Archive for the ‘ Abdominal Workouts ’ Category

Kettlebell Abs Workout

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Kettlebell Exercises & Workout Routines that Will Deliver Six Pack Abs

Let me first make this point again (Repetition = Mother of Wisdom) ALL Kettlebell exercises performed in the Hard Style fashion (courtesy of Pavel Tsatsouline and his RKC) will work your abs like mad. Whole body bracing and power breathing (increasing intra-abdominal pressure, IAP) are foundational principles behind the Hard Style system of Kettlebell lifting. And the middle (midsection, abs & lower back) ties it all together. So – staying tight and “pressurized” throughout your KB practice – which you must in order to generate power and stay safe – will workout your abs no matter what KB exercises you choose to do. The six pack will kind of just happen as a pleasant side-effect of your kettlebell practice. Yeah!

The following are kettlebell drills and exercises that will challenge your core and abdominal strength a bit extra, and help you bring out the coveted washboard abs. I personally do not do abs workouts separately, instead I make 2-3 of the described exercises a part of my practice plan, bring my focus to the midsection, visualize what they’re doing, and “see” them the way I want them to feel and look.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise #1: Kettlebell Swings

At the top of your perfect swing, add an extra jolt of tension (second focus) to your entire body, become solid for a second, freeze the kettlebell in space for that second, with a powerful sharp hissing exhale. To make the swing even more of an abdominal exercise, imagine your instructor tapping your abs every time you come up, and that you need to, as Pavel puts it, brace yourself for a punch. Another way to feel yourself at the top is to pretend you are in plank, spine is straight and anchored by a super-hard squeeze of the glutes, abs, lats, and (fully extended) legs.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise #2: Kettlebell Janda Sit-Up

The hardest sit-up of all. The reason why, in simplest terms – by turning on hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings), you turn off (or rather ask to relax) the hip flexors. This allows you to isolate the abdominals and make there job incredibly harder, since normally the sit-up motion is greatly assisted by the hip flexor muscle group, now yielding to the activated hamstrings and glutes. Performed with a kettlebell, the Janda sit-up is a very advanced exercise. It is essential to be able to stay tight to protect your spine. Lay on your back, 90 degree angle at your knees, feet flat on the ground. Ask your partner to hold your calves about half way down, or you can also invest in The Pavelizer from, or rig enough elastic bands, should you not have a partner. Flatten your low-back spine into the floor, push your feet straight down as if you were fixing to do a bridge, and keep this tension on throughout. Pressurize the abdomen, and start peeling your spine off the ground, from the top, one vertebra at a time until you fully sit up and can relax some at the top. Before descending, compress yourself again with full tension, and from your super-clenched glutes start laying down your spine, unrolling the spine, until you put your head down and completely relax before the next sit-up. The glutes should feel like a wheel under you, time your exhale right, so you don’t collapse, control the descent all the way down. Start without a kettlebell, just by pushing your hands/straight arms along the floor towards your feet, pretend you are pushing a couple of heavy kettlebells that way. Once you get comfortable with 5 reps of this, you can start holding a light KB in front of your chest, and eventually, at the starting point, you can post the KB above you and sit up with it overhead. Be safe, this is hard. 3-5 sets of 2-5 reps will humble you.

Kettlebell Abs Exercises #3: Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish Get-Up is quite possibly the best exercise to develop “slow strength”, and surely the best exercise for creating symmetry and balance/harmony throughout the entire body. Performed perfectly, it will become your favorite Professor of Neuro-muscular Re-education. Please do yourself a favor and hire an RKC to teach this to you right. It’s involved and requires attention to the finer points to give you the best results.

Abs-wise, recreate the feeling of solid tension in the midsection from the Janda sit-up, and follow through the entire motion in a smooth and graceful flow. The abdominals will get hit hard the most when you initially get up to sitting, and then even more at the end trying to resist the weight when laying back down, just like the Janda. You’ll feel and possibly see your abs the next day, depending on your layer of insulation …

Kettlebell Abs Exercise #4: Russian Twists

Sitting on tight glutes (they should feel like an overinflated tire), knees bent, feet off the ground, hold the kettlebell in front of your torso, elbows tucked, pressure in the belly, rotate your trunk side to side and touch the bell to the ground next to your hip. Quit when you start losing that solid, pressurized feeling in your midsection and therefore start aching in your back. While keeping the midsection tight, exhale with short, sharp “tsu” sounds at every turn, keeping the breathing relatively shallow. Feel the obliques bring the ribs closer to the pelvis. Lay on your belly, propped up on your elbows, in between the 2-3 sets to re-align.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise #5: One Legged Deadlift

Another “perfect” drill to develop super legs & glutes, and whole body coordination under tension. It hits the abs by the virtue of having to stabilize the hips and keeping the spine straight and neutral. Grip the floor with your foot and tense (compress) your whole body to assure solid balance and safety. Lock out the knee at the top and as usual squeeze the hip through, bend it as much as you need to on the way down, still fully braced with muscular tension to protect the joints though. 3-5 sets of 5 repetitions each side sounds reasonable, stop when you start losing balance.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise 6: Windmills (Sidebends)

Will pull in the waistline and bring out the two lines that define your budding six-pack along the sides. Don’t do too many, as they build up the obliques in volume when done with medium weight and pump (swiftly). Work instead heavy, slowly for a few reps, 2-3 sets, encouraging sinewy tension. The bearing (back) leg needs to be locked out and vertical throughout, push your hip out and tall, the front leg can be bent. Make sure the weight-bearing arm feels braced in the shoulder and the wrist and elbow is straight. Do not exhale at the bottom, pressurize at the top, hold your breath on the way down, start hissing out as you start coming back up, time the exhale so you don’t run out of breath before you reach the top.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise 7: Kettlebell Figure 8

In a shallow squat, sit back on your heels. Imagine an infinity sign / figure 8 on the ground, your feet inside the loops. Now trace this path with the kettlebell being passed from hand to hand behind your calf, bring it around the side of your leg and back in between from the front, to pass it back to the other hand and so on. Keep the arms straight and hand-overs smooth to be nice to your elbows. Breathe as normally as possible, while keeping your abs tight, spine straight, leaning forward, and protected by glute and midsection tension. Keep your eyes forward, and go to a “comfortable” stop. Keeping the hips in place will focus the twisting more into the midsection.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise 8: Standing Kettlebell Core Twists

A standing version of the Russian Twists. Hold the bell close to your body, elbows tucked into the ribs. Minimize the movement of the knees and hips by “zipping-up” the whole body with muscular tension and twist sharply (short range of motion) side to side. The spine purely rotates, there is no reaching or bending, stay nice and tall. Accent the twists with short sharp exhales, breathe “braced for a punch”.

Kettlebell Abs Exercise 9: Kettlebell Hip Flexor Stretch

Stretching out the hip flexors will re-align the spinal curve (correct the chronically “all-the-time-a little-bent-over posture), and thus, make you stand taller/straighter, which results in a flatter abdominal wall, thus sharper looking (and stronger) abs. Think Warrior pose, holding a light kettlebell initially in front of your chest, and ultimately up above you in locked out arms. Feet “on tracks”, not in-line, gently go deeper into the stretch with each exhale, keeping the hips and shoulders level and square.

Double Kettlebell Snatch to Overhead Squat

Monday, March 15th, 2010

The double kettlebell snatch is a great exercises by itself, but to take it to a whole new level try adding in a full squat between snatch reps with the kettlebells in the overhead position. This challenging kettlebell snatch variation requires a fair amount of flexibility in the shoulders, back, and legs in order to perform it correctly and avoid injury.

My form in the video above is not perfect. At the bottom of the squat I allow my legs to bow inward a bit putting extra pressure on my knees. As my lower back and hips get more flexible my form will continue to improve. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Tutorial: Learning to Stand on a Stability Ball

Friday, September 11th, 2009

The stability ball is one of the most versatile pieces of workout equipment available. Typically costing around $20 and weighing less than three pounds, the basic stability ball, also called a Swiss ball, balance ball, exercise ball, Fitball™ or physio ball, can be used to perform literally thousands of exercises, and has the potential to work nearly every muscle in the human body.

One of the most impressive exercises performed on the stability ball is the act of standing on top of the ball. Standing on a stability ball is a great core exercise and works the entire core and the legs, including the abdominal, oblique, lower back, inner thigh, hamstring, quadriceps, and calf muscles.

The act of standing on the ball is a great exercise for athletes, individuals wanting to improve their balance, and for people who want to take their bodyweight conditioning to the next level. It is also a great way to impress your friends at the gym and serves as a great party trick.

Most people who are in good shape can learn to stand on the ball in between one and four weeks using the progression described below. In rare cases, highly conditioned athletes may be able to successfully stand on the ball within one or two days of their first attempt.

Kneeling on the Stability Ball

The first step in learning to stand on the stability ball is mastering the kneeling position. Depending on your natural balance ability and fitness level this can either be a fairly easy task or it can seem nearly impossible.

Kneeling on the stability ball strengthens the core stability muscles, quadriceps, lower back, and inner leg muscles in preparation for attempts to stand on the ball.

In my experience kneeling is easiest when performed in tights, tight pants, or shorts on a medium sized stability ball. Loose or baddy pants can make your legs slip off of the ball.

  • Step 1: Begin in a standing position with the ball in front of your shins.
  • Step 2: Place your hands on top of the stability ball about shoulder width apart.
  • Step 3: Slowly roll forward onto the ball with your knees, keeping your hands on the ball until you have gained your balance. It is easier to roll forward with both knees simultaneously, rather than trying to put one knee at a time onto the ball.
  • Step 4: Drop your center of gravity down and backwards by straightening your arms, lifting your shoulders and dropping your hips over your ankles. Attempt to remove your hands from the ball.
  • Tip: Use your feet to grip the ball when you remove your hands to increase control and stability.

Keep practicing the kneeling position until you can perform a two minute balance without falling or touching the ball with your hands.

To increase the difficulty of this position, try to the following variations:

  • Variation 1: Start with your knees closer together.
  • Variation 2: Try to balance on the front of the knees with a straight line between your knees, hips and shoulders.
  • Variation 3: Try to remain totally motionless with your hands at your sides.
  • Variation 4: Put some weights in your hands and try basic shoulder presses, side arm raises, or front raises.

Putting your Feet on the Stability Ball

Once you are comfortable kneeling on the ball it is time to take the next step toward standing on the ball. This step involves putting your feet on the ball:

  • Step 1: Begin with the ball in front of your shins.
  • Step 2: Place your hands on top of the ball about shoulder width apart.
  • Step 3: Roll the ball slightly forward and lift your dominant leg onto the ball about 12 – 16 inches behind the matching hand (left foot behind left hand, or right foot behind right hand). This should create a right triangle with your two hands and your one foot.
  • Step 4: Slowly lift the remaining foot off the ground and into the air. The majority of the weight should be balanced on the foot and opposite hand with the elevated foot and other hand being used for balance and corrective movements.

This three point stance should be practices until you are comfortable balancing and making corrections in this position for between 5 and ten seconds.

Three Point Stance on Stability Ball

Stability Ball on All Fours

Putting it All Together: Standing on the Stability Ball

Once you are comfortable with one foot on the ball it is time to put your other foot on and try to stand up.

  • Step 1: Begin in the position described in Step 3 of the above section with your dominant foot on the ball and your other foot on the floor.
  • Step 2: Lift your foot from the floor and place it behind your other hand on the ball creating a square with your feet and hands.
  • Step 3: Roll the ball forward slightly and straighten your legs until most of your weight is on your legs and they are almost straight.
  • Step 4: Slowly remove your hands from the ball and begin to straighten your back to come up into a standing position.

If you can maintain your balance and body control during this final step you will end up standing up completely on the ball. It will take some time to learn how to adjust your balance and recover as you begin to drift using your heels, toes, and arms to regain your balance. Once you have mastered the standing position for two minutes you can check out my Advanced Standing Stability Ball Variations.

Tips and Things to Consider

There are a number of factors that affect how difficult it will be to stand on a stability ball. The ball, your footwear, and the floor surface can all affect the difficulty of this core exercise.

The Ball

When learning to stand on the ball it is important to choose the right ball. You should choose a ball that allows your feet to be shoulder width apart without sliding off of the side of the ball, while also not being too high up on the ball either. It should be well inflated, as an under inflated ball can be very wobbly and hard to control. It is easier to use a ball with ridges and a tacky surface for better grip. Also, a thicker, more rigid material makes it easier to control under your feet. A dry stability ball is a necessity when learning to stand on the ball and should be dried off it has become sweaty from contact with your arms or shins.

Your Footwear

This can be done with either shoes or bare feet. Standard socks do not work, however latex or rubber socks can make standing on the ball easier. Bare feet allow more sensitivity, but typically will become sweaty after time and slide off the ball. Standard training shoes are ideal for standing on the ball. Your shoes should be tied tightly to keep your foot from sliding inside the shoe.

The Floor

The floor surface affects the difficulty of standing on a stability ball greatly. A stretching or gymnastics mat makes balancing easier and safer and is recommended for people first learning this activity. Hard tacky surfaces such as hard mats and hardwood floors are harder than soft mats. Thick rugs and carpets are easier while very thin carpets seem to be one of the most difficult surfaces to balance on.

Pistol – One Leg Squat

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

The pistol, or one leg squat is a very challenging test of leg strength, flexibility and balance. The interesting mix of fitness challenges provided by the pistol make it an essential hardcore exercise.

Pistol Variations

Here is a video of a basic pistol with the *added weight of an 8 lb medicine ball for 3 reps:

* A small amount of added weight actually makes the pistol easier.

Pistol on a Bosu Ball:

Pistol w/ 2 16 kg kettlebells (70.5 lbs total):

Pistol Training: Learning the One Leg Squat

I used a combination of techniques to learn how to do the pistol. Here are a few good video and links to help you learn the one leg squat.

Single leg squat practice – how to master any exercise fast – johnsifferman

Pistol Squat Tutorial – kinglennyone

Beast Skills – The One Leg Squat

Dragon Flag – Extreme Core Exercise

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

The first time that I saw a dragon flag performed was on a YouTube video. The dragon flag is one of those rare exercises that is so hard that simply beging able to correctly do one is a magnificent feat of core and total body strength. In other words the dragon flag is the epitome of a hardcore exercise.

Search YouTube and you will find a number of videos of attempted dragon flags. The method and form are a little different on each but for the most part they are all impressive demonstrations of this challenging exercise.

My Dragon Flag Experiences

After seeing the dragon flag performed on YouTube I decided to give it a try. The first time I tried it I was in very good shape and had doing planche training, lots of intense core exercises, and various pull up routines for several months.

I was actually able to do one decent repetition. If you look at different videos of the dragon flag you will notice that some people start at the bottom of the rep, while others start at the top. In my experience it is a lot easier and safer to start at the top (vertical) position. Starting at the top also means that you can stop part of the way down and work up to the full range of motion.

Initially I figured it would be intense on the core and abs, but I was surprised that it was more of a challenge on the arms and lats. The next day I was very sore, mostly in the upper back, lats and arms.

Here are a few recent attempts:

History of the Dragon Flag aka the Bruce Lee Flag

The dragon flag is based on an exercise regularly performed by Bruce Lee during his martial arts demonstrations and workouts. Not surprisingly this exercise is often called the Bruce Lee flag.

Dragon Flag Precautions

I am no medical expert and am not even a certified personal trainer, so please consult a trainer before you try this very difficult exercise. Personally I found that the first few times that I tried the dragon flag my body was not used to the total body tension and I got developed cramps in my calves and other leg muscles. It is also stressful on the neck and very taxing on the lower back as well. Please proceed with extreme caution.