Yumi Lee, co-owner of Reebok CrossFit LAB, is an internationally renowned fitness expert who has been active in the industry for over 15 years. Her client list includes A-list celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and Hugh Jackman. After putting us through an intense WOD at this year’s Reebok CrossFit Games, Lee shared a workout guaranteed to give you abs like Wolverine.
STACK: Why is it so important for an athlete to have a strong core?
Lee: Your core muscles make up more than just your abs. The largest and strongest muscles, including stabilizing muscles, make up your core. These are the foundation and building blocks for midline stabilization to allow athletes to move with power, strength and stability more efficiently and safely.
STACK: Give us a workout that focuses on the core, together with sets and reps.
Single-Leg Squats: The number one exercise to work the gluteal muscles. This exercise also promotes balance and coordination. Build up to 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps for each leg. You can also incorporate dumbbells for added weight.
Bodyweight Pull-Ups: The latissimus dorsi make up another large part of your core. The muscles in your back, your posterior chain, also help promote better posture, which encourages a stronger midline. Do assisted Pull-Ups with a band or machine-assisted. Work the negative (eccentric) phase of the movement to gain strength. Everyone (men and women) should be able to do at least 1 Bodyweight Pull-Up.
Supermans/Back Extensions: Everything we do in life is in the frontal plane. We sit, drive, eat, watch TV, work on computers and walk in a forward flexed manner. Supermans and back extensions strengthen and balance the extensor muscles along the spine. A stronger back equals a stronger core. Build up to 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
Barbell Back Squats: The best exercise to get greater overall muscle and strength gains. Few exercises are as natural as the Squat. Since the beginning of time, man has been squatting down to pick berries, gather food, light fires and cook. It makes sense than that the Squat builds pure, functional strength. With good form, slowly build up to 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.
Burpees: We love to hate them, but getting down and up off the floor is necessary. Not only do burpees work the muscles in your entire body, they also work your heart, the most important muscle. Start with 3 sets of 30 seconds with 1 minute rest between sets. Slowly increase your work time and decrease your rest time.
STACK: How many times a week are you working the core?
Lee: You should be able to work your core every day with a blend of pushing and pulling, upper-body and lower-body, and strength and cardio exercises. I encourage starting your workout with a light core bracing exercise, like the Elbow Plank, to fire up the muscles you should be using throughout your workout.