For years, I’ve been posting some crazy challenges for a group of friends I used to train with in Los Angeles in order to keep each other motivated. These days, it’s more to fight the tedium that threatens our fitness lifestyle. For more than three decades I’ve worked out at least once a day. Maybe you’re the same way, whether you’re a lifelong gym rat or a fitness newbie.

No matter your dedication, sometimes we all know that no matter where you train, it can get a bit monotonous that’s why I’ve come up with this “Escalator of Death” ab challenge. The routine is necessary — and the grind is part of what we love!

To ward off the boredom, I’ve taken to “testing” myself more and more as I get older — I usually try to come up with some off-the-wall exercises or mini-workouts to do at the end of each week of training. This series will highlight some of these challenges, pointing out which muscle groups are being called into action, and explain their benefits (even if it might be just to impress your friends). As always, my “official” recommendation is don’t jump into this unless you’re experienced in the basics!

But, just in case you’re crazy like me, let’s get to it:

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE: The Core ‘Escalator of Death’


KEY INSTRUCTIONS: With your shoulder blades on the end of a bench, raise hips to point your heels to the ceiling, then lower your feet, with legs straight, trying to keep a slow tempo of 10 seconds or more until you reach full extension, then raise and repeat (if you can!).

WHY TRY THIS? This is a massive test of core strength to attempt at the end of a workout, or as part of your session if you are targeting your core.

WHERE YOU’LL FEEL IT: Primarily the core stabilizers (abdominals, obliques, lower lumbar muscles, latissimus dorsi where it attaches at inferior position). It’s also very taxing on the pulling groups (forearms, biceps, lats, rhomboids, even your hand grip-strength) due to the effort spent gripping the bench and keeping yourself in position.

HOW TO BUILD UP TO THIS: This is an advanced movement! You can build this type of strength with various plank exercises, hanging leg raises, and other core work. The real challenge here comes from how much body weight is hanging off the end of the bench – by placing your shoulder blades on the end, you are doing a lot of work. You can begin by trying this same movement on a mat, with hands by your sides. Once you’re capable of that, then you can attempt it on a bench, with your back and glutes on the bench, lowering only your legs (so you’re forced to move less weight). Soon you’ll be able to attempt the advanced version!

That’s it. Enjoy responsibly and have fun crushing your core! Let me know how it goes: @andywhatsnext

Muscular man with a beard and wearing glasses pulling himself up over a pull bar while wearing a weighted vest for his weekend workout

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