Shirtless strong man flexing his huge chest and arms with nice defined six pack abs.

5 Best Isolated Bodybuilding Core Exercises For Powerful Abs and Back

Do you want to have washboard abs and a defined lower back?  Many people struggle with developing a strong core.  Cut out all other Abs and Lower back exercise for a month and do these 1-2 times a week and you are sure to see results.

Your Core is Important – Don’t Save it For Last

Maybe the single most crucial area of your body, both functionally for athletes and additionally, aesthetically for bodybuilders is your core.  Unfortunately, many people, even experienced trainer, will leave core exercises to the end of a strength training routine.  Although saving core exercises to the end can be the best thing to do, especially if you are performing mostly compound exercises first.  For instance, you don’t want to perform a squat routine after you complete these hardcore core exercises to failure.  Additionally, you don’t want to do abs at the end of every workout, unless you are using these core exercises as part of an aerobic exercise routine and not strength training.  But, if you are strength training or bodybuilding, treat these exercises like all other strength training routine.

Try Working Your Core First and Not Last

Even when performing major compound exercises like squats and deadlifts, training your core fist can be beneficial.  For most of us completing some isolated core, exercises will help to warm our core and prepare it for heavy lifts.  Second, training your midsection first in the program serves to tighten your stabilizing muscles that you will need for your compound exercises.  And finally, when you leave training your core for last, you are likely to short cycle.  Performing only two sets of these core exercise can be amazingly beneficial, especially if you do one set of each as a warmup and one set of each to failure.

You Lower Back is Part of Your Core

Improving your core strength and waistline is not just about your stomach. Your midsection is also 50% back, so why do so many people focus on their stomach.  If you know people like this, you have probably heard them complain of lower back problems.  If you are someone who is suffering from lower back problems, you should not avoid back exercises and focus on your stomach, or it will exacerbate your issues.  Obviously, if your back were stronger, you would have fewer problems, so we need to strengthen that back.  If you are suffering from an injury currently, you need to take it slow and allow your back to heal.  After you have recovered, then focus on strengthening your back and preventing future injuries.

Train Your Abs Right and Stop Overtraining

There are an unlimited number of core exercises that you can do, and still, one of the most common mistakes is to perform the same exercise over and over again. You probably know someone who conducts standard situps at the end of every workout routine trying to build those washboard abs.  Working abs every day is a strange phenomenon since we don’t train many other muscles this way.  No matter what kind of physical activity you do your abs, calves, and forearms are endurance muscles.  We all use them constantly, so they are used to daily abuse.  Just because we use them routinely doesn’t mean we need to work them daily to build strength.  To build strength, you need to break the muscle down through resistance training and let it fully rest and recover.

You Make Washboard Abs in the Kitchen NOT the Gym

OK, is only a half-truth, you make washboard abs in both the gym and the kitchen.  If you currently don’t have washboard abs and you are eating right then, you need to build the muscles.  If you have a strong core and still can’t see your washboard abs, you likely need to work on what you are fueling your body with.  Nevertheless, if you want six pack abs, you need both a healthy diet and a strong core.

Not All Six Pack Abs Are Six-Packs

You may be wondering why not all stunning abs look like six-packs.  Maybe you have seen uneven abs or 8-packs, or even 10-packs.  Does the 10-pack mean they have a stronger core?  Unfortunately, it is not that easy to just count the pack.  How your abs develop is less about your workout routine and more about your genes.  Don’t get me wrong, developing your abs is all about your workout and diet, but the number and pack distribution are about your genes.  Your Rectus abdominus or “abs” starts at the base of your diaphragm go all the way down to your pubic region, and it is all one large muscle. Your abs are attached through tendons and ligaments both vertically, down the middle and across.  These tendons create the valleys in your abs as your muscle grow and create the peaks.

Work Your Whole Core Including the Sides (Obliques)

Your core is more than just the abs and back; you have many different muscles that make up your core. To train, develop, and strength all these muscles, you must work your core at different angles and twists.  For the beginner, or if you are post-injury, performing the twisting movements may be very challenging and should be done with great caution.   As you should with all new exercise start at with low or no weight and work on correct form.  Once you know that you can safely perform the movement with a full range of motion, then gradually add the weight.  Your goal should always be to get stronger, and the best way to measure that is by counting the reps and the weight.

The Routine

The below exercises will target your entire core, from your abs to lower-back and your obliques.

Hanging Leg Raises – Preform hanging leg raises with your knees bent, or for a more advanced exercise maintain your leg straight. Lift your legs until your thighs are slightly above parallel with the floor. Perform the exercise slowly and hold the position at the top so that you can only do between 10 to 20 reps. If you can perform more than 20 you can always add weight to your legs. Although if you can perform more than 20 slowly, you have a very strong abdomen already.
Weighted Russian Twist – Execute Russian twist with your legs raised to activate your lower abdominals and obliques. You should start by performing the twist with no weight until you can execute 20 of them in one set (10 on each side). Once you can reach 20 you should add some weight until you can only perform between 10 and 20 (5 to 10 on each side)
Weighted Hyperextensions – Complete hyperextensions without weight initially, again do up to 20 and then start adding some weight. You want to carry out the maximum range of motion that you can for the equipment that you are using. Illustrated on the left is a 45-degree hyperextension bench, which allows for a very large range of motion, you can also perform this on a horizontal hyperextension bench.
Twisting Hyperextension – Conducting twisting hyperextension will target the back side of your obliques and back. This in one of the core areas most neglected by athletes and casual bodybuilders. Like hyper extensions you want to go down and up with a good range of motions. With your hands behind your head you can focus on pointing one elbow behind you on each rep. Lower your body horizontally, then when you raise your torso back alternate the elbow you are pointing back for each rep. After you can perform more than 20, 10 on each side you can start to add weight, holding it with cross arms, just like hyperextensions.
Otis Ups – When you perform Otis Ups you want to keep your arms vertical then entire time. Push the weight up at the top to add some additional core engagement. This should end your core routine by engaging your upper abdominals.

Best Ways To Execute This Routine

The above exercises are listed in one recommended order. I recommend performing these core exercises in a few different ways and to mix up the routine frequently. One way to perform them is exactly as listed. You can perform either one set of each to near failure or perform one warmup set with no weight to 20 reps, then add weight so that you do an additional set of near 10 reps.

Mix Up The Order

You want to mix up the order slightly routine to routine, but it is best to perform the Otis Ups last. When you perform the Otis Ups first, you will likely find that you have a harder time completing the other exercises fully since your upper abs will be fatigued. Working your abs from bottom to top will ensure you fully fatigue your entire core. Another way to mix them up is to alternate working your abs and back as a superset. You can perform leg raises followed by hyperextensions, then Russian twist followed by twisting hyperextensions.

The Best Isolated Bodybuilding Core Exercises

You may not agree that these are the best Isolated bodybuilding core exercises, but I am sure that if you add them to your routine for a few weeks you will see a major change in your core strength. Additionally, you will see improvement in your major compound lifts, such as your squats and deadlifts.

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