every two to three weeks.

But while more advanced trainees may benefit from a split which targets one area of the stomach only, a solid split for most beginners is devoting one day to both anterior and lateral core for overall development.

Sample split:

Mon: Anterior Core
Tues: Lateral Core
Wed: off
Thurs: Anterior Core
Fri: Lateral Core
Sat: Off
Sun: Off

Conclusion

For anyone doubters on the effectiveness of the plank, I challenge you to sample the workouts above and prepare for the plank beat your abs (and ass) in to submission!

Exercises

1. Lower extremity frontal plank examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKbcUeFfjF8

2. Upper extremity frontal plank examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQE8dVMChdM

3. Side plank examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snAVWltGpKM

About the Author

Chris Kelly is a strength coach, fitness writer and educator based in T
ampa Florida. He specializes in innovative strength, conditioning and core training solutions for athletes, models, actors and figure competitors preparing for show. Check out his blog at http://modelfit1.blogspot.com


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