5 top-notch moving (isotonic) ab exercises
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
I previously wrote up a post on how to do super sexifying Hard Plank Holds and why minute long plank holds suck. But improving your planks aren't the only way to get a w
orkout for your core. Planks are called an isometric exercise because the muscles stay still while working hard, if the muscles are changing length while contracting it is called an isotonic exercise. So, to keep things interesting while you try to get as ripped as Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi (I heard he has an 8-pack), here are 5 red-hot isotonic core exercises
"A buddy of mine saw Kylo Ren take his shirt off in the shower and he said Kylo Ren has an 8 pack, that Kylo Ren is shredded" - Matt, Radar Technician
1. TRX Fallouts
A movement which challenges the anti-extension capabilities of your trunk, the TRX fallouts are an excellent movement for people who are new to the gym which can also challenge veterans. They require a set of TRX straps to perform
To perform the TRX fallouts: Grab the handles while facing away from the attachment point and choose a suitable angle to start with. Feet closer towards the attachment point means your body is more horizontal making the movement harder and feet further away means the movement is easier. Start conservative.
Set up using the hard plank position - heels back, hips tucked under and chest up. Create as much tension as you can in this position.
Elbows stay locked out straight and arms reach up high. Start with small movements and don't aim for much further than a 45° angle from the starting position.
Keep your body in a straight line! Your hips will want to sag and lower back will want to collapse, squeeze the glutes hard to keep your position.
Bring the handles back to the push up position. Start off with small movements up then gradually, keeping your form strict, reach up further and further then step in deeper and deeper.
2. Fitball stir the pots
Quick quiz: what happens when you take a hard plank hold, add the unstable surface of a fitball and add in some multi-directional movement? A: An exercise that will make your abs more stable than the current Australian Prime Minister (whoever it is right now).
Set up in a hard plank position with your elbows on the fitball. (Yes, I know I've already linked my hard plank post once but seriously, read that first before performing any of these exercises, it will make these exercises worth your time!)
Move your elbows together as one in a U-shape. The difficulty of this exercise scales with the length of your U, make small U's to begin with and work your way up to larger U's over multiple weeks. Up both sides and back to the middle is one repetition.
Make sure you keep those heels back, glutes on and chest puffed out. Remember small controlled movements are the name of the game here.
3. Fitball push backs
Start in a push up position with your shins on the ball. From there, tuck your hips under and puff your chest out.
Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders to start.
Now, keeping that tension in the core created by tucking the hips under and puffing the chest out, push your body back along the ball without your hands leaving the ground.
Push back as far as you can go without your lower back sagging, then pull yourself back up to the start position.
Again, this movement gets significantly more difficult the further you roll back so start conservative and work your way up. Remember, It's more important to control the reps and create tension in the abs than get far enough back that you feel you can brag about the distance to an online fitness blogger...
4. Elbow slides
A moving plank variation to challenge how your holds hold up when one arm is way out in front of you.
For this exercise you'll need to put your elbows on gym slides! If you don't know what slides are: they slide across the ground. If you don't have access to slides you can try the exercise with a rolled up towel, paper plates, a plastic container lid or just buy a set for yourself for about $15
Start in the, you guessed it, hard plank position. Glutes on, heels back, chest out. (To answer your question: yes, I do get tired of repeating the same thing but someone needs to say it. I may not be the hero you deserve, but I'm the hero you need).
Keeping the tension, slide one elbow up as high as you can without losing your position. Once you've reached as far as you can go, bring the slide all the way back underneath your shoulder before you start moving the other slide.
Again, start with small movements to focus on the body position and build up to longer reaches. I like to progress these by increasing the reps while reaching the same distance, then after a couple weeks or the next program, drop the reps back down but reach further with each slide.
5. Ankle taps/Penguin waddles
Finally, a movement which trains lateral flexion or in the human language: the movement you make when the back of your leg is itchy.
Start on your back for this one. Knees bent at 90°. Feet together. Tuck your chin into your chest and lift your upper body slightly off the ground.
While keeping your arms by your side, reach down to tap the bottom of your ankle on the same side, then do the same on the opposite side.
That's it! Once you get moving you should look like a penguin waddling side to side. You can get into a rhythm for this one and pump out the reps, 10 on each side is a fine starting point. Make sure the feet stay together (moving them apart decreases the range of the movement making it easier) and don't let the heels come up off the ground.
Try getting a photo of you doing this exercise with a straight face... it took me a while
That was 5 isotonic core exercises which aren't a plank hold. Hopefully this post gave you some new ideas to get you into your ideal beach body without relying solely on the hard plank hold to get you there.
I'm sure you noticed the trend of incorporating the plank cues into other exercises, it's a great way to create tension in the core which is useful in way more movements than just core exercises.
Master the hard plank hold first, then give these different exercises a go for some variety!