Planks and similar isometric exercises are a popular way to train the abs, but they’re not the only way. Personal trainer and fitness YouTuber Eugene Teo believes that static hold exercises like planks and bridges do serve a purpose in terms of core strength, but he prefers to focus on ab workouts which offer a greater opportunity for contractile motion, and by extension a greater stimulus for muscle growth.
“The abdominal muscles are just like any other muscle group within the body, and as such they respond in the same way to the right stimulus,” he says.
In his latest YouTube video, Teo demonstrates the two plank-free exercises that he thinks are the most effective when training his abs.
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The first exercise is the Garhammer raise, also known as the reverse crunch or leg lift. The move consists of a simple, controlled leg raise motion, but with some key caveats, as Teo explains. “We’re fixating the upper back against a stable surface, which provides stability for the exercise, which tends to improve your ability to get as much output as possible from the target muscle while taking it through a large range of motion,” he says.
When performing this move, Teo stops at the bottom end once his legs are at a 90-degree angle to his torso, as lowering his legs any further would shift the tension from the abs to the hip flexors. “When targeting the abs, it’s useful to stay within the active range of motion for the muscle, instead of going through the full range of motion for the joint,” he says.
The second exercise is the cable crunch, which flips the motion of the previous exercise so that you’re moving the torso down to meet the pelvis, which is fixed in place. Additionally, you can increase the weight of this move using a cable. “When doing this exercise, just make sure you’re not extending unnecessarily or using more hip flexion than actual abdominal contraction, and not using any momentum at all,” he says.
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