Abs can be the most obstinate body part to train, with long and arduous workout routines seemingly yielding little reward compared to other muscle groups. According to strength coach Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. however, you only need two exercises to light up your abdominals. In a new video on the Athlean-X channel, he breaks down the two key movements needed to work both the upper and the lower abs.
For that bottom-up rotational motion which will target the lower abs, Cavaliere recommends the corkscrew. “All I’m trying to do here is clear my pelvis off the ground,” he says. “If you can lift your tailbone off the ground by pulling your entire pelvis with your legs connected to it, up towards your head, and give a little twist at the top, you’re going to effectively hit that lower abdominal region.”
That twist at the top end of the region also incorporates some flexion of the torso into the move, which will engage the obliques—something you never want to neglect in a core workout.
For a more advanced fitness level, Cavaliere explains that you can add weight by simply performing a straight-legged version of the corkscrew. And if you want to up the difficulty even more? Try a hanging version on a pullup bar, which makes the upper part of the movement that much harder.
Next up is the top-down movement that will torch the upper abs; the upper circle crunch. “This time the focus should be not on the pelvis, but on the shoulder blades,” says Cavaliere. “If you can make sure you’re getting your shoulder blades clear off the ground without yanking on your neck to do it, you’re doing this exercise right. But we need that rotation in there too, and that’s where the circle crunch comes in. We’re going to try to work ourselves up, and then around into a circle, landing on one shoulder blade, rolling back to two, rotating to the other shoulder blade, and continuing to work our way around in that circle.”
For a more intermediate fitness level, Cavaliere recommends the power over, which involves trying to get the entire torso off the ground while keeping the lower body in place. Cavaliere adjusts this slightly to introduce some slight rotation, lifting the opposite leg on each rep. And for advanced gymgoers, there’s a crunch pulldown variation, which enables you to keep adding weight to the exercise.
Of course, Cavaliere points out that neither of these exercises will lead to a visible six-pack unless you are first making sure that you’re getting your nutrition right. Abs, remember, are made in the kitchen.
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.