One of the best exercises to tighten your abs and build a powerful core is standing in place and twisting from side to side. This movement is called the Russian Twist if you are seated and could be called an oblique crunch for all it does to develop these muscles. Whatever name this ab exercise goes by, it works best when holding a weight of some sort.
There are many ways to add weight to this exercise. Hold a medicine ball in both hands, use a light kettlebell or dumbbell, or the easiest way, use a weighted workout bar. You might have seen these at your local gym or the last time you were in a sporting good's store. These are straight, weighted bars from 5 to about 42 pounds, each with color-coded end caps and black rubber/foam.
Why not just pick up a barbell? For several reasons. If you workout at home, grabbing the correctly weighted bar is easier and faster than maneuvering weight plates. Then there is the comfort. Most brands make solid steel bars with smooth foam padding; the perfect way to warm up and ease into a workout. Depending on the weight you use, and your exercise goals, these bars are enough to do a complete workout routine.
One drawback to many brands is the foam bar padding. Countless reviewers noted that their new weight bar was scratched or cut easily. For this reason we recommend the Power Systems Weighted Aerobic bars. Unlike most competitors, the Power Systems bars have a durable rubberized coating, and come with a 2 year warranty.
Getting back to the 'oblique twist,' the weighted aerobics bar gives you at least three different options when performing this exercise.
1. Place the bar behind your neck, resting on your shoulders, as you do in a barbell back squat.
2. Hold the bar with both hands in front of you and arms extended.
3. Hold the bar vertically with an alternating grip.
All three versions of this exercise require the trainee to start with a slight bend in the knees, using this slight flex to initiate the twist to one side and then the other. Alternatively, use no leg or hip assistance and squeeze the twist slowly from side to side.
I once read the natural bodybuilding routine of a contestant in a local state competition. The only exercise listed for his abdominals was side-to-side twists. He used a weighted bar and did 200 repetitions almost every workout. Work your way up to that level with one of the Power Systems bars, and see if your abs don't get shredded!
Haven't tried using weighted bars yet? Now is your chance to get caught up!