Today we are going to discuss the importance of a six-pack and no I don't mean beer. I got your attention though. This group of muscles is located in the abdominal region of the body, including mid to lower back, small part of your chest and upper thighs. This group of muscles is also referred to as the core. A strong core works as foundation for upper and lower body it serves as a support system and is essential in all aspects of everyday life and sports.
Imagine yourself heading back to the trailhead at the end of a long ride. The trail is rough and whooped out. Your sled's suspension is doing all it can, your arms and legs are fatigued and you are doing everything you can to hang on. At this point a strong core will help the rider to maintain his form while riding, by helping to take some of the force from his arms, allowing the stress to be applied to more muscles and not just a select group. A weak core will compromise your form/position while riding by transferring work to weaker, already tired shoulders and arms. The combination of a weak core, fatigued muscles and bad form can result in an injury.
Unfortunately, core is one of the most neglected body parts. Most people targeting the abs end up doing a bunch of crunches. Due to the limited range of motion, crunches alone do not provide enough strength conditioning needed for a sport such as snowmobiling. Below are a few core exercises to get you on your way to a stronger core and your very own six-pack.
Pick two or three exercises that target full range of the core muscle group (abs, obliques, back) and work them into your workout routine at least three to four times a week. A beginner should start with two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps. Work your way up to four to five sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Decline Reverse Crunch
Start by laying your back on a decline bench and hold on to the top of the bench with both hands. Hold your legs parallel to the floor using your abs to hold them there while keeping your knees and feet together. Keep your legs fully extended with a slight bend on the knee. Bring your legs towards the torso and as you do that contract your core and raise your hips off the bench. Hold the contraction for a count and then return your legs back to the starting position slowly. Variation: You can do the movement on a flat surface and as you get more advanced you can use ankle weights.
Kneel below a high pulley that contains a rope attachment. Grasp the cable rope attachment and lower it until your hands are placed next to your face. With your hips stationary, flex the core as you contract the abs bringing your elbows towards the middle of your thighs. Hold the contraction for a count and return to the starting position. Keep constant tension on your abs throughout the movement.
Seated Leg Tucks
Sit on a bench with the legs stretched out in front of you and your arms holding on to the sides of the bench. Lean back slightly to engage the core and bring the knees in toward you as you move your torso closer to them at the same time.
Sit down on the floor with your legs fully extended in front of you and your upper body upright. Grab the plate by its sides with both hands out in front of your abdominals and your arms slightly bent. Lean back slightly to keep yourself balanced. Contract your core and slowly lift your legs off the ground. Move the plate to the left side and touch the floor with it. Come back to the starting position and repeat the movement to the right side. Use a slow controlled movement at all times.
Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands beside your head. Now lift your shoulders into the crunch position. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion. Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Continue alternating in this manner until all of the recommended repetitions for each side have been completed.
Variation: To challenge yourself, slow this exercise down and as you get more advanced you can use ankle weights.
Barbell Side Bend
Stand up straight while holding a barbell placed on the back of your shoulders (slightly below the neck). Feet should be shoulder width apart. While keeping your back straight and your head up, bend only at the waist to the right as far as possible. Hold for a second and come back up to the upright position. Repeat the movement but bending to the left. Try keeping the rest of the body stationary.
Variation: You can also do this exercise while seated on a bench or with dumbbells in your hands.
To begin, lie down flat on your back, your arms at your sides with the palms facing down. Keep your legs together. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, slowly raise your legs up in the air until they are almost perpendicular to the floor. Feet should be parallel to the floor. Raise your arms pointing at your toes. While keeping your lower back pressed against the floor, contract your core slowly, lift your torso and use your hands to try and touch your toes. Slowly begin to lower your torso and arms back down to the starting position.
Use a hyperextension bench, placing your ankles in the footpads. Keeping your body straight, cross your arms in front of you or behind your head. Start bending forward slowly at the waist as far as you can while keeping your back flat. Keep leaning forward until you can no longer keep going without rounding your back. Slowly raise your torso back to the initial position. Important: Do not round your back as you perform this exercise and use slow controlled movement to perform this exercise. Variation: You can also hold a weight plate for extra resistance in front of you.
Start by lying down on a bench with a barbell resting on your chest. Position your legs so they are secure on the extension of the abdominal bench. Tighten your abdominals and glutes. Simultaneously curl your torso as you do when performing a sit-up and press the barbell to an overhead position. Lower your upper body back down to the starting position while bringing the barbell back down to your chest. Important: Use a spotter while doing this exercise, it is easier to get the barbell and also get rid of it. Use slow controlled movement to perform this exercise. Variations: You can also use a decline bench when you are more advanced.
Plank/Plank with Leg Lift
Begin in the plank position, with your forearms and toes on the floor. Keep your torso straight and rigid core contracted. Your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor. Hold this position for 20 seconds to start. Over time, work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds. Variations: You can increase intensity by slowly raising one leg 5-8 inches off the floor, count to two and slowly lower your leg to the floor, then alternate legs. As you build strength, keep yourself challenged by placing your feet on an unbalanced surface such as a Bosu ball.