Forget abs of steel, titanium is way more superior. Its most useful property is the strength to density ratio which is exactly how you should view your core and abs training as well as your choice of exercises. Showing abs is not always a sign of strong abs and core.
The core’s primary function, besides caging the viscera, is to protect the spine. It doesn’t protect it by doing hundreds of upper body curl, up from the floor. It is there to activate everything “core” when you lift something heavy from the floor, a few times maybe. It is also there to prevent the spine and hips from twisting too far, to prevent a rotational force that could be deemed dangerous for the spine. So, in other words, the core musculature and extremities work in association to prevent rotation.
With that being said, the regular crunches and sit-ups won’t cut it, you need to get out of the box to get unconventional results and a stronger core. Here are a few of my favorite exercises to build strength in the midsection.
Leg raise accentuated
Hanging from a bar already stretches the spine and core, so to start with, hanging leg raises (or even pull-ups) are one of the best abs’ builders out there, surpassing the crunches by a few miles.
Starting by hanging, lift your knees as high as you can, as if you were trying to touch your chin with your knees. Extend your legs as far out as possible and lower them with a 10-second tempo as strict and controlled as possible.
Like mentioned earlier, preventing rotational forces against the torso is one of the core’s main functions. Why not do them with an eccentric tempo to accentuate an anti-rotational element? Stand sideways to a pulley, grab the pulley at shoulder height with both arms straight. Rotate clockwise while keeping your arms straight from left to right. Do 8 reps and switch sides. Use a controlled tempo of 5 seconds and an explosive concentric for best results.
Incline reverse crunch
Most of the time, the upper body and shoulders will initiate the movement while doing crunches and sit-ups. Let’s reverse the roles. Now you stabilize the shoulder and the upper body will pull the hips up. This makes it way more difficult as more body mass is under the belt. While lying down on the bench, grab the end of the bench over your head and bring your hips up with your legs straight up or knees bent. To increase difficulty, incline the bench. The higher the incline, the harder it will be.