It goes without saying, your abdominal muscles are some of the most important in your body. They help stabilize and reduce the incidence of injury. They’re also probably the most photographed muscle in all of Instagram history. As with any muscle group, the beginning steps to definition are hard. I’ve been known to feel defeated if after one workout my abs aren’t debuting they’re presence in the world. C’est la vie.
Professional climber and athlete, Paige Claussen, commits to ten-minute abs after every climbing session. She picks ten different exercises and does each one for a minute without stopping.
My go-to ab exercises are either five minutes of leg lifts or circuits. My husband has been doing five minutes of leg raises for quite a while and has begun modifying to include scissor kicks, butterflies, and raising/lowering at different paces. They’re easily adaptable. If you’re unable to complete five full minutes of leg lifts, start with one minute, rest 10-30 seconds, do another minute, rest 10-30 seconds, and so on. Do what’s best for you, but I also encourage you to push yourself.
When I have more time or brain power I like to do ab circuits. Choose 3-4 ab exercises and repeat 2-3 times. Generally, if I’m doing an ab circuit I like to throw in an arm or leg exercise, like squats or push-ups, to mix it up.
Favorite ab exercises for circuits:
Start laying flat on the mat. In one motion raise your upper body and straight legs up to form a “V.” For a modified version, you can keep your legs bent at whatever angle is doable.
Start sitting. Lower your upper body slightly, so that it’s at a 45-degree angle from the mat. Bend your knees slightly, with your heels just grazing the mat. With hands clasped above your stomach, lower them down to your right side, and then over to your left. Repeat. Add weights/medicine ball if it feels too easy.
Good old fashioned fun! Planks are my definite go-to because I know exactly what to expect and there are so many modifications. Start laying face down on your mat. Place forearms on mat and lift body so your only points of contact are forearms and toes. Take extra caution to not rise up in your shoulders, or sink your lower back and hips. Think stiff as a board!
Start lying down on your back. With arms across chest, right hand touching left shoulder, left hand touching right shoulder, roll up, and reach to touch your toes. Re-cross arms and lie flat. Repeat.
Hanging Leg Raises:
I confess, these are tough and I fight my will to complain whenever I incorporate them. Using a pull-up bar, extend your legs straight below you. Engaging your core, in an effort to remain still, bend your legs at the knees and raise to your chest. Lower, and repeat. The real trick with this one is to keep your body from swinging and using the inertia to bring your knees to your chest. Go slow, and be precise.
There are so many ab exercises out there that this list isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Climbing Magazine did a great article on ab exercises for climber’s that you can find here.
Happy exercising and may your abs soon be defined!