I used to do hundreds and hundreds of crunches until one day I noticed an increasingly frequent pain in my lower back after each session.
So now, I’ve changed my routine and the only crunches I do are the bicycle kind because it’s the only oblique exercise I know that gives me the curves I’m looking for. I incorporate a few side planks into my routine, but not many, as I find they straighten out my curves and I certainly don’t want that to happen.
The trick to my ab routine is breathing and focus. If you’re not focused or if your technique is off, you won’t get much out of this workout. With plank exercises, you need to concentrate on making the abs work, whereas with crunches, the motion and working against gravity forces the abs to engage. In a way, this ab routine is more of a challenge, because you need to focus.
I also incorporate other moves into my ab routine for two reasons: one, to make it more of a complete workout and two, to strengthen my entire core not just my abs. Yoga likes to work opposite muscle groups for balance, so I add some back strengthening to my ab workout so that I’m standing very strong and tall by the end of it and to avoid overtraining my abs, which only leads to weakened back muscles.
The music I use varies on my mood. Yoga can be a little too relaxing sometimes and on those days, I will work out to more upbeat music, which may go against everything you know about Yoga, but then I’ve always been one to forge my own path and go against the flow. You haven’t truly experienced Down Dog until you’ve done it to Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child!
To begin: Sitting on your heels in Hero’s pose, relax the shoulders and take a deep breath in.
Breathe out to modified child’s pose and hold for a breath.
Move into cat lift, arching the back and sucking in the abs. Drop into neutral and tummy vacuum your way into cat/cow pose and hold for a deep breath.
Breathing in, shift your weight forward into cat bow, making sure you engage your abs the entire time. Elbows stay in close to the body. You should also feel this in your triceps.
Breathing in, straighten your arms and push up into cat lift, arching your back and engaging your inner unit the whole time. Then breathe out and slowly move back down into modified child’s pose. Relax for a breath.
Repeat six times.
From modified child’s pose, breathe into cat lift, arching your back and sucking in the abs. Drop into neutral, tuck in your toes, tummy vacuum into downward facing dog. Tighten in your abs, as you force the breath out. Make sure your heels touch the ground, your head is slightly below the elbows and your knees are soft.
Breathing in deeply, move forward into plank and hold for three deep breaths, engaging your core muscles. Your quads and glutes will try to take over. Use the breath to work the abs and keep them engaged, while softening the front of your legs and buttocks muscles, so they are working as stabilizers.
Breathing out, slowly lower yourself down into four limbed staff pose, keeping your elbows into the body and pausing to hover just above the ground before you release to really work those triceps.
Breathing in, raise yourself up into upward facing dog, pausing midway in a cobra position to engage the triceps for a few intense seconds. Make sure you raise yourself up through the chest and upper body, so you don’t place stress on your lower back. Pull the shoulders back and stick out the chest, opening up the upper back.
Breathing out, lower down into four-limbed staff pose again, hovering just above the ground to engage the triceps, before you release. Forehead to the floor, raise your legs into half locust and hold for a breath to work the erector spinae and glutes.
Breathing in, raise back up into upward facing dog. Round out the back into cat lift and lower down into child’s pose to rest for a breath.
Repeat six times.
Right in the middle, I insert one side plank on each side. So, it will go plank, side plank, back into plank, to side plank on the other side to plank and lower down into four limbed staff pose. I do this at about the third rep and when I rest in child’s pose, it’s for a good four breaths. This is about the time the dogs come running over and stick their cold, wet noses under my neck and shock me back into existence!
Then it’s boat pose, which I hold for three deep and controlled breaths and repeat 3 to 6 times. In between, I’ll rest in the sitting position with arms relaxed to the sides and legs outstretched for a breath or two before moving back into boat pose.
From here, it’s bicycle crunches – 40 reps for a set of four, which I superset with alternating (standing) bicep curls – 12 each side for a set of four.
I train my abs every other day (3 days a week). Sometimes I’ll split it up and do the bicycle crunches and bicep curls in the morning and leave the rest till evening.
This is just a sampling of some of the music I use:
Originally published @ FITLODE.COM