Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ab Lab

I've had a couple people ask me about what I do for abs so I've decided to share (as promised) what Brother #3 shared with me three months ago: Springfield College's Ab Lab.

Disclaimer: This workout isn't a time saver, it doesn't allow you to multitask, and it won't guarantee you six-pack abs. In the morning on a good day (when the shadows fall just right), I have the top four of the highly sought after six-pack. By the afternoon, it sort of slips into a two-pack. And by nightfall, there's no muscles to speak of because I'm too exhausted to flex anything.

The Definition of Toned: Jillian Michaels

But seriously - I'm not a professional, I probably work my abs too much, I often get stuck in ruts (where I gravitate towards the same exercises over and over again), and I didn't come up with any of the exercises below on my own. I've just found that different variations of Ab Lab make me sore when most crunches, pilates classes, p90x/Insanity tapes, etc. fall flat. Ab Lab also forces me to give my abs enough intensive attention - instead of doing 4 or 5 exercises and calling it a day.

Here's the general idea:
-Ab Lab is comprised of any 8 ab exercises
-Each of the 8 exercises is performed nonstop for a 50 second period
-After each individual exercise there is a 10 second rest
-When all 8 exercises have been completed, there is a full 60 second break
-The circuit gets repeated three times (24 minutes in total)

Here's an example of a recent ab lab I did that left me wonderfully sore for two days (and yes, I know it's easier to understand with pictures but no way am I going to be the model for that shoot!):

1. Ab hold
Sit on the edge of a sturdy bench or chair. Position your hands on the edge with your fingers facing out towards your knees. Pick both feet off of the ground. Lift your butt off of the bench or chair and hold.

2. "V" turns with a medicine ball (pick one with a weight that's appropriate/available to you...I use the 8 lb one)
Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Pick both your hands and feet off the floor and lean backwards into a "V" shape. You should feel sort of like you're teetering - but use your abs to hold you in place. If you don't feel anything, you're sitting up too much. Once you've got the "V" position down, pick up the medicine ball and start to quickly tap it from one side to the other. Keep your eyes on the ball the whole time - it will make you twist your torso more.
*If it's too hard with the extra weight, just interlace your fingers and tap your hands from side to side)

3. "V" ins and outs (for lack of a better term)
Return to the "V" position described in #2. This is essentially a full body row that meets in the "resting" point of the "V" position. Extend both your upper and lower body out as much as you can without tipping over before rowing back in to meet in the middle. Repeat.
*If you're finding it difficult to get into a rhythm, try placing your hands on the ground for stability

4. "V" hold
Return the "V" position described in #2 and #3. All you do for this one is find that place where you feel wobbly, lean your upper half back a few inches more, make sure your lower half isn't sinking towards the ground, and hold.

5. Plank
Assume the standard push-up position...only put your elbows about 5 inches apart on the floor instead of your hands. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your toes. I've always found I need to correct my form by dropping my shoulders and my butt a few inches. You should feel it - all over. If you're not shaking and quaking by 30 seconds ask someone to check your form.

6. The Hundred* (a classic Pilates exercise...only you're just going for as many pumps as you can in 50 seconds. I'm not particular about the inhales and exhales but make sure you do breathe)
Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Engage your abs to curl your head and shoulders up off the floor with your chin tucked. Try to really squeeze so your lower spine stays flat to the floor. Straighten your legs up and out so that they are a little higher than 45 degrees off of the floor. Extend your arms so that they are on either side of your legs and begin pumping your hands a few inches up and down.
*Contrary to popular belief, this exercise is not "girly"'ll have you staring at the clock waiting for time to be up just like all the others!

7. Pulse-ups (or lower ab raises or reverse crunches)
Lie on your back with your legs extended at a 90 degree angle. Put your hands behind your head or down by your sides for support if you need it. Use just your abs to lift your lower half straight up, keeping your legs straight overhead. Try not to use your back or your arms to give you a hand. Lower your pelvis to the ground and repeat.

8. Crunch with hold & twist
Assume the standard sit-up position. Lift your head and shoulders off the ground and crunch halfway up towards your knees. Keep your chin aimed towards the ceiling (it will really force you to use your abs on the way up and nothing else) and once you reach the point where you can feel it, twist to the side and back to the center position to hold for a count of two. Lower back to the ground and repeat (twist to the other side this time).

If you don't understand one of my descriptions...just substitute in an exercise of your own! The side plank (switch sides at 25 seconds), the raised leg hold (hold your feet 5 inches off the ground), and the Swiss ball jackknife pike are also fun ones to add to the queue.

Try it! You'll be simultaneously amazed at how long 50 seconds feels and how quickly 24 minutes goes by. Let me know what you think or if you have any favorite ab exercises for next time!


  1. "Add to the queue" - What are you, British? Also, time to face your biggest fears and take pictures of yourself doing the exercises. You look great. Not to mention, no one actually cares what you look like. Case in point, all the pictures of me in races on facebook.

  2. Easy Ross, that's my girl. and I did comment on your kicks....Carolyn