Jack Hanrahan

3 Crunch-Less Core Finishers

3 Crunch-Less Core Finishers

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ ‘deep burn’ in the abs at the end of a training session? What a sadistic bunch we are!

But for most, core finishers consist of a mash up of crunches, sit-ups and lots of bending and twisting.

Your body deserves better than that. A lot better.

Ploughing through a bunch of mindless exercises might create that satisfying soreness, BUT…at what cost?

We have long known that flexion-extension exercises (e.g. sit-ups, crunches, side bends) are not very spine friendly, and can both create and exacerbate low back pain.

They are also destructive from a postural standpoint. Many people have an excessively round upper back (kyphosis) and are limited in their ability to extend the spine. Flexion exercises can worsen this further as the movement involves repeated spinal flexion. The problems caused by kyphosis needs an entirely new blog post to cover, but it includes everything from screwing up shoulder function and creating various spinal problems.

What’s more, training in this manner goes completely against core function: to stabilise and PREVENT motion of the spine, NOT CREATE it.

If that’s not a strong enough deterrent and you’re still thinking, “yeah, but I want chiselled abs”, consider this…

The visibility of your abs is dictated by your level of body fat and not how many crunches you crank out.

With that final nail in the coffin, let’s get to it!

 

A SMARTER way to finish your core

 

These finishers are going to be challenging. You will achieve a satisfying burn and they will also start to make you a more awesome human being.

Why?

Because when you develop a bulletproof core, your performance in the gym will skyrocket. And that’s the smartest approach to getting a leaner mid-section, despite what the bro-science literature says!

QUICK NOTE

The three core finishers presented below contain movements that fall within the ‘anti-extension’ category of core training. Meaning, your anterior (front) abdominal musculature is working hard to resist the spine going into extension.

There are 3 types of core stability training:

·         Anti-Extension

·         Anti-Lateral Flexion

·         Anti-Rotation

Whether you have physique or performance goals, it’s wise to perform some direct core training from each category across your training week. A quick Google search will reveal a bunch of options for them.

 

Finisher #1: Ladders

 

Ladder set schemes can be performed in two ways. You can start with 1 rep of each exercise, then two, then three etc climbing up until you reach fatigue. OR…you can perform them like I have presented below, as an opposing ladder super set. Feel free to experiment with rep count.

 

Intermediate

 

A1 RKC Plank Hold (for breaths) 5,4,3,2,1

  • Grasp hands and place forearms at a 45 degree angle.
  • Feet shoulder width apart.
  • Hips slightly higher than a normal plank, flat lower back / tucked pelvis.
  • Create abdominal tension by driving forearms and feet into the ground as if trying to meet them.
  • Once tension is created, inhale fully and exhale fully, count that as 1 rep.
  • Once rep count is complete, extend elbows until arms are in a straight line, all while maintaining torso position.

A2 Controlled Mountain Climber 1,2,3,4,5

  • Start in the Push-Up position.
  • Press hands into ground so that the shoulder blades wrap around the rib cage, this is a stable shoulder position.
  • Slight arch in the lumbar spine (neutral spine position).
  • Flex knee forward as far as you can while simultaneously exhaling to increase abdominal tension. As you do this, there should be no movement of the spine…go to YOUR hip flexion end range.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

 

Advanced 

 

A1 Valslide Body Saws 5,4,3,2,1

  • Start in the plank position, hands in line with elbows, elbows beneath shoulders.
  • Push forearms forward while exhaling and maintaining a rigid torso.
  • Pull elbows back until they are directly beneath shoulders.
  • Once rep count is complete, extend elbows until arms are in a straight line, all while maintaining torso position.

A2 Valslide Prone Hip Flexion/Extension 1,2,3,4,5

  • Start in the Push-Up position.
  • Press hands into ground so that the shoulder blades wrap around the rib cage, this is a stable shoulder position.
  • Slight arch in the lumbar spine (neutral spine position).
  • Flex knee forward as far as you can while simultaneously exhaling to increase abdominal tension. As you do this, there should be no movement of the spine…go to YOUR hip flexion end range.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Transition to plank position once rep count completed.

 

 

 

Finisher #2: Leg raise 21’s

 

 

This set scheme functions as a mechanical drop set whereby each subsequent exercise is easier to perform because of the reduced range of motion and shorter lever arm. This allows you to continue working as fatigue builds up…resulting in one hell of a deep burn!

Intermediate 

 

Technique Tips:

  • Keep arms straight and shoulder blades depressed, they should not rise up to your ears.
  • Keep feet together…turn slightly inwards and press your big toes together.
  • On the lowering phase, keep feet in front of the vertical bar plane, this will keep tension on the anterior abdominal muscles.

 

A1 Straight Leg Raise – 7 Reps

A2 Bent Knee to Straight Leg Raise – 7 Reps

A3 Bent knee Raise – 7 Reps

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.

 

Advanced

 

Technique Tips:

  • Push forearms down to depress the shoulder blades, they should not rise up to your ears.
  • Keep feet together…turn slightly inwards and press your big toes together.
  • On the lowering phase, keep feet in front of your hips, this will keep tension on the anterior abdominal muscles.

 

A1 Toes to Bar – 7 Reps

A2 Hanging Leg Raise – 7 Reps

A3 Bent Knee Raise – 7 Reps

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.

 

 

Finisher #3: Super Set

 

With this set scheme, I like to pick a time for the working sets as opposed to setting a rep count. For example, A1 for 30 seconds, A2 for 30 seconds, rest and repeat.

 

Intermediate

 

A1 Dead Bug – 30 Seconds.

  • Lie on your back, extend arms and legs straight up, there should be a 90 degree angle at the knees and toes pulled towards your shins.
  • Low back should be flush with the ground…not arched.
  • Inhale deeply.
  • Exhale through pursed lips while straightening one leg and opposite arm.
  • Think about reaching through your heel and long through the arm.
  • Your torso should be rigid and low back flush with the ground.
  • As you reach the extended position, you should have fully exhaled and engaged maximum abdominal tension, pull back while inhaling and repeat on the opposite side.

A2 Bent Knee Hollow Body Hold – 30 Seconds.

  • Hover feet just off the floor with bent knees. Hip angle should be 135 degrees.
  • Reach forward with your hands so that the shoulders lift off the floor.
  • Keep head in a neutral position.

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.

 

 

Advanced

 

A1 Weighted Dead Bug – 30 Seconds.

  • Lie on your back, extend arms and legs straight up, there should be a 90 degree angle at the knees and toes pulled towards your shins.
  • Low back should be flush with the ground…not arched.
  • Inhale deeply.
  • Exhale through pursed lips while straightening the arms and legs.
  • Think about reaching through your heels and hands to create a long position.
  • The torso should be rigid and low back remain flush with the ground.
  • As you reach the extended position, you should have fully exhaled and engaged maximum abdominal tension, pull back while inhaling and repeat on the opposite side.

A2 Hollow Body Hold – 30 seconds.

  • Start by lying down and extending arms and legs.
  • Point toes and keep feet together.
  • Contract abs and raise shoulders/legs off the floor.
  • The low back should be the only contact point with the floor.

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat for 3 rounds.

 

 

Wrapping up

 

You can plug one of these core finishers at the end of a training session. (Not advisable the day before legs!) Feel free to vary the rep range and play around with mixing and matching movements.

These new ways to finish the core are both smarter and more fun than repping out endless and mindless exercises that do more harm than good.

Enjoy the challenge and let me know how you get on in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “3 Crunch-Less Core Finishers
  1. Brian Chavez

    Thank you so much, I’ll be on these exercises now !

    June 22, 2017 Reply
  2. Sasha

    Thank you Jack!

    April 25, 2020 Reply
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