You'll never see a gymnast with a weak core. Training for strength and performance, rather than just looks, ensures that the folks who dedicate their youth to cartwheeling in Lycra boast six-packs that would put your mid-region to shame. This test, courtesy of personal trainer Chris Bathke, will be humbling for most, but with patience and dedication, anyone can use it to improve their base core strength. Though you've probably left it a bit late to reach the podium in the parallel bars in 2012.
Test your core
Set up by hanging from a pull-up bar with a pronated (palms down) grip, arms fully extended. "Preferably, your back should be against a wall or have a partner push slightly on your upper back to prevent you from pulling your shoulders back behind your hands," says Bathke. If this isn't possible then just try your best to keep your back absolutely straight and motionless. From the hang position slowly raise your legs up to 90 degrees with your knees locked, feet together and head neutral. "Your elbows should be locked and your lower back should be straight. Use a timer and try to hold this position for 10 seconds," says Bathke. Figure-hugging Lycra optional.
Build it up
If you have difficulty holding for 10 seconds, then start off by doing the same movement with your knees bent. "Begin with two sets of five slow reps and build up to doing two or three sets of five reps with your legs straight," says Bathke. Retest every four weeks.
Raise the bar
Once you've built up your strength, try the V-up. Hang from a bar, but this time bring your feet all the way up to touch the bar, pause slightly, then slowly return to the starting position while keeping your legs and body straight. "Go slow and don't use momentum. Quality is everything with this one," says Bathke. Start with two sets of five and work up to three sets of eight.