You’ve probably been doing situps as long as you’ve been workin out—and you probably hate them, in no small part because they haven’t helped you build the chiseled abs you’ve been hoping for.
To get you past your six-pack setbacks, Men’s Health is introducing Epic Abs, a new program for All Out Studio led by fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Epic Abs takes you through intense core workouts, during which you will not do a single crunch. Yes, you read that correctly: you can build epic abs without situps.
“The idea is to challenge the abs to work with the glutes and lower back as a unit,” Samuel says. “That gives us the six-pack we want and make us stronger for everything else, too.”
Samuel’s workouts focus on total-body movements that put the emphasis on the abs, and teach you to engage your core to stabilize your body as you work through full-body movements. One such move is the hollow body hold, through which you can address all the functions of the core.
Bracing and Anti-Extension
“When done correctly with the lower pack pressed firmly into the floor, the legs extended out and the arms extended overhead, you’re teaching, your spine not to arch, which is the definition of anti-extension,” Samuel says.
The longer the levers, the harder the move becomes, but only extend as far as you can with the low back pressed into the ground. If the lower back lifts, adjust the levers of your arms and legs until it does not. In the hollow hold, the abs, obliques, intercostals, spinal extensors—really everything but the glutes—are teaming up to stabilize and protect the spine.
In rotational movements, we twist through a range of motion. Think throwing a punch, swinging a baseball bat or golf club, or tossing a suitcase into the trunk. And as we make those movements, the core stabilizes the pelvis and the spine.
From the hollow hold, add a Russian twist, aggressively rotating your shoulders from side to side while keeping your hips square. “Own the hollow-body position, then turn the shoulders to alternately reach each elbow to the floor without moving the hips,” Samuel says. “The more we move the shoulders while keeping the hips stable, the more we challenge the obliques.”
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To keep the spine safe during twisting motions like that golf swing, we should be able to prevent rotation before we produce it. We resist rotation with our core.
To train our bodies to fight rotation from the hollow hold, extend one arm over head and one arm to the side while holding the hollow-body position and brace the core to prevent yourself from tilting to the side. “The arm that is extended laterally is going to pull you to that side,” Samuel says. “Use the core to keep the hips and shoulders square.” Advance the move by adding a rock and continuing to hold your hips and shoulders square to the ceiling by stabilizing with your core.
Spinal flexion is bending at the waist. This is what we do in situps and crunches, but a V-up (beginning from a hollow hold) is a more effective way to strengthen the core. With the legs as straight as possible, fold upwards and try to touch your toes before returning to the hollow body position and holding it for a second before moving on to the next rep. “Don’t lie down between reps; hold the hollow-body position,” says Samuel. “And think about squishing a bug into the floor with your lower back.”
Mastering the hollow hold and its many variations will bulletproof your core for other movement patterns. “The hollow hold will teach you to keep the ribcage tight to the body, and to use the abs to do that,” Samuel says. “Then, you can adapt those principles to other movements, like stabilizing the body when we push and pull or attack our legs.”
And all of those functions will help you on the road to achieving your ultimate goal: Epic Abs.
GET THE WORKOUTS
Want to check out other programs from trainers like Eb using workouts focused on kettlebells, bodyweight movements, and more? Join All Out Studio for all the streaming content you need to build a better you.
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