1stWorkout Routine: Abs

As promised in my last post (If you missed it, check here for my stab at an entertaining intro), here is the first routine in my three-part thousand-rep workout. This one caters to the abdominal muscles, and was established as my first workout. Performing it once to twice a week during off-seasons early on in high school kept me prepared to return to the demanding daily routine of the track and cross country teams. We’ll begin with the workout (And cool-down), then I’ll share my personal recommendations, and end with clarifications as to what each exercise includes. Find some time during your day today to follow through with the routine and I will post the next one tomorrow.

THE WORKOUT

50 Crunches
50 Side Crunches (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 (25) Leg Raises
50 Can Openers (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 Lemon Squeezers
50 Russian Twists (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 (25) Bell Ringers
50 Penguins (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 Crunches
50 Bicycles (Each Side)
50 Crunches

THE COOL-DOWN

Hold Each stretch 20-40 seconds, or until Relaxed

Seal/ Cobra
Child’s Pose (plus rotations)
Bridge (Optional)

Additional Stretches as you see fit

RECOMMENDATIONS

For Those Looking to: Expand Upon an Athletic Lifestyle

Depending on your typical training, current condition, and dedication, you may be able to complete the full workout on your first attempt. Do not be deceived about the length of the workout: it takes me around 20-25 minutes to complete when I’m at peak fitness and put my head to it. It is far better to start slow and find you can do better next time than to over-expend yourself and leave yourself sore for the next few days. Take a few moments between each exercise to compose yourself, and up to a minute between sets to rest. If you are unsure about completing the full routine, try beginning with 25-30 reps of each exercise and repeating the entire thing for the remaining 20-25 of as many exercises as possible.

For Those Looking to: Improve a Healthy (Active) Lifestyle

Jumping straight into the full routine is likely to leave you drained and sore, but within a few weeks you may be ready to attempt it. Try starting with 30-40 reps of each exercise and make sure to take as much rest as you need. You should feel tired and mildly sore at the end, but not so spent that it hurts to move. Be sure to pace yourself and if you realize halfway through that you’ve been doing too many reps, cut back or stop when you feel you’ve reached your limit. Don’t be afraid to split any sets into smaller parts, completing 10-15 reps of an exercise at a time, resting for a few seconds, then completing the set.

For Those Looking to: Improve a Neutral (Inactive) Lifestyle

You might not consider yourself unfit, but your body may need some convincing that working out is a normal and healthy thing. Beginning with 20-30 reps of each exercise, with 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise, and 30-90 seconds between sets is a gentle option to get used to how each should feel. If there are any exercises that hurt because of reduced flexibility, temporarily replace it with a corresponding one from another set and work on stretching the affected area before and after any workout. Splitting a set into smaller pieces is not a problem if it feels more natural to complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps per exercise.

For Those Looking to: Take Back Control of their Health

Attempt each exercise, striving for as many reps as possible, noting any difficult positions. Do not be afraid to take things in small bites or to put off a particularly difficult exercise.

THE EXERCISES EXPLAINED

Crunches

Mildly different from the classic “curl-up,” these are designed to be fast, with an emphasis on power, speed, and cardio. Both legs should be raised, with knees bent and feet off the ground (I find crossing my ankles to be most comfortable). Hands should be placed with 2 or 3 fingers behind the ears. DO NOT clasp hands behind the head or neck, as that changes what muscles are being used and tends to injure the neck. The upper body (chest and head) should move straight up and down, not curling in toward the knees. In cases where this is too difficult, standard curl-ups may be substituted as a more strength-based exercise.

Side Crunches

Performed in a similar way to standard crunches (as far as the upper body motion is concerned), the only difference is that the legs should remain on the ground, with knees flopped over to one side, then the other. Range of motion will decrease and it may be much harder to lift your body than standard crunches. Do the best you can. It will get better as you get used to the position.

Leg Raises

Lay on your back, legs fully extended. Slowly raise your legs until they sit at an angle 45 degrees from the ground (this should take around 4 seconds). Slowly lower your legs in the same time it took to raise them, until they are as close to the ground as possible, without touching. In the interest of keeping sets balanced, raising the legs may be counted as one rep, while lowering them may be counted as a second (effectively halving the quantity you need to complete, though we still consider it 50 reps due to the difficulty and in the interest of claiming the 1,000 rep title)

Can Openers

(AKA Cross Crunches) Lay on your back, one foot flat on the ground, so that the knee is bent. Rest the other ankle on the knee so that your second knee is pointed out to your side. Placing the finger tips of your arm opposite the second, raised, leg, raise that arm to meet the opposite (second) knee. The shoulder on the side of the raised leg should remain as close to the ground as possible.

Lemon Squeezers

(AKA Row the Boat OR V-Crunch) Balance on your butt, so that both your legs and back are elevated off the ground (bend your knees if necessary, but keep your feet off the ground). Reach your arms out toward your toes, without touching your arms to your legs. Pull your knees to your chest, then let them return, stretching your legs out and leaning back. Repeat, tucking your knees to your chest, then straitening your legs and back, nearly parallel to the ground.

Russian Twists

Starting in the same balanced position as for the lemon squeezers, pull your arms in closer to your chest. Rotate your body back and forth (quickly), reaching down with your arms to lightly tap the ground on either side of you with both hands together.

Bell Ringers

Another hard, two part exercise like the leg raises, this one is a bit faster. Lay on your back, knees curled up into your chest. Plant your hands on the ground near your hips and raise your legs and lower back to point straight up (Rep 1). Curl your legs back down and straighten them again, this time pointing so that your body is nearly straight (you want your legs close to the ground, but not quite touching) (Rep 2). Curl your legs back in and begin again, raising them up, curling them down, firing them out, and curling them back in. This should be quick.

Penguins

A simple exercise to follow the difficult Bell Ringers, this requires placing your feet flat on the ground, while you lie on your back, so that when you reach for your feet with your hands your heels are just out of reach. Raise your upper body just off the ground and waddle back and forth, lightly tapping one heel after the other. If it is too easy, move your feet out further, if it is too hard, move them in closer.

Bicycles

A classic, performed laying on your back. Raise your legs off the ground and place your fingers behind your ears. Alternate tapping either elbow to opposite knee, while the other leg straightens out. This should be done quickly, but not so fast that you run out of breath.

Seal/ Cobra Stretch

Lie on your stomach and plant the palms of your hands on the ground. Keeping your hips on the ground, raise your upper body and arc your back. You should feel a stretch across the surface, especially near the top of, your abs.

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling position, lean forward, keeping your butt on your heels so that your body lies across your legs and your arms reach out in front of you. Reach far enough that you feel a stretch across your sides. In order to stretch one side better, followed by the other, move both of your hands together, as far to one side as you can, then back to the other side.

Bridge Stretch

The classic Child gymnast’s feat, stand on your feet and your hands so that your back faces the ground and your hips are thrust into the air. This is a very efficient stretch if you can manage to get in position for it.

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