The 8 best core exercises

Strengthening your abs and glutes is the secret to a stronger body. Here’s Fitness First trainer Memo Del Solar’s favourite summer workout.

In this workout, Memo works the entire core area, from abs to glutes, for a much bigger payoff than your usual ab workout. Not only will his exercises grow you some glorious abs, but will stabilise and protect your spine.

“My exercise routine is of great benefit to anyone who has a job that involves sitting for long periods of time,” Memo says. “It’s also perfect for people looking to build the strength to easily handle a more advanced training program in the near future.  “These are my top eight exercises that will fire up those muscles put to sleep by your sedentary lifestyle. This routine creates the right balance between moderate weight and body moves. You can practice this sequence twice a week for best results.”

By building a powerful core and stronger glutes, your spine will appreciate it and, as a bonus, you’ll look great in those summer pictures, Memo points out.

1. Squats

Set your feet a little wider than hip width and sit the bar at the top of your traps. Drop your hips very low, keeping your spine straight. Return to standing by pushing from your heels, squeezing your abs and glutes at the top. Start with a warm up of eight repetitions using only the bar, focusing on your form. After your first set feel free to add plates to meet your strength.

2. Sumo deadlift

Stand with your feet wide, the bar resting just in front of your shins. Engage your core to keep your spine straight. With shoulders back and chest high, grip the bar in an overhand grip. Push up from your heels into a standing position, keeping your shins straight and knees facing out. Squeeze your glutes and abs at the top. Focus on your technique and muscle engagement rather than the weight on the bar.

3. Single leg hip thruster

Place you upper back on a mat on the floor with both heels up on a flat bench. Lift one leg in the air, pointing your toes up the ceiling. Push your hips up with the foot still on the bench. Reach as high as you can, finishing with a good squeeze of your glutes and abs.

4. Crab walk

Place a rubber band just above your knees and spread your feet a little wider than your hips. Bend your knees to a 90° angle, pushing your knees out to maintain the distance between your feet to activate your glutes and outer-quad muscles. From this position step sideways for 15-20 steps, then step your way back to the spot where you started for 15-20 steps.

5. Plank

Support your bodyweight by placing your elbows right underneath your shoulders. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, holding your weight up on your toes with your neck and spine parallel to the floor, eyes looking down. To keep your spine straight make sure your glutes and abs are tight. Hold this position starting with 30 seconds, adding an extra 30 seconds every set. Perform at least 4 sets.

6. Wood chop/cable machine

Set up the cable machine with a light to medium weight. Grab the handle with both hands and pull it up to chest height. Step back, keeping your arms extended and shoulders back, feet shoulder width apart. Take a deep breath in as you rotate your core to the side, abs engaged. As you twist your core 90° your toes will follow the direction of your hands, making the “twist” easier. Pause for a second before exhaling and letting the weight pull you back to the centre. Be in control of the weight the whole time.

7. Monkey bars leg raises

Hold onto the monkey bar in a pull up position. Raise your feet up in front of you, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Take your time and control the weight of your legs, focusing on the way down more than the way up. Focus on your abs and make sure you’re not swinging. Exhale as you lower your legs back to the starting position.

8. Torsonator window wipers

Place your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes facing slightly out. Hold the end of the bar with both hands and push it up above your head into the starting position. As you drop the bar to the side, keep your arms straight and your feet and eyes following the direction of your hands. Keep a straight spine, shoulders back and chest high. Keep continuous momentum with a semi-circular movement. Focus on your abs and keep them firm, breathing in on the way up and out the way down. Depending on your fitness level, you can start adding some plates to the bar at the second set.

Training tips

  • Really focus on your muscle activation. Sometimes closing your eyes helps you think more about your body, not what’s around you.
  • It’s important to keep your glutes and abs engaged when you’re standing on your feet. A constant stimulus will become a habit, and will switch on these muscles automatically, keeping your pelvis in a neutral position.
  • This exercise routine is at a beginner to intermediate level. You can perform this sequence twice a week, with three or four days in between.

Memo del Solar

Memo Del Solar is a health and fitness coach based out of Fitness First Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast. With a life dedicated to fitness, his specialties are boxing and Muay Thai, functional training and bodybuilding. Contact him at guidelsolar@gmail.com
and on Instagram @memo.del.solar. 

His story

Growing up in Lima, Peru, nice boys like Memo Del Solar got fit to stay out of trouble. When he started his law degree at 18, Memo also began training as a Muay Thai fighter for good measure.

“In the beginning, I was training only for protection from petty gangs and to keep me away from trouble,” Memo tells us. Muay Thai emphasises development of the core, to give the fighter explosive rotational strength and power. In Lima, it made Memo a formidable opponent and the gangs left him alone to finish his law degree.

When he moved to Miami, Florida, he made the transition to a more “functional” training style. He was a regular in the Miami Beach bodybuilding culture, as one does when you have a body like Memo’s.

Moving to Australia in 2009 (originally working as a housekeeper, valet parker, waiter and warehouse worker) he discovered that the way he trained his body made him extremely successful in several bodybuilding contests.

So when he joined Fitness First Mermaid Waters as a personal trainer, we just had to have Memo in the magazine.