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how to do the aleknas exercise

How To Do The Aleknas Exercise 

The Aleknas is a killer core exercise with multiple benefits for enhancing the strength and definition of your core muscles, improving your core stability, and much more!

If you’re looking for a core exercise that is bodyweight but still makes you feel the burn, then the Aleknas exercise is a great choice.

Below you can find a full guide to this exercise, complete with a video tutorial and teaching points to help you get the perfect form. Feeling brave? We’ve also included an advanced adaptation of the Aleknas exercise for you to try out.

Before we get stuck in, why not take the first step towards an exciting new career by enquiring about our personal training courses.

Want to know more about starting a career in the fitness industry? You can download our free course prospectus for more information!

How To Do An Aleknas

Set Up: To begin this exercise all you need is plenty of clear space on the floor and maybe an exercise mat for added comfort.

Starting Position:

Aleknas workout image

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your legs extended.
  • Hold your arms straight up above your head with your palms facing the ceiling.
  • Ensure that your hands and feet are both off the floor throughout the entire move.
  • Engage your core muscles and ensure that your back is flat against the floor or exercise mat.
  • Look up at the ceiling and keep your head in a neutral position.

Execution:

Aleknas workout execution image

  • Take a deep breath and then exhale as you perform a sit-up, raising your arms and bending at your knees.
  • Once your arms are directly out in front of you and pointing straight towards the ceiling, pause briefly.
  • In this position, there should be a 90° angle between your calves and your upper leg.
  • Slowly inhale as you lower your arms in a controlled movement, keeping them extended until they are back above your head.
  • At the same time straighten your legs so that you return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat the exercise for your desired number of reps and sets.

Aleknas Muscles Worked

Prime Movers: Rectus abdominis (the muscles in the middle of the stomach, commonly referred to as a six-pack).

Secondary Movers: Obliques (muscles on the sides of the stomach).


Advice For Reps, Sets, & Rest

A little further on we’ve covered some common mistakes made with this exercise and explained exactly what you need to do to avoid them.

But first, we thought we’d discuss how many reps & sets you should do as well as how long it's recommended that you rest for.

The main thing to know about reps, sets, and rest is that the right workout for you completely depends on your individual exercise goals.

Training to improve your strength? You should perform 1-5 reps for 5 sets, taking around 90 seconds rest between each set.

If you want to tone and improve the definition of your muscles, then you should train in the hypertrophy zone. To achieve this, you should do 8-12 reps for 3 sets, taking around 60 seconds rest after every set.

Finally, if your goal is to improve muscular endurance then you should do at least 12 reps for 2 sets, taking a short 30-45 second between each set.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Check out our full body kettlebell workout.

Common Mistakes Made With The Aleknas

Aleknas workout image

Now that you know how to do the aleknas exercise and how many of them you should do, there are a couple of common mistakes that we thought we would cover.

Once we’ve explained how you can ensure that you avoid making these mistakes, we’ve discussed the benefits of this exercise and how to do an aleknas with a medicine ball, so you should definitely stick around!

Touching The Floor With Your Hands Or Feet

Another common mistake that we see a lot with this exercise is people letting their hands or feet touch or even rest on the floor in between reps.

By letting your hands or feet (or worse, both!) touch the floor, you will stop your core muscles from working between reps and as a result, you will compromise the benefits of the exercise and seriously slow down your progress.

This exercise isn’t easy so you will feel the burn in your core as you get further into your set but that doesn’t mean that you should give up and let your hands or feet touch the ground.

Keep your hands and feet slightly above the floor and keep going and we can guarantee that you’ll feel good once your set is complete!

Arching Your Lower Back 

aleknas exercise back pain

All too often we see clients arching their back as they bring their arms and legs towards the top of the movement. 

Not only is this the incorrect way to perform an aleknas if you want to see real benefits for your core muscles, but repeating this common mistake can actually result in an injury. 

This is because arching your back removes the stress of the movement from your core muscles and puts a strain on your lower back.

Avoid this mistake and ensure that you see the full benefits of this exercise by keeping your back flat and connected to the floor throughout the entire duration of the exercise.

If you struggle to do this or find it uncomfortable, you may need to strengthen your core muscles before proceeding with this exercise. Exercises such as these oblique crunch variations are a great way to achieve this.

Keep Your Head Neutral 

Before we get into the benefits of adding the aleknas exercise into your regular workout, there's one more teaching point to keep in mind so that you can ensure that your form is perfect, and that’s keeping your head in a neutral position.

Unsure what we mean by this? Essentially, all you need to do is keep your head on the ground and look straight ahead. 

Raising your head off the ground as you sit up is a really common mistake that strains the neck and is an all-round poor form for the aleknas exercise.

To avoid this injury, it might be useful to find a fixed point on the ceiling to concentrate on.

Now that you know how to do the perfect aleknas, why not read about how to become a fitness instructor.

Benefits Of The Aleknas Exercise 

Now that you know exactly how to get the perfect form for the aleknas exercise, what exactly are the benefits of adding this exercise into your next floor workout?

Check out the benefits below!

Aleknas Develops Abs

Aleknas abs benefits image

When we covered the aleknas muscles worked, we mentioned that this is a brilliant exercise for working your core muscles.

Specifically, the aleknas benefits the abs (also known as the rectus abdominis).

So if a well-defined six-pack is one of your exercise goals, then this exercise is definitely one to do! Train in the hypertrophy zone to see serious development of in terms of muscle size and definition. 

Complete your upper body workout with the TRX clock press.

Suitable For Most People

aleknas exercise group image

One of our favourite things about this exercise is that despite your age, strength, or fitness level, you will be able to execute and benefit from this exercise.

We love that this bodyweight exercise is the perfect challenge for beginners but the exercise can still be made more difficult by grabbing a weight plate or medicine ball (as demonstrated below!).

Improved Posture

aleknas workout benefits image

When we talk about exercises that work your core, the rectus abdominis in particular, a lot of people assume that the only benefit of this is the aesthetic advantage of carving out a six-pack.

However, one of the lesser-known benefits of core strengthening exercises is that they can actually improve your posture and help you to avoid an injury to your back and spine. 

If you work in an office or spend a lot of time sitting down in a slouched position, then working on your posture is really important! Once we’re done here, you might benefit from reading the OriGym guide to office fitness.   

Are you an avid runner? This benefit also transfers to better running form and assists you in increasing your pace.

Can Be Done At Home

aleknas abs exercise at home

One final benefit of the aleknas exercise is that it's a bodyweight movement that can be performed anywhere, at any time.

There's no need for a gym membership or to splash out on expensive equipment, the very most you will need for this exercise is an exercise mat and enough room to lie down.

Whether you need a new home workout plan because of changes in local coronavirus restrictions or you simply prefer to exercise at home, you’re sure to benefit from this exercise.

Once we're done here, check out our full guide to planning a great home workout here.

How To Do Aleknas with Medicine Balls

Set Up: For this exercise, you will need to grab two medicine balls and find a space with plenty of room. You may also wish to use a gym mat for added comfort. When choosing a medicine ball, make sure you select a weight that is comfortable for you.

Starting Position:

medicine ball Aleknas abs image

  • Lie on your back with your arms above your head. 
  • Stretch out your legs so that your body is in a straight line. 
  • Hold one medicine ball with both hands above your head and place the other medicine ball between your feet.
  • Engage your core and keep your back flat against the floor.
  • Look straight ahead and find a fixed point to concentrate on.

Execution:

Aleknas abs exercise image

  • From the starting position, exhale and raise your hands so that you are holding the medicine straight above your chest. 
  • At the same time, lift your knees towards your upper body until the top part of your legs are perpendicular to the ground. 
  • At the top of the movement, you should be holding the medicine ball between your feet with a  90-degree bend in your knees.
  • In a slow and controlled movement, inhale as you return to the starting position, lowering your arms and legs without letting your feet or arms rest on the ground. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Aleknas with Medicine Balls Muscles Worked

Prime Movers: Rectus abdominis.

Secondary Movers: Obliques.

Common Mistakes To Avoid With The Aleknas with Medicine Balls

aleknas with medicine ball common mistakes

Just as with the aleknas above, there are a couple of easily avoidable common mistakes that people make when performing an aleknas with a medicine ball.

As well as avoiding arching your back, keeping your hands and feet above the floor, and maintaining a neutral head position, here are a couple of teaching points to help you to get the perfect form!

Check out the best medicine balls to use at home!

Don’t Use Too Much Weight 

If you’re performing an aleknas with a medicine ball, obviously you’re wanting to make the regular aleknas a bit more difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you should overdo it by grabbing the heaviest medicine ball you can get your hands on.

If you want to maximise the benefits of this exercise, it’s important that you choose a medicine ball that challenges you but that you are still comfortable holding. 

A medicine ball that is too heavy is likely to make you lose control of the execution, compromising your form, and ultimately taking away from the effectiveness of the exercise.

Moving Too Quickly 

This exercise is all about control so you should focus on making slow and steady movements but all too often with this exercise we see people moving too quickly to try and rush their workout.

If you want to get the most out of this exercise and really work your core muscles, moving slowly and focusing on using your core to drive the movement is essential. 

Engage Your Muscles

One final teaching point for this alkenas variation is to ensure that your muscles are engaged throughout the entire duration of the exercise.

Specifically, you should brace your core muscles and squeeze your glutes. Doing this will help to protect your lower back from injury, ensure that you feel the burn in your core muscles, and help you to keep the correct form. 

Find out how and why you should engage your core with the OriGym guide!

Benefits Of Aleknas With Medicine Balls

aleknas with medicine ball benefits

Obviously we couldn’t talk about the aleknas with a medicine ball without covering a couple of benefits of adding this exercise into your workouts, here they are!

Develops & Defines Core Muscles

Just like the standard aleknas exercise, this is an effective exercise for anyone looking to achieve that washboard stomach, six-pack look. 

Training in the hypertrophy zone, so performing 8-12 reps for 3 sets, is the best way to achieve this muscle definition and develop a defined core.

Easy To Do

Another thing that we love about this exercise is that the movement itself is really easy to do.

Yes if you’re a complete beginner in the gym then performing this move with the medicine ball won’t be easy, but the movement itself is actually easy to do and once you build up some core strength, you'll be sure to smash it. 

Develops Core Strength & Stability

Not only does working on core exercises like this Aleknas variation have aesthetic benefits, but core exercises all benefit your core stability which has tons of transferable benefits for other aspects of exercise.

A strong core is the foundation of functional movement, and therefore key to lifting heavy and strong with tons of compound exercises including deadlifts, barbell rows, and the clean and press.

Before You Go!

Now that you know how to do the aleknas and a medicine ball variation, what are you waiting for? Get stuck in and see the benefits for yourself!

If you're looking for more bodyweight exercises that you can try out at home, you need to check out our list of the best press up exercises to bulk up your upper body!

Whilst you're here, why not take your passion for health and fitness to the next level by studying our Level 4 Nutrition for Sport course.

Or, download our full prospectus here to learn about the range of courses that you can study with us here at OriGym.

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Abbie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Holding an MA Marketing Communications and Branding as well as a BSc Psychology from the University of Liverpool, Abbie’s experience encompasses the retail, hospitality and fitness industries. Since joining OriGym, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and gone on to complete a specialist qualification in advanced Sports Nutrition. Abbie’s main focuses cover staying up to speed with YouTube fitness influencers, identifying successful and innovative content formats. She has contributed to various publications, including the Daily Express. Beyond OriGym, she describes herself as a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ type going on scenic runs and upbeat exercise classes, and often found on the front row of a Saturday morning spin class. 

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