When you’re working your core, you don’t always have to isolate one single muscle to get focused results. Sometimes, attacking multiple muscle groups can be just as challenging.
This maneuver from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. takes major focus on your positioning and contracting your abs. The decline situp hellset will burn you out—but it will set you up to shred your core.
“This move is all about bracing your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles at once, but it’s a study and exploration into subtlety while you are bracing,” says Samuel. “If you have lower back issues, you’ll want to be cautious of this exercise (although working on it with light weights, or even know weights at all, will help you learn that your torso can create spinal stability in a variety of different ways).”
To pull off the decline situp hellset, you’ll need a decline bench and a set of dumbbells. Just don’t go too heavy—Samuel recommends that most people only work with around 5-pounders for a good challenge. Check out this option from Bowflex if you want to try it out at home.
- Set up on a decline bench, holding the weights directly overhead. Position yourself so that your shoulders are slightly higher than your hips.
- Reach straight back with one dumbbell. Hold in position for one second.
- Return to the starting point, then repeat the motion with the other dumbbell.
- Alternate reps for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
“Every single time you reach a dumbbell backwards, you’re creating a longer lever arm that your core most stabilize, forcing a greater challenge for your entire core,” Samual says. “There’s a specific way to resist this long lever: Right before you reach backwards, contract your abs hard and tight. Maintain this contraction for as long as you’re reached back; release for a moment when you move the dumbbell overhead.”
Just make sure to work light as a rule, and don’t overextend. “Reach back only as far as you can,” Samuel advises. “If you’re just starting out, your arms may only reach back a few degrees; the stronger you get, the closer you’ll get to creating a straight line from hand through hips. Work in your own shoulder mobility (and know that, gradually, you’re enhancing your true shoulder mobility with this move, reaching back while still keeping your ribcage tight since your abs are tightly contracted).”
Work continuously for 30 seconds, then rest for another 30 seconds. Your core will be toast after 3 full sets.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program on our All/Out Studio app.