If you’ve read my blogs here before, you know I’m not a fan of traditional core work. In my opinion, sit-ups and crunches do not a six-pack make. A combination of clean eating and dynamic functional moves that use your full body are the best way to carve out that core.
When I’m in a time crunch and can’t hit all my favorite plank variations, I have three moves I always rely on, and one of them involves that funny-looking blue half-ball that you always see at the gym called a BOSU ball.
In recent studies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, using a BOSU ball under your lower back during core training can increase activation of the rectus abdominis by nearly 25 percent. (Yes, please!) Simply add these three moves to your workout, either between sets or at the end, to really feel the burn.
1. Single-Leg BOSU Bicycle
One of the best way tighten the lower abs is by moving your legs. Really focus on bringing the abdominal wall in throughout your movement instead of flexing your abs too much and letting them stick out. Imagine your waistband shrinking, and pull your belly button into your lower back.
– Position yourself so that the bottom of your booty hits at about the last circular line of the BOSU.
– Lean back, placing one hand behind the head and the other to the side for balance.
– Extend the opposite leg and arm long off the floor, and then twist your knee to your elbow as you come up.
– Make sure to extend all the way back down, feeling a slight arch in your upper body at the bottom of the movement, and keep the elbow wide. Do 15 reps on each side, and then repeat.
TIP: These will make you feel the burn quickly. Do as many as you can with a slow, controlled pace.
2. Oblique Crunch Plank
Sometimes simple is good. This high-plank variation simply pulls one knee up at a time to activate the obliques and stabilizing muscles. This move also tones your shoulders and legs as you work.
To really get the most out of this one, play with tempo. Try the first 10 with a slower pace (count to two coming up and two going back down). For the next 10, double the pace without a break. As always, exhale as you pull the knee wide and pull the belly button in.
– Starting in a high plank, place your hands directly under your shoulders.
– Maintain the position as you pull one knee wide to the side, all the way to the elbow.
– Return to starting plank and switch sides.
Do 10 reps slow (count to two coming up and two going back down) and then 10 reps fast (double the tempo) for two to three sets.
3. Hanging Straight-Leg Raise
One of the reasons the BOSU can do so much to engage your core is the slight hyperextension it creates through the upper body by being on a rounded surface instead of a flat one. To really amp things up, get rid of a supportive surface all together. The biggest challenge here is to not swing or use momentum. Take your time and keep the movement as smooth as possible. Hanging from a bar with a straight body, ensure that your arms are long and shoulders are down away from your ears through the entire exercise.
– Keeping your legs as straight as possible, lift them to the bar (or as high as possible).
– Slowly lower your legs to starting position and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps.
TIP: Not quite there yet? Modify by bending your knees and keeping your legs apart. Pull your knees toward your elbows and you’ll be progressing to straight legs in no time.
BY JASON WIMBERLY for LiveStrong.com