The Best Abs Exercises: No Equipment Needed
Core exercises are essential in any athlete’s training. Properly trained core muscles form the foundation for almost all athletic movements, help to look thinner, increase overall strength, balance, stability and speed, and what’s also important - reduce the risk of injury. Stable core muscles are extremely important in most sports and other physical activities. Core muscles stabilize and move the spine, stabilize the body when it’s in an upright position, or during vigorous exercises (e.g., running or lifting weights). They control the head, neck, ribs, spine, and pelvis. You may notice it gets much easier to do complicated yoga poses after you start doing Pilates and a lot of core engagement. Also, it affects the way you stand, sit, squat.
Four Major Core Muscle Groups
But what it is that we call the core? Most of us think of the abdominal training first, instead of the entire torso, when thinking of core training. But the core is much more than a six-pack, it refers to all of the muscles in the entire torso. In fact, the core is a complex series of muscles,that includes everything besides arms and legs.Moreover, there are many muscles that are hidden beneath the exterior musculature (e.g.,the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor and other deeper muscles) we typically train. But for now, for our purpose to achieve results,major core muscle groups listed below nicely define a core. So, to develop the complete core, you have to target its four primary muscle groups. You don’t want to focus on only one type of movement but to expand your workout into four sections. Here you will find different core exercises; each targets a specific core muscle group.
1. Rectus Abdominis
The rectus abdominis is also referred to as ‘abdominals’, ‘abs, or the ‘six-pack’. It is a paired muscle that begins on your ribs and connects at the bottom of your pelvis - in other words, this muscle runs the length of your stomach. This muscle is responsible for flexion of the spinal column. So, to strengthen the abdominals, you need to do exercises that shorten the distance between your ribs and pelvis.
Exercises: Crunches, Sit-Ups, V-ups, V-Crunches, Reverse Crunches, Vertical Leg Crunches, Straight Arm Crunches, Full Sit-Up Crunches, The Plank, Walking Plank, Hanging Leg Lifts
Obliques are the muscles that run along the sides of the waist, from the ribs to the hip bones. They are responsible for twisting our torsos and we also use them when bending down to one side or the other. It’s extremely important to build strong obliques muscles to perform better in exercise and sports in general.
Exercises: Corkscrews, Thread the Needle, Bottom Half Oblique Lift, Side Bends, Seated Twists (Russian Twists), Side Planks, Side Plank Dips, Sit-Ups to Twist, Spidermans, Oblique Crunches, Trunk Rotations, Standing Side-Crunch, Side-Oblique Crunches, Oblique Crosses, Toe Touch Oblique Crunches, Windshield Wipders, Oblique Mountain Climbers, Walking Oblique Crunches, Heel Touches
3. Transverse Abdominis
The transverse abdominis muscle is the deepest of the four abdominal muscles; it goes from the belly button up to the rib cage, and then it switches with the rectus abdominis. This muscle wraps horizontally from the back of the body to the front. There’s only one transverse muscle on each side, connected by a fascial sheet, that allows them to act as one solid muscle. The Transverse Abdominis muscle gets involved every time we breathe deeply when doing sports or some other activities. For instance, it gets involved when we coughing, defecating, or pushing out an exhale (when blowing up the balloons, playing a wind instrument and so on). Strong transverse abdominis and the obliques support the lumbar spine helping with back pain relief and also, keep the organs in place.
Exercises: Abdominal Hollowings (many common abdominal exercises don't even involve transverse abdiminals, but you can still increase its activation by simply hollowing your abdomen while doing your regular core workout), Glute Bridges, Planks, Six-Inch Leg Raises With Hold, Bicycle Kicks, Quadruped Lifts (bird dog), Cat Cow
4. Erector Spinae
The erector spinae (spinal erectors), also more commonly known as the lower back muscles, is a set of muscles that run along the spine and straighten and rotate the back; they help you rise back up when you bend over, for example. It's a large covered area of the back, not a single muscle, that comprises the core muscle. Spinal erectors support your spine and head, help you to flex and extend both, and also, you use them when rotating your torso from side to side. If these muscles become weak, you are at risk for back strain. So you definitely want to add some strengthening exercises for a strong, healthy back to prevent injuries or even reduce back pain if you have such.
Exercises: Superman Extensions, Cobra, Bird Dog, Deadlift, Frog Press, Good Morning, Spine Extension, Reverse Crunch, Pull-Ups, Bridge.
Here are some workout, pilates and yoga class videos that incorporate some of the exercises listed above for your core muscles!