Two Ab Exercises With a Twist
For Rock-Hard Obliques and Explosive Core Power
The muscles of the abdominals are always on the list of improvements people would like to make to their physique. I've got two exercises that can help you not only develop obliques that jump out of your abs and demand attention but also help you develop rock-solid core power and strength.
As always, there will be a link to view pictures of the exercises in action at the end of this article.
The first abdominal exercise is one that I call the "Stretched Flying Cable Crunch." It is done using the Cable Crossover machine. This exercise allows you to place direct tension on the upper oblique area to sides of the upper abs where the obliques form the "fingers" that truly finish a physique.
Start by attaching two single handles to the high pulleys of the crossover machine. You will be using a moderately heavy weight for the exercise itself but you can start light to get an idea of the movement first.
Grasping the two handles, kneel down then walk a few steps forward on your knees. As you kneel down, you will need to rotate your shoulders so that your arms are being stretched behind your back (your palms will be facing up in this position). The reason you want to step forward a bit is to get a better stretch on the obliques.
From this position, you can perform one of three movements: a cable crunch straight forward, a side crunch to the left or a side crunch to the right. The angle of the cables form a direct line of pull for the obliques on the opposing side of the body, e.g. when you side crunch to the left, the right pulley has a direct line of pull on the left obliques.
I've found that a good way to execute this exercise is to cycle between the three movements during the set - do one crunch to the front, one to the left, one to the front, one to the right, one to the front, one back to the left, etc. This will give you a balanced workload on the abs. You can also choose to just focus on the obliques by going back and forth between the two sides.
The unique angle of tension from this exercise will really place demands on the abs in a way that they're not used to.
The second abdominal exercise is a variation of an exercise you may already be familiar with. The exercise this variation is based on is commonly known as a "Cable Torso Rotation." This variation takes this basic concept and adds a unique twist that literally doubles the effectiveness of the exercise.
This movement is done on a cable machine. If you have access to a machine that has an adjustable height pulley, this is the best option. If not, it will also work on either a high or low pulley. The movement itself is exactly the same regardless of where you pull from.
Set the pulley to about belly-button height (or use either the high or low pulley) and attach a single cable handle to it. Use a fairly light weight to start so you get an idea of how the movement is performed and what resistance you'll need.
Stand perpendicular to the pulley with your left side towards the pulley. Grasp the handle with your right hand and take a step to the right. Plant your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and get ready to rotate. The movement itself is very similar to a baseball swing, making it a very effective sports-training movement not only for baseball but from any sport that requires a powerful transfer of force from lower body to upper body.
At the start of the movement, your right arm will be held across your chest with your left arm at your side. Initiate the movement by rotating your torso to the right. Be sure to keep your elbow slightly bent and locked into position. If you allow the elbow to bend, you will turn the movement into a side row, lessening the effect on the obliques. Keep that arm stiff and fairly straight!
When you start this rotation, begin bringing the cable around in front of your body by pulling on the cable handle with your right arm. Your right arm will come away from your body as you rotate, placing more torque on the obliques.
Here comes the trick that doubles the workload on the abs...
As you start to approach the midpoint of the rotation, grasp the CABLE about 6 inches from the cable clip with your left hand. Do not grasp the handle itself with the left hand - it's important that you wrap your left hand around the actual cable for this to work. Read on...
In a normal cable rotation exercise, after you go past the halfway point of the rotation, the tension on the abs will start decreasing. The peak tension is at the halfway point. We're going to fix that!
Once you've passed the halfway point of the rotation, continue pulling the handle with your right hand but now start PUSHING forward and away from your body on the cable itself with your left hand. As a visual, think of the string games that kids play such as the Cat's Cradle.
What you're essentially doing is creating a new fulcrum for the tension of the cable to go through. Instead of losing some tension around the arc as you normally would, you now have direct tension on the abs again and in a different way than in the regular rotation exercise. This not only works the obliques on the pulling side with the pulling motion, it also works the obliques on the pushing side with a strong pushing motion.
The effect on the abs with this double movement is tremendous! The next day you should have a very strong feeling of tightness (and possibly soreness) in the upper/side ab area.
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