Ab Exercises to Get You Set for Summer

Cambridge, MA 031914 Josh Bystock (cq) of the Fenway did 200 sit ups during a lunch break at Brud Whalen Ball Field in Cambridge, Wednesday, March 19 2014. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff) section: Metro slug: 20standalone reporter: In-Cap
Josh Bystock of the Fenway did 200 sit ups during a lunch break at Brud Whalen Ball Field in Cambridge on March 19
Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

From tennis to volleyball, swimming to soccer, summer activities all have one thing in common: they engage your core.

Core exercises are a great way to strengthen an essential part of your body. Regardless of your fitness level, there’s an exercise for you.

Especially with summer on the way, here are some of the abdominal exercises I work on with the Revs players – and my clients – to build a stronger core.

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Level: Beginner

What you’ll need: a yoga mat or semi-soft workout surface

Complete each exercise in succession with minimal rest. The circuit should be done three times, with 15 seconds of rest between each circuit.

Plank

Get in a push-up position on your yoga mat, called a high plank, or in a push-up position with your forearms (instead of your hands) on the floor, which is called a low plank. Hold that position, without sacrificing form, for as long as you can. Aim to hold them longer – while maintaining proper form – as you continue your workouts.

Side Plank

From a high plank or low plank position, shift onto your right side, facing your left. Your right forearm or hand should be directly under your shoulder, supporting your upper-body weight, while your legs should be straight and stacked with your left leg on top of your right. Hold this position for as long as you can without losing proper form. Reverse the direction onto your left side and repeat as long as you can on your left side.

Single Leg Glute Bridges

Lay on the floor while bending your knees, palms face down at your side. Tighten your stomach muscles and push your ribcage down into the floor. Push your pelvis toward the ceiling and slowly straighten your left leg to a 45 degree angle to the floor. Lower leg to starting position. Repeat with right leg. This is one set. Do 10-15 sets.

Single Leg Lowering

Lay on the floor with your knees bent. Push your ribcage into the floor and place your arms palms down at your side. Lift one leg at a time, keeping the leg bent. Raise the leg until it is at a 90 degree angle with your body, then lower slowly. Switch legs. This is one set. Do 10-15 sets.

Level: Intermediate

What you’ll need: A resistance band and something to brace it on or a cable/pulley exercise machine

Pallof Presses

Tie a resistance band to an unmovable surface, or use an exercise machine cable. Stand with the band tied on your left side. With your arms bent, hold the band with two hands together against your chest, and then straighten your arms out in front of you. Hold this position, engaging your abs, for 30-35 seconds. Release your arms and bring the band back to your body. Switch to the other side, so that the band is tied to your right. One rep on each side equal one set. Do two sets.

Level: Advanced

What you’ll need: A resistance band and something to brace it on or a cable/pulley exercise machine

Rotational Pallof Presses are a more advanced form of Pallof Presses, and shouldn’t be done until the isometric Pallof Press is perfected.

Start this exercise as you would Pallof Press, and then extend the band (or resistance pulley) in front of you while the cable is anchored on your left. With your feet anchored to the ground and your abs engaged, rotate your torso to the right. Come back to center and bring arms to your chest. This is one set. Do 15 sets on each side.

Ab-Friendly Reminders:

• For all of these exercises, remember to keep your ribs down. Often people hyperextend by arching their back during these exercises, flaring their ribs up and open. Drive down those ribs so you’re almost crunching your stomach, while rolling your shoulders slightly forward. This will keep the exercise in your abs, and out of your spine and back.

•Inhale and exhale as much as you can while doing core exercises. Think of the moves as activities you’d do in everyday life. You don’t hold your breath to pick up groceries, so why would you do it at the gym?

• Skip the crunches. Studies have shown it puts unnecessary pressure on your cervical spine, which could affect your posture.

• Know your limits and be smart when you start. Make sure you have mastered the basics before moving on to something more challenging.

While these exercises will help strengthen your core, the foundation for having “great abs” is nutrition, so watch what you eat. Six-packs can be made in the gym, but just as easily lost in the kitchen.

So whatever your goals are this summer—on the pitch, at the beach or in the gym—great abs are a plank or two (or 15) away.

Nick Downing is in his third season as the New England Revolution’s strength and conditioning coach. Downing is responsible for developing and enhancing the Revolution players’ speed, strength and endurance. He is also charged with improving their overall conditioning and fitness in conjunction with the coaching and medical staffs.