Confession: I have a ridiculous amount of upper body strength. Most of this is due to my previous martial arts training that I took up back when I was a pre-teen. A lot of my upper body strength also was a result of my previous basketball training I did as a highschool athlete. I have a quick punch, an awesome free throw shot, and I can now muscle my way though a number of kettlebell lifts, pull ups, dips, and bar bell work. However, my very own upper body strength has resulted in not so good technique when it comes to kettlebell swings, leg raises, complicated pull up variations and not to mention some simple things such as planks. I have revisited this ab issue after taking it easy this month as I slowly got back into my training. After thinking about the lessons I learned from not engaging my core properly on the weighted pull up from the Iron Maiden challenge, I have come to a conclusion.
Over the past few weeks, I have received some interesting tips on how to train the core to master a more demanding weighted pull up. I have compiled a list of exercises that, with consistent practice, should eventually lead to the 24kg weighted pull up. The trick here is to constantly vary the load on your core in order to create enough tension in the core to sustain heavy weight. Some of these exercises range form the very basic to the very advanced. I will be discussing each on here that I feel will be the most useful in what I am terming “hard core” training. Stay with me here, this will all make sense in a moment.
Planks-Nothing can be as simple but as effective as the body weight plank. The plank offers the proper ab tension that sustains your very own body weight above the floor. To begin, I’m starting with intervals of 30 seconds of work then 30 seconds of rest for 3 rounds (3 minutes) post workout. I will then slowly tweak the time to work up to 5 minutes. Over the next few months I will also be tweaking the intervals to range from 40 seconds of work to 20 seconds of rest and then 1 minute of work to 15 seconds of rest over the course of the next few months. Again, the goal being to sustain the plank position for a total of 5 rounds post workout.
Goblet Squats- When a kettlebell is held out in front of you, it requires extra ab tension and strength to load the weight properly. There is no need to do super heavy goblet squats, so 3-5 sets of using either a 12kg or a 14kg should be sufficient enough to work the abs quite nicely 🙂
Pull ups- Just your body weight and a bar. Pull ups require a lot of core work to make for an effortless lift above the bar. I have constructed a ladder to really work on my form. Please note, these are strict, tactical pull ups that involved no kipping. Take your time with the ladder. It isn’t a race. The ladder will be as follows. 1 pull up, 2 pull ups, 3 pull ups, 4 pull ups. Then you will go back down the ladder. 4 pull ups, 3 pull ups, 2 pull ups, 1 pull up. That is one set. Begin with 3 sets and work up to 5 over the course of time (roughly one month).
Hanging Leg Raises-Here, you will be suspended from a pull up bar and will raise your legs so they are full extended in front of you. If you would like a slightly more advanced version, work up to raising your legs fully to the top of the pull up bar (this is my personal goal). Being with 3 sets of 10 raises to start and work up to 5 sets of ten over time.
Weighted Pull Ups– As awkward as it is to have a weight underneath you, you have to get used to properly loading your abs to sustain increased weight around your body for the lift. I am personally starting with a pull up ladder using a 15 pound kettlebell. 3 sets of 3 pull ups. Every four weeks test yourself with one pull up of a heavier kettlebell (wither 5-10 pounds heavier) and uses the same sets with that weight if it can be lifted well.
Handstand Push-ups– You need incredibly ab tension to a) sustain the weight of your body that is now over your head and b) to lift your body weight back up from the inverted position.. I plan on performing 3 sets of 3 hand stand push ups and working up to 3 sets of 5 hand stand push ups. Here’s a demonstration on the push up itself.
As you can see, this is SUPER FUN! 😀
As a trainer, you are constantly refining your own strength and fine-tuning your weak points. I found what’s holding me back, and it’s time to do some fun drills to correct said abdominal problem. In the coming weeks I will be redesigning my own training protocol strategically reshape the strength of my core to master the weighted, 24kg pull up. Yinz ain’t seen nothing yet!
Should any of you have any questions about this protocol or about increasing your ab strength as well, please leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! As always, remember to eat smart, train hard, and enjoy your life!
Janelle Pica-RKC, NASM CPT