Build Your Foundation for Six-Pack Success

By Amanda Kotel

Have you been working hard and eating clean whole foods but your abs still don’t look like those of the women in Oxygen? Are you missing out on key exercises? Maybe it isn't what you’re doing, but how you are doing it.

Often new clients express a desire to develop a strong core. But when I dive deeper into what getting a six-pack really means to them, they always point to the most superficial muscles in their abdominal region. If you are tirelessly targeting your abs with crunches, reverse crunches and leg raises, you could be missing a huge component in training the muscles that make up your core.

To achieve optimal results, it’s important to set your core training according to the function of each core muscle. To do this, you will first need to understand exactly what muscles make up your core, noting it isn’t just made up of abdominal muscles (rec femoris, internal and external obliques and transverse abdominis). In fact, your glutes, back extensors, spinal muscles and latissimus dorsi all are part of your core, creating a 360-degree support system for your spine and pelvis. The core helps to control movement, generate power and aid to decelerate forces. Its primary function is to support your spine and pelvis during dynamic and static movements. It plays a key role in functional movement of the trunk, causing flexion (abs), extension (back) and rotation (obliques).

Your core also acts as a key stabiliser for your spine and pelvis. During dynamic exercises like sprints, jump, squats and pull-ups, your core stabilises your spine, pelvis, neck and shoulders, helping to control your body. It also aids in the deceleration of movement and to help you generate as much force as possible throughout your reps. If you let go and flop around like a wet noodle, the only direction and results your moving toward is injury.

Think that sprinters, gymnasts and weight lifters do crunches to get their killer abs?

Many of them have envy-worthy abs, not by doing crunches, but by learning how to properly brace their spine during dynamic movements and keeping it braced, controlled and protected the entire time. Abs come from lifting heavy through full range of motions that are controlled from the beginning of the movement to the end.

When structuring your workouts, it's important to set it up to include all of the movement patterns each muscle does.

Not sure if you are using your core properly during your lifts? Try this test to see if you are in control of your movements during exercise:

Let’s begin with a lat pull-down. Set up with a moderate-to-heavy weight, initiate movement and at the halfway point through the concentric contraction, freeze for one to two seconds. Make sure you hold that very spot then continue to pull downward and stop at the bottom and hold again. Slowly release the weight up, doing the same on the eccentric contraction (on the way back up). Use this new way of completing your exercises to learn how to build your mind-muscle connection as well as your core strength.

Try these moves pre- and post-workout ab moves to take your training to the next level:


Bird dog

Target muscles: Lower back, rectus abdominis, glutes, deltoids, obliques and hamstrings

Set-up: Get down on all fours with your back in a neutral spine (table top) position.

Action: Extend one arm and the opposite leg up, keeping your leg at a 90-degree angle. Slowly release and repeat, then swap sides and repeat. If this is too advanced, keep both hands on the ground and only raise one leg. Perform three sets of 12 on each side.


For the full article and workout, check out the latest issue of Oxygen in all good newsagents, or you can click here to subscribe.