Hard to the Core

Add an oblique twist to your resistance-training workout, courtesy of world-class paddler Eric Jackson

Jul 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Patrik Rytiikangas

Washboard abs are nice, but they're nothing next to washboard obs. Those would be your obliques—twin sets of muscles that wrap around your sides and help execute twisting motions. Take note, paddlers, surfers, mountain bikers, climbers, and aspiring living-room Twister champions: Obliques training should be an integral (not optional, not occasional) part of any conditioning program. "Nobody hurts himself toward the end of the season when obliques are honed," says Eric Jackson, 37, winner of this year's national freestyle kayak championships. "It's always at the beginning of the season, when you haven't been working them." For world-class obs, add the following exercises—Jackson's favorite methods of self-torture—to the end of any resistance-training workout. You'll soon possess a midriff that does more than just look good in a mirror. —Michelle Pentz

Table Twist
Lie flat on your back. Extend both arms above your head and grasp heavy table legs or something similarly immobile. Raise both legs slowly until they are perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your legs straight, drop your feet to one side until they almost touch the floor; then raise them back up and drop to the other side. Start with: three sets of 30. No problem? Attempt Jackson's three sets of 75 a day. Still feeling burly? Cut reps to 30 but add five-pound ankle weights.
O Crunch
Lie on your back with your knees bent, your left foot on the floor, and your right ankle resting on your left knee. Keep your right arm out to the side and the left arm folded behind your head. With both hips on the floor, rotate your left shoulder toward your right knee and roll up as in a regular crunch (not a full sit-up). Repeat with the other side. Start with: three sets of 15. No problem? Try three sets of 30. Still feeling burly? Do them on a Swiss ball.

Wood Chopper
Attach a Sport Cord (rubber tubing with handles) or heavy-gauge surgical tubing to a fixed anchor at shoulder height, or grasp a rope handle hooked to weight stacks. With hips forward, hold tubing or rope behind you with both hands. With your arms bent slightly, bring your hands over your head in an arc down to the outside of your left knee. Keep your hips steady. Repeat on the opposite side. Start with: three sets of ten. No problem? Do three sets of 30. Still feeling burly? Do them one-handed.

Torso Swivel (not shown)
Say hello to your new best friend: your gym's rotary torso machine. Secure your legs and bear-hug the part of the machine that moves. Start with less weight than you may think you need; the key is lots of reps, Jackson says. Rotate your torso from center to right, then center to left. Start with: three sets of ten, with enough weight to exhaust you at the end of each set. No problem? Add three more reps to each set. Still feeling burly? Follow immediately with a set of Swiss-ball crunches described above.

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