You’re about to hit the locker room when a nagging sensation stops you in your tracks: You should do something for those shabby, oft-neglected abdominals of yours, shouldn’t you? You shrug, head over to the mats and, after a few halfhearted sets of crunches, call it a day, feeling slightly more satisfied with yourself. Sure, a few crunches are better than nothing, but wouldn’t you prefer a solution that’s a little more effective and satisfying? And courtesy of an Olympic gold medalist, no less?
Enter Charles Austin, a world-record-holding high jumper who earned his coveted medallion in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and is now a certified fitness trainer and owner of So High Sports & Fitness in San Marcos, Texas.
Austin, who recently launched the Total Body Board (totalbodyboard.com), devised a dynamic core routine for Muscle & Performance readers that’s perfect for the tail end of any workout, when your muscles are warmed up and ready for action. It’s made up of five exercises done for three sets each. Here’s how to do them right:
Crunch Low Reach
Lie on your back with your head on the floor, your legs in the air and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Put your hands on the sides of your thighs. Raise your upper body as you reach forward and touch the floor near the level of your knees. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Crunch Low Reach With Twist
Assume the same starting position as the crunch low reach except extend your arms straight over your head on the floor. Raise your torso, and as you come up, rotate your body to one side and touch the floor with both hands on that side, again near the level of your knees. Lower yourself to the starting position and repeat, rotating to the other side. Once to each side equals one rep.
Lie on your back with your legs straight, body touching the floor from head to heels, and straighten your arms out to the sides of your body. Lift your legs about 5 inches off the floor and keep your feet together as you tap your heels to the floor to the right of your body. Then raise your legs again and tap your heels to the center, and finally lift them again and tap them to the left side. Repeat the sequence, always tapping in the center between the right and left taps. Once to all three positions and back to the center equals one rep. “If you feel a strain on your lower back, bend your knees to perform the movement instead,” Austin suggests.
Assume a lateral plank position with your lower elbow resting on the floor and your feet elevated on a bench, chair or platform, holding your body aligned from head to heels. Lower your hip to the floor as far as you can comfortably go and then raise yourself up to the starting position. Complete 10 to 15 reps on one side, then switch to the other side to complete the set.
Spinal Unwind Leg Lift
Lie on your back with your head on the floor, your arms out to the sides of your body, and your legs straight with your feet together and heels down. Keeping your feet together and your legs straight, raise them until they’re at a 90-degree angle to your torso. Bend your knees and then lower your legs to the starting position.