A: This question is a preemptive strike. When April and May come around, people always ask for tips, tricks, and exercises to help get a nice summer 6 pack to take to the beach.
My answer is usually… Start in February!
The exercises we typically assign to build core muscles such as pelvic tilts, glute bridges, planks, and side-planks are extremely effective. Don’t forget to constantly engage your core doing any exercise, standing, sitting, walking, or running to build your core and help your posture.
Let’s take it up a notch with our PTA, Stuart, who suggests we strengthen our core with hanging exercises. Get off the floor and find somewhere to hang out until summer!
Level 1: Just hang! To do an ‘active hang’ get a good grip on the bar. Engage your shoulders and ‘shrug’ to lift your torso. Straighten your legs and hold them together in a pike. You can engage your legs more pushing your toes into a ‘pointe’ or pulling them up into a ‘flex’ position. Tighten your core and make sure your spine is straight and your hips are aligned with your torso the way you would with a plank. When you can hold this position for 30-60 seconds, move on to the next progression.
In addition to working your core muscles, these hangs also help to decompress the spine, stretch the chest, shoulders, and arms, plus strengthen your hands and grip.
Level 2: Knees to chest. Start in your active hang position, then, keeping your legs and ankles together slowly bend your knees and draw them up towards your chest. Go as high as you can while maintaining your core. Feel free to start with partial-lift, until you work up to getting your knees higher. Want to make it harder? Lift yourself into a pull up or chin up position while bringing your knees up!
Level 3: Straight leg raises. Remember, going slowly and holding your core properly will pay off way more than trying to force the ‘L’ and sacrifice your form. If you can only lift your feet up a few inches at a time, that is still a great start and a great core exercise. Eventually, as you build your strength and flexibility, you will be able to hit that perfect ‘L’ shape. Want to change it up? Try alternating leg lifts, remember to keep both legs pipe-straight, this will work flexibility and strength in each leg individually, and engage your obliques as you work to keep balance.
Because you are hanging and not on the ground you are working all your core muscles together, not just one side at a time. It’s a nice change of pace to traditional sit ups and crunches.
Check out Stuart in the video below for a demonstration of each progression.
I want to stress that the right exercises are only half (that's being generous) of the 6 pack pie, the other aspect is DIET. Good abdominal muscles and core strength are made in the gym, but a great 6 pack is made in the kitchen.
Stay tuned for more exercise articles. Do you have a question about building core strength? Email your question to NorwalkSportsandSpine@gmail.com, it might be featured in our next Q & A!
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Norwalk Sports and Spine | Norwalk, CT Chiropractor | Dr. Jason Queiros | Dr. Andrew Zomick | Sports Chiropractic