The festive season is fast approaching, and everyone is preparing to indulge in their winter favourites. But just because you’re ready to fill yourself with delicious food and drink, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your training and give up on the solid core you’ve been dreaming of.

Reps, reps, and more reps

There’s no doubt about it. Your core, specifically your abdominal muscles, respond to high repetitions better than lower, heavier sets. This doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore pushing your core once in a while to train your fast-twitch fibres, but it does mean that you should focus on endurance-style movements, rather than overloading your workouts every week.

Ab myths

Before we get into the ab-burning workout to blast your core through your holiday training sessions, we want to clear up some of the common misconceptions you may have about ab training.

#1 Training abs = abs

Unfortunately, 100 sit-ups a day - while creating incredible strength in your hip flexors - will do nothing to help you develop clearer definition around your abdominal muscles. And they certainly won’t give you the overall core strength you’ve been looking for. For this, you’ll need to incorporate a greater variety of exercises and attempt to keep your diet as clean as possible.

#2 You should train your core every day

You wouldn’t train your legs every day, so don’t train your abs that often either. In the world of six-minute workouts, abdominal muscles reign supreme, with recommendations to hit them seven days a week. But every muscle in your body needs time to recover and repair after a hard training session. So whether you’re looking to improve your strength or your definition, make sure you rest.

#3 Abs don’t require direct training

Okay, you’ve probably heard that you’ll train your abs and your core throughout all of your workouts and that direct, focussed abdominal exercises are a waste of time. But, would you avoid training your shoulders, even though they lend assistance in your heavier bench presses? If you’re going to create a rock-solid core that you can rely on, you’ll need to make time to train it.

Core-crunching workouts for Christmas

Weighted sit-up

A potentially safer variant of the bent-over row is one using dumbbells. You cThis exercise is super-simple and extremely versatile. Like a normal sit-up, you’ll want to get into a position with your shoulder blades touching the ground, and your knees bent at around a 90° angle.

If it’s your first time with any rowing movement, the single-arm row is a Then, grab a weight of your choice, whether it’s a dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, or even something heavy from your home like a large bottle of water. Press it with your arms extended above your chest. Once you’re ready, crunch forwards by engaging your core until your body creates a ‘V’ shape.

Lower backwards slowly, and repeat.

Sets: 3

Reps: 15

Russian Twist

The Russian Twist can be a little tricky for beginners, but it’ll help you see incredible results in side-strength. Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and feet slightly raised over your heels just enough so that they don’t touch the ground.

Pick up a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight of your choice and using both hands, and hold it securely in front of your body. While keeping your feet off the floor, twist to one side, until the shoulder crossing your body is pointing towards your knees. Pause, then twist to the other side.

Repeat.

Sets: 3

Reps: 15

Leg raise

Like most core exercises, you’ll want to start this exercise with your back and shoulders pressed against the floor. During this entire movement, you should focus on keeping your legs as straight as possible.

Engage your abs, and, keeping your legs straight, raise your feet as high as you can go. You should aim to create an ‘L’ shape at the top of your rep. Slowly lower your legs until your heels gently tap the floor before beginning your next rep.

The slower you lower, the more challenging it’ll be.

Sets: 3

Reps: 15

Side twist

Remember the L-shaped position from the leg raise? That’s our new starting point. With your legs straight and in line with your hips, slowly let your feet down to one side, allowing your midsection to twist. Maintain tension and lower them in a controlled manner.

You’ll make the most of this exercise if you keep your feet pressed together throughout the movement. Once your feet are as low as you can comfortably get them without taking your back off the ground, raise them back to the starting point, and then continue to the other side.

Bring them back to the top again, and you’ve finished one rep.

Sets: 3

Reps: 15

Ab rollouts

Rollouts are somewhat of an intermediate level exercise, requiring a certain level of core strength to begin with. But whether you can complete ten reps or only half, you should start practising them as soon as possible.

You’ll need an ab-roller or a barbell to complete this exercise. We’ve covered the exercise in more detail in our recent blog, 'Ab-rolling for a strong core'. If you’re going to perform this movement with a barbell, load a 5kg plate on each side to elevate the bar, and follow the ab-roller instructions.

Sets: 3

Reps: 15