Arnold took a few ballet lessons to see what he could learn. Let's take a cue from him and see what lifters can learn from alignment yoga, like deep and sustained core engagement which can complement your training. The moves below can teach you how to engage all areas of your abs, separately or in tandem, for sustained periods of time, while moving or at rest.
But First, Learn to Breathe
You need to learn how to engage your transversus abs. These are the deepest core muscles you have. You know those guys with six packs who look pregnant? It's often because they have weak transversus abs. Don't be that guy.
- Stand up, bend forward, and put your hands on your thighs right above your knees. Inhale. Now exhale all the air out of your lungs and let your belly go loose.
- Without inhaling again, pull your stomach in so hard. Imagine your belly button touching your spine. Hold for as long as you can until you have to breathe in, then stand up.
- Repeat 3-5 times, twice per day, on an empty stomach (for obvious reasons).
Arnold used to call it the "drawing in" maneuver, but it really came from ancient yogic practices. To advance the exercise, do it standing.
Note: Many people say they can't breathe when they engage their core. That's usually because they're engaging their diaphragm, not their core. This drill teaches you how to differentiate between your core and your diaphragm so you can engage your core and breathe at the same time.
Down Dog Knee Pull-ins
- Come to plank. Place your shoulders directly over your wrists. Without moving your hands or feet, lift your hips into down dog.
- Lift your right leg straight up behind you. Pull your knee in as if trying to touch your nose, while bringing your shoulders forward directly over your wrists. Hold for a count of 3 or however long you can hold it.
- Return that leg back to the lifted position behind you.
- Repeat, but this time try to touch your knee to your right armpit. Return that leg back to the lifted position behind you.
- Repeat, but touch your knee to your left elbow.
Switch legs and repeat all steps. Do this entire series for 1-5 minutes.
Down Dog Knee Dropdowns
Start the same way you did for knee pull-ins. This time, bring your right knee to your right armpit and drop only your knee down to touch your right wrist. Rapidly lift it back to your armpit. Repeat 10 times and switch sides.
Down Dog Knee Circles
Start the same way as the other two exercises. Bring your right knee in to touch your right armpit. Circle just your knee clockwise 3-5 times, then counterclockwise 3-5 times. Repeat on the left leg. Keep doing it for 1-5 minutes.
These three exercises will not only make your abs look good, but they'll help them function better in any lift you do.