215 Upper Richmond Road (Inside Daley Fitness), Putney, London SW15 6SY

The sun’s out, gun’s out…. belly’s out?

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The sun’s out, gun’s out…. belly’s out?

I’m not selling a ‘six-pack short-cut’, but as much as I think the best route to true athleticism is to move from developing body parts to working on the big compound movements (squat, hinge, pressing, pulling etc), nice abs are desirable.

As much as strength, muscle tone and physical function should be the foundation of your program, people do want to look great and abs are still a good indicator of physical fitness and conditioning.

I’ll start by saying I don’t believe a six pack is always a good thing. It takes dedication and often visible abs are more to do with diet than training. Sometimes at the expense of health. What you want though is to develop intelligence and strength in the ‘core’. This is key to advancing your strength, conditioning, health, body composition and general athleticism. Oh and it’ll look nice as well!

We probably know plenty of strong people who can lift heavy weights who can’t effectively get up off the floor or damage their knees in a casual kick about.

Beyond the six pack, your abs are corset of muscles around your waist that help stabilise your spine so you can use your arms and legs in complex and demanding ways. A strong core allows you to channel power to your arms and legs, slows down the ageing process by maintaining function, helps with posture, future proofs your body and helps you get noticed by the opposite sex…

I’m not going to give you an anatomy lesson, but if we assume that all the muscles around your waist (not just those at the front) are important we need to find exercises that will challenge them and help build a strong and attractive look.

Here’s a list of exercises that we could use:

Crunches - the traditional approach to ab training. It is valuable, will build definition but I find crunches become difficult to progress and sometime aggravate bad backs. Harder variations tend to require equipment and put pressure on the lower back. For most people I prefer Leg Raises. They also tend to only work a few group of muscles.

Leg raise variations - from lying on your back on the floor to hanging leg raises. The idea is that that you progress these from floor variations to hanging variations. The key is maintaining a strong spine position. Because you are using your legs as leverage and moving from the hip it not only creates many opportunities for harder variations it also keeps the lower back stable. Fantastic exercise - also looks cool!

The Turkish get up is an exercise that you need in your life. It's not about chasing the weight, instead it's about being mindful, think yoga not HIIT!

Turkish Get Up - If you’ve not added these to your program, you need to. This will give you the single biggest bang for your buck. With my clients I talk about building an ‘intelligent core’, and this will help you achieve this. The Get Up takes your body through 360 degrees of motion, it can be progressed in so many ways and teaches you to maintain a stable and strong spine despite multiple planes of movement and increasing weight.

Suitcase Carries i.e. walking with a weight. Who’d have thought walking with a weight would develop your abs? Well to be fair it develops everything, it’s easy to progress teaches so much and makes you very very strong and look very very good (both ladies and gents will look pretty cut after a few months of heavy suitcase carries. Think hour glass for ladies and broad shoulders and small waist for guys).

Pull ups - I defy anyone to walk away without rock hard abs after hitting 15-20 reps or working to harder variations.

Other exercises that hammer the core are:

Mountain Climbers - use the floor, paralletes or rings

Planks - I defy anyone not to feel the burn with a proper plank!

Bridges - They also have the added benefit of stretching the abs

Breathing! yes, if you can control your breath when moving you can train your abs! Watch the video below!


As you can see it’s difficult to build the abs effectively by isolating them. What is the core really? It’s not an isolated set of muscles. This thick corset of muscles and if you move you use them. As you advance from easy to complex movements or heavier weights your core will be challenged in ways you’ve yet experienced.

I find you can train abs a little more frequently than big compound movements. So either add a few of these exercises to your existing routine or feel free to do them on your active recovery days. Just don’t go overboard and do ridiculous volume. Stick to say two exercises and a couple of sets, leave plenty in the tank for your actual training days.

Get in touch if you looking for ways of programming these exercises into your routine or come down for a FREE consultation and session, we can go through them in person!

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