How to Feel your Abs Work
Working out is just that. Done properly it is work, and there is nothing worse than to think you are working for nothing. Two of my favorite ab exercises are bridges and side planks. These are very effective at engaging all your core muscles. The problem for me is that there isn’t really a “burn” with these moves. I like to KNOW that I
am muscle building. This is the move that I use to get it in my midsection.
First I do not mean to diminish the effectiveness of planks and bridges for core work. Just the opposite. They are the center pieces of my abdominal training. They are perfect for older lifters, male and female, because they are moves that remove all stress from the spine. I am just old school and need to feel the abs working. Though I
know they are in bridges and planks I miss that burn.
All of the exercises for ab work that bring the tightness and burn sensations generally involve lying on your back as the starting position. From there crunches, leg lifts and bicycles are all great at giving your abs a workout. But for me I find that I cheat way too much by moving my neck and head as much as actually working my abs. Being on my back brings discomfort to my spine and lower back very quickly. Again, it’s not that these are bad moves for ab work, it’s that I don’t think they are the most effective, given their shortcomings.
To build muscle in my core, and to give my abs the burn I look for what I do is the rope pull crunch. To do this move, go to a cable machine and use the rope attachment. Get on your knees facing the cable about 3 feet from the bottom of the machine. Hold the rope in both hands and place your hands next to your ears. Now “crunch” by bringing your forehead down to the floor. The two keys to making this move effective for core work is to NOT use your arms to pull and to bring your head down in an arcing motion. Do an actual crunch but be sitting up on your knees. Variations off this are to spread your knees to move the emphasis and to bring your head down not between your legs but off to the sides.
Why do I think this is better than standard crunches? First it takes me off my back which eliminates spine and neck issues but most importantly I can adjust the amount of weight I use. The reason most people do crunches improperly is because they can not lift the amount that their upper body weighs. So after a few reps they are cheating. Same theory applies once your abs tire. Here you can keep adding or removing weight so that your form stays good, which is essential to make a crunching move build muscle.
Ab work is not about a lot of weight. It’s about working the ab muscles with proper motion, not just moving your neck and head. By adjusting the weight to allow me to do the rope pull crunch properly, I can do enough reps to get the burn that makes me know for sure that muscle building took place.