A strong core is essential for reducing injury risk in sports and everyday movements—enabling you to rotate, reach overhead or downward, and lift weights and other heavy objects, for example. Abdominal and back muscles are particularly involved in such actions.
With dozens of core-strengthening exercises to choose from, busy athletes and non-athletes can conveniently measure their abdominal and back strength with Reverse Crunches and Prone Planks performed on a decline bench. If a decline bench is unavailable, place your feet atop a chair or a flat bench for both exercises.
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Note: Challenging your core muscles to resist gravity when your feet are elevated is much harder than performing the exercises the conventional way with your feet on the floor or on an exercise mat!
- Decline bench (or substitute a chair or flat bench)
- Moderately heavy med ball (70-80% RM)
- Water bottle
- Timer (optional)
- Exercise mat (optional)
- Do 2 supersets (Reverse Crunches immediately followed by Prone Planks).
- Do 2×5 Reverse Crunches and 2 sets of Prone Planks, holding for 60 seconds.
- Rest 30-60 seconds between supersets.
- Include both exercises during full-body workouts.
- Perform workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
- Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
Sit with your knees slightly bent and your heels on the upper edge of the decline bench. Hold the med ball overhead. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout the movement. Slowly lower your upper body inch by inch toward the bottom of the bench, counting 10 seconds; stop just before your lower back touches the bench. Resist gravity the entire time and pause one second at the bottom to eliminate momentum. Then count three seconds while returning to the start position and do four more reps.
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Option: Instead of using the decline bench, place your heels atop a flat bench or chair from a seated position on the floor (or on an exercise mat) while holding the ball overhead. Do the Reverse Crunch as you would on a decline bench.
Advanced version: When returning to the start position between reps, bring the med ball down to waist level and twist from side to side, then bring the ball overhead again and continue the slow descent toward the bottom.
Place the ball on the floor and turn over so your toes are atop the decline bench and you’re facing down toward the low end. Assume a plank position, resting on your forearms at shoulder-width and keeping your back straight and abdominal muscles tight while resisting gravity. Don’t let your lower back sag while you hold the position for 60 seconds.
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