Most every person who lifts has his or her chest day (often on Mondays). There are also days for training legs, upper body, and the abs.
Everyone has an idea about what muscle group requires training or "toning". Of these muscles, one has received a lot of attention since the late 70s — the core.
A chiseled core has been the holy grail of many exercisers. Coveted for aesthetics, the core muscles are among the most-trained of any muscle group. If you need proof, look around your local gym and see the number of people doing crunches.
Of the many core exercises, no other abdominal exercise has enjoyed ubiquity other than the abdominal crunch. It is so popular that it has speciated into a myriad of variations touted by everyone (including your fitness instructor).
While the crunch has its place in any training program, there is a caveat of which to be mindful. Like many exercises that have become popular, the crunch has either been misused or ab-used (pun intended).
The misuse of this exercise leads to injury. And doing this exercise (or any exercise, for that matter) can often lead to a muscle imbalance.
In short, there are other choices besides the old ab crunch. If you have a Unity Trainer, multiply your choices by a factor of 10. Why?
Because here are 10 superior abdominal moves you can do with your Unity Trainer.
But, first, let's be clear on what the core is.
What Is the "Core"?
Misconceptions abound in the fitness world.
And when it comes to what is called "the core," the above statement is certainly true.
When asked, most people would localize the core to one part of the body — the abdominal region. In other words, many people think that the core muscles are only in the abdominal region.
While this is not totally inaccurate, this idea creates a very myopic concept of how to train the core correctly. What most consider the core are the abdominal muscles. These are:
● the rectus abdominis (the "pack")
● the transversus abdominis
● the internal and external obliques (the oblique muscles)
Colloquially, these muscles are the "abs". Since they are located anterior to the spine, abdominal
flexion causes these muscles to contract. Abdominal flexion occurs when we:
● pick things up off the floor without bending at the knee
● perform everyone's favourite core exercise — crunches
● the gluteus maximus
● your latissimus dorsi ("lats")
● the erector spinae (aka spinal erectors)
● the hip girdle
In other words, your core is almost every muscle that comprises your torso and your posterior chain. When you think of the core this way, you can get a sense of why the term was used in the first place. After all, "core" is synonymous with "center," right?
In short, just think of your core as your abs and the muscles close to it. Think of the core this way, and you will be on your way to training it properly.
Why Is a Strong Core Important?
Core strength is something every serious lifter or athlete needs to develop. After all, a stronger core allows you to maintain rigidity during isometric exercises and holds (e.g., handstands, plank
A stronger core is also a necessity for bearing loads. Anybody who front squats above his or her body weight will attest to this.
In detail, here are some benefits that can incentivize adding core training to your training sessions:
Improved Core Stability
Improved core stability is vital for both aesthetics and longevity.
Core stability is essential for athletes, especially for those who shift positions all the time. It is also a prerequisite for strength-based athletes. Weightlifters and runners all rely on core stability to properly move themselves or carry a heavy weight.
Balance is also the result of a stable core. Perhaps, this is why gymnasts and a lot of elite BJJ athletes have some of the most developed core muscles in the world.
Core stability translates to improved posture as well. This brings us to our next point:
Sure, core stability and a six-pack aren't exactly co-terminus with each other. Nonetheless, having core muscles that are strong enough to be rigid in the right places can ensure an upright
posture. An upright posture not only exudes confidence and vitality. It is a predictor of spinal health.
Bear in mind that the spinal erectors are also part of your core. The stronger this part of your core is, the more protection your spine gets.
And, of course, a well-protected spine leads to a non-kyphotic posture.
Prevention of (Lower) Back Pain
In the 21st century, there are three common complaints: awful bosses, taxes, and lower back pain. The last one is a burden unique to us bipeds. Over the years, it hasn't gotten any better.
We can pin this all on our unergonomic work environments and sedentary lifestyles. Sitting down for long periods of time and walking less have contributed to our lower back pain. The positions we assume as we sit for hours on our desks or cars force us into flexion. Flexion, believe it or not, is an unnatural position for us humans.
To undo the effects of prolonged hip and spinal flexion, we need to develop the musculature around the spine. We need to strengthen our abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles of the lower and upper back.
The result of stronger abdominal and back muscles is better core muscle strength.
Core muscle strength = lower chances of back pain
Top 10 Core Exercises You Can Do With the Unity Trainer
In truth, you do not need much equipment for the basics like crunches and hip bridges. But the basics can lead to boredom in no time.
So, ditch the crunches and grab your Unity Trainer. Here are 10 core exercises that will make you wonder why you ever did crunches:
Yes, we did mention that crunches were not the only abdominal exercises available. In the conventional sense, crunches meant lying down on the ground and bringing your body up with the least leg movement.
This way of doing crunches is not bad in itself. But, let's face it. This way of doing crunches is boring. Also, you've got a Unity Trainer, so you might as well go with the superior alternative.
This alternative comes in the form of hanging crunches. Hanging crunches have the same benefits as regular crunches with two bonuses:
First, the hanging position allows your spine to decompress. Elsewhere, we have gone over the benefits of spinal decompression.
Second, hanging crunches also work your hip flexors. During regular crunches, it is possible to "cheat" by adding an explosive forward shoulder pop after the starting position. This leaves out
the hip flexors.
During the hanging position, this option is not available. This means you need to work harder to bring your knees up to your chest.
Glute Bridges With the Unity Trainer
As mentioned earlier, the core also includes your glutes. The glutes are often some of the least worked muscles of the body. Again, we can attribute this to sitting for long periods of time.
We can get the glutes firing through practicing hinges. Hinging is when you move your hips back with minimal knee bend and force them forward explosively. Some examples of exercises that are hinge-dominant are kettlebell swings and deadlifts.
Now, you might be thinking:
"But, I only have a Unity Trainer."
Have no fear. You can still hinge by performing glute bridges.
You may not be swinging or hoisting weight, but you would still be moving your hips forward in the most explosive way possible.
Glute bridges train the glutes and involve the hamstrings as well. Since your starting position will be on the ground, you would also be involving the spinal erectors as you bring your hips off the
Most exercises rely upon flexion to get muscles to contract. Rollouts are a bit different.
Using your Unity Trainer, you can perform a movement that is similar to a barbell or ab-wheel rollout. Our version has the same benefits as the barbell or ab-wheel versions.
But with the Unity Trainer, you can add difficulty and instability. To make the exercise more difficult, set the handles lower. The instability will also force your deep core muscles to fire.
These are the muscles responsible for stabilization.
Around the World
Do you want ideas for a killer core workout? The Around The World is arguably a complete core exercise.
Try adding this move. The Around The World is usually performed using a pullup bar. You can use your Unity Trainer for the added instability and free arm movement.
Of all the core moves, this one will cause all of your anterior core muscles to fire. Everything from your rectus abdominis to your transversus abdominis will contract. Also, as you bring your knees above your hips, you can also feel your hip flexors activating.
Your starting position should be from a dead hang. But if your Unity Trainer is suspended lower, you can add some more isometric hip flexor involvement. In this situation, you can start with an L-sit or with your feet behind you.
Actually, many people do this already. Except, instead of the Unity Trainer, people use other implements like yoga balls.
The plank crunch works the rectus and transversus abdominis. Since you're holding yourself in a plank position the whole time, you will also develop isometric strength in your triceps.
Start with both feet suspended on the Unity Trainer's handles. In a plank position, bring your knees closer to your chest then bring them back out.
Bosu Plank Crunch
If you begin to find the Unity Trainer's instability too easy, add a Bosu ball.
The plank crunch combines the plank position and a mountain climber. It can be done in two ways.
You can either have both legs suspended using the Unity Trainer Split Straps. Or, if you crave a challenge, do a set with only one leg suspended like the video below. Alternate as needed.
The plank crunch activates all of the fibers that line up the rectus abdominis. With the right diet, you can achieve ab definition even with this exercise alone.
If you do not have a Bosu ball, don't worry. You can perform the plank crunch. Of course, the added instability of the Bosu ball can force your stabilizing core muscles to fire.
Do the plank crunch with and without a Bosu ball and see what works for you. Either way, you are in for a great core workout!
Push-up to Crunch
We are all pretty busy these days. So, why not pair two muscle groups to save time.
Both abdominal muscles, chest, and triceps will thank you with the push-up to crunch. The push-up takes care of your upper body. Meanwhile, the crunches in the plank position will activate your rectus abdominis.
Assume the plank position with feet suspended on the handles or straps. Next, perform a push-up. As you reach the top, tuck your knees in. Both movements count as one rep. Repeat for about 10 to 15 reps.
If you want to make the exercise even more challenging, try this with only one leg suspended. You will be surprised at how much tougher the movement gets.
Mountain climbers have been mainstays in HIIT programs for a long time. Known for increasing sweat and heart rates, mountain climbers mimic what occurs when you go sprint up a flight of stairs. No doubt, it is an excellent exercise for anaerobic conditioning, especially when done at
With the Unity Trainer, mountain climbers can challenge more than the heart and lungs. It can give your entire body a workout.
Like the plank crunch, the exercise begins when you suspend both feet on the handles. Instead of bringing both knees to your chest, you alternate between the left knee and right knee (or vice versa).
Do mountain climbers with the Unity Trainer slowly to activate your hip flexors and rectus abdominis.
Do them faster to jack up your heart rate and turn the movement into a cardio and core exercise.
The choice is yours. The important thing is to do either version using the Unity Trainer.
Alternating Knee Ups
Alternating knee-ups are similar to hanging crunches. The only difference is how you raise your knees. Instead of raising both knees at the same time to your chest, you raise them alternately.
Alternating between the left knee and right knee stimulates your transversus abdominis and the rectus abdominis. Since you will be hanging, you also get the added benefits of a lat stretch.
You can develop core strength in two ways: with repeated movements or by using static or isometric holds.
For the core, one such isometric hold is the L-sit. It's simple. All you need to do is hang with both your legs stretched out in front of you. The goal is to hold the position for as long as you can. The upper body and the legs should be at a 90-degree angle.
If you cannot hold an L-sit position at first, a regression would be holding a tucked position while hanging. Over time, you can slowly bring your feet hip level even for just a few seconds. After that,
try getting to the L-sit.
L-sits train strong core locks. It is also a stepup from a hollow body rock position. This means that the core rigidity developed carries over to other bodyweight skills like L-sit pull-ups and even
Since the L-sit is an isometric hold, your hip flexors will be tense the entire time. As a result, the lower abdominal region gets a workout. All this occurs as your shoulder blades are pulled upward. Despite having little to no visible movement, it works the entire core differently.
Core Development Is Crucial to Your Performance
From bearing weight to moving effortlessly, your core contributes to all fundamental movements. Always remember that your core is more than just your muscles upfront. Your core also consists of the muscles that support your spine.
With the Unity Trainer, who needs a personal trainer?
The Unity Trainer can take any exercise and magnify its positive impact on core development.
Grab yours and have fun.