Ab Fab

This program combines flexion, extension and rotation within each move, delivering a functional workout that guarantees you a rock-solid core.

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Flex, extend, repeat. Does this sound like your daily abs routine? Many gym-goers are stuck in this one-plane rut, which limits your results and extends the time you spend in the weight room. Besides, no one moves exclusively in linear planes (unless of course you’re bustin’ out your killer robot on the dance floor). If you want to break out of your rut (and the ’80s), add rotation to your gym bag of tricks.

Rotation mimics many actions you do in real life and in sports, and can train you to better generate power from the ground, transfer it through your core and release it through your limbs. This means you’ll not only get a more defined waist without added bulk, you’ll be stronger in other activities like running, throwing and jumping.

This program combines flexion, extension and rotation within each move, delivering a functional workout that guarantees you a rock-solid core. Try this workout today and break free of your one-plane rut — and save the robot for the nightclub.

How To Do It

Do these moves in order with little to no rest in between to amp up your calorie burn. Choose a weight that causes fatigue in 10 to 12 repetitions, and rest 30 to 90 seconds between sets to recover. Pay close attention to the “Speed” box on the right-hand side — it changes from move to move, speeding up to elevate heart rate in some cases and slowing down to protect your spine in others. Include this workout one to two times per week in your normal routine.


Cable Squat and Strike


Setup: Set the cable arm at the lowest point on the machine with a handle attached. Face the cable with feet shoulder-width apart and the handle in your right hand.

Move: Squat down and reach your arm forward, keeping your weight in your heels and your core tight. Drive back up from the squat, and as you near the standing position, step back with your right foot, rotate and pull your right elbow back sharply as if striking something behind you. Return to the starting position in a controlled manner. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Keep your striking elbow in line with your shoulder to generate the most power and relax your traps (no shrugging.)

Why should you do this?

Physique: This move will develop the posterior kinetic chain — the glutes, hamstrings, rear delts and rhomboids — as well as the obliques and quads.

Sports: It’s perfect for improving a tennis backhand, which requires power to be generated from the ground, through the kinetic chain and out the shoulder.

Cable Power Punch


Setup: Align the cable with your right shoulder. Stand sideways to the machine, grasping the handle at chest height with your right hand, elbow elevated and palm facing down.

Move: Turn and step into a low lunge to your left as you forcefully punch the right hand away from the machine, extending your arm fully. Return to the starting position slowly to control the cable. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Exhale as you punch to increase the activation of your core muscles, and look where you’re stepping to maintain balance.

Why should you do this?

Physique: It targets your upper body “push” muscles (pecs, delts and triceps), as well as your obliques, hips and thighs.

Sports: Besides the obvious transfer of the punch to MMA or boxing, any throwing athlete (think softball or javelin) can use this move to develop forward rotational power.

Cable Deadlift Twist


Setup: Place the cable arm at its lowest setting with the rope handle attached. Stand a few paces back, face the machine with feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the rope handle with your thumbs up.

Move: Bend forward at the hips while maintaining a straight spine until your torso is parallel to the floor. Use your hamstrings and glutes to pull yourself back up, then at the top, twist your torso to the side and bring your arms up over your right shoulder. Return slowly to the starting position and repeat. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Don’t hyperextend your lower back at the top of the movement as this could be dangerous to your lumbar spine. Instead, turn from your trunk and keep your hips as square as possible.

Why should you do this?

Physique: This again works the posterior chain, hitting all the muscles on your backside from your hamstrings up to your deltoids.

Sports: This move is perfect for jump training, such as in volleyball or basketball.

Multi-Plane Step-Up and Press


Setup: Choose a step and stand next to it. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and bring it up to your shoulder with your palm facing rearward. Place your right foot on the box with your leg turned out from the hip.

Move: Extend your right leg and stand up onto the box, simultaneously rotating your body to the right and pressing the dumbbell up overhead in an Arnold press (corkscrewing your wrist so the palm faces forward at full extension). At the top you should be facing completely to the right. Return slowly to the starting position. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Only rotate around your hip with this exercise, keeping your knee directly above your foot and pointing the same direction as your toes.

Why should you do this?

Physique: There really isn’t a lower-body muscle that’s not used in this move.

Sports: This develops a more powerful hip drive and builds shoulder strength for overhead sports like basketball.

Swiss Ball Bridge and Twist


Setup: Sit on a Swiss ball, then walk your feet forward until you are in a bridge position with your shoulders on the ball and your hips in line with your knees and torso. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell in both hands directly above your chest.

Move: Drop your hips toward the floor, then squeeze your glutes to return to bridge. Then rotate your upper body 90 degrees to the left on the Swiss ball while keeping your hips square. Return to the start and continue, alternating sides.

Tip: For more of a challenge, perform the whole movement with one foot on the floor and the other foot extended.

Why should you do this?

Physique: This lifts and sculpts the glutes, while “cinching” and tightening your waist.

Sports: Developing trunk and hip stability is imperative for the controlled movements in gymnastics or dance.

Photography by Robert Reiff