Blast Your Abs—Without a Single Crunch

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

To truly carve your core, get up off the floor. Certain upper-body moves fire up your six-pack muscles as much as—if not more than—crunches. A new study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that several lat and shoulder exercises on the cable machine work your abs more than a classic situp.

The purpose of your core muscles is to stabilize your torso while your arms and legs move, study author Sami Tarnanen, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, tells MuscleMorphosis.com. Take advantage of your physiology to train your rectus abdominis and obliques isometrically—that is, by bracing them against the torque generated by your arms. You’ll do double duty, strengthening your shoulders while building the type of core strength that can beat back pain and power your sports performance.

To do the bilateral shoulder extension, stand with your spine neutral and your feet hip-width apart. Step your right foot back, so your left heel aligns with your right toes and your left knee is slightly bent. “This stable posture enables you to use heavier resistance, and that means more activation in the core muscles,” Tarnanen says. Hold the rope handle with your arms straight ahead at shoulder height. Pull back and down to hip level, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.

Watch this video to see how to do the move:

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