Many of us dream of having six-pack abs. Well defined and good looking abdominal muscles have become somewhat of a symbol for fitness and being in shape. Sadly, it’s not a simple task to achieve. It takes a good combination of clean dieting, the right exercises, and a solid workout routine to see any real results. In this article, we will focus on the training and workout aspect of getting that six-pack you have always dreamed of.
The anatomy of the abdominal muscles!
When we think or talk about abs, the first thing that comes to mind is a six-pack. But truth be told, there is a lot more hidden under our bellies. Our abdominal muscles actually consist of four different muscles. The “six-pack” is only a small part of our stomach called the rectus abdominis.
Your abdominal muscles consist of:
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- Exterior obliques
- Internal obliques
For training and exercising purposes, the rectus abdominis is often divided into two – the upper and the lower abdominal muscles.
The benefits of training your core and doing ab exercises:
Apart from the fact that trained and defined abdominal muscles make us look good, they also play a much more important role in our lives. There are many benefits that we often don’t think about, for exercising and strengthening your core muscles.
Abs affect our posture! Having weak core- and abdominal muscles can lead to various posture problems, like slouching or hunching. Studies have shown that training your core muscles can hugely improve your posture, your stability, and can help you stand up straight.
Improves your balance! Balance is an important factor for everybody. Having balance and stability issues can have a large effect on our day to day lives. It can affect you even more if you are an athlete or a senior citizen. A strong core will keep your body and torso more stable whenever you move or exercise.
Strong core muscles alleviate back issues. Training your stomach and core will help you relieve back pain and prevent injuries. A strong core is essential for good lower back health. Without strong abs and core muscles, your body will rely more on its bones and ligaments, putting a lot more pressure and stress on those and increasing your chances for injuries and even causing back pain.
It will improve your other lifts. Your core muscles play a huge role in many exercises and lifts. Many compound exercises like the deadlift, overhead press, and squats all put huge pressure on your core muscles and rely heavily on them for stability. Often people plateau or stall at those lifts because of their weak abdominal muscles and core. Training your core muscles will help you overcome your plateau and let you lift heavier weights for more repetitions.
Improves your sport- and athletic performance! Your core muscles play a vital role in many sports such as soccer, football, track and field, fighting sports, etc. Training your abs will increase your flexibility, core stability, endurance, and your core strength, allowing you to generate more power whenever needed. Basically, you use your core muscles in every sport whether you are running, jumping, or throwing. Training and strengthening your core will help you improve in all of them.
It will affect your everyday life! Strong and trained core muscles will greatly improve your daily life. A strong core will make all your daily chores and activities, including working out, much easier, and enjoyable.
It doesn’t matter if we are playing football or cleaning our house, our core and abdominal muscles play a huge role in everything we do. Therefore, training and strengthening your core muscles should not only be the goal for athletes or gym-goers who desire a six-pack, but rather for each of us.
How often and how should you train your abs?
So how often should you train your abs? Their workout frequency is an often-debated question. Almost every gym-rat, trainer, and just about anyone who has ever worked out has a different opinion on it. There are many different theories, opinions, and myths circulating the question. Here are three of the most popular beliefs on how often and how you should train your abs:
- You should train your abs every day. You shouldn’t forget that your abs are muscles, and just like every other muscle in your body, they need to have adequate time to recover. Your abdominal muscles can indeed handle a bit more stress and training than some other large muscle groups, but if you don’t let them rest enough, you will overtrain them.
- To get a visible six-pack, you just need to train more. First, as we talked about in the previous myth- your abs require rest to recover! Secondly, training your abs more will increase the endurance and strength of the muscles, but it won’t burn fat around your waist area. Getting a six-pack starts in the kitchen! The only way to get six-pack abs is to lose some of your body fat. And that can be done by having a decent combination of both diet and training.
- It’s important to keep your repetition range long. Now, this depends a little on your end goal. If your goal is to endurance, then a high rep range is the way to go. If you want to tone or build your muscles, then you should keep the rep range lower and add resistance some other way. But overall, just like with most exercising, you should think of quality over quantity.
In conclusion, how you train your abdominal and core muscles depends on your end goal. If you want to add endurance or to gain an advantage in a sporting event, then more might be better! You should go for both higher rep ranges and more frequent workout sessions. You could even consider doing ab exercises daily (if your body can take it).
If you want to build your ab muscles, then use lower rep ranges, and try to add resistance by making the exercises harder. For example, adding weight and doing weighted ab exercises is a great way to do so. When it comes to frequency of your ab workout routines, then remember that your abs need rest to recover and build muscles. So it would be wise to train your abdominals from 3 to 4 times a week.
13 best Ab Exercises!
There is an almost infinite amount of different exercises for the abdominals, and often those exercises have almost an infinite amount of different variations. You can train your abs at home, at work, in the gym, in a hotel room, outdoors, and well, anywhere you could think of.
It’s important to find the exercises that are best suited for you! The best ab exercises you can do are the ones that are suited for your unique needs and preferences. When you find those perfect exercises, your core workout routine will become the highlight of your day or at least your training session. To help you find the perfect abdominal exercises we, have compiled a list of our favorite and most effective exercises for the abs:
Best Upper Ab Exercises
Sit-Ups are the most well-known and popular ab exercise ever. Everybody who has ever trained their abs has done sit-ups or at least a variation of this exercise. It’s a popular exercise in various physical and fitness tests and it’s used in most schools, sporting organizations, and even in many military units to measure fitness levels.
Sit-ups are great all-around abdominal exercises that work your entire core, but the main focus falls on your upper abdominals. They are one of those exercises that you can do where ever you want. You just need enough space to lie down.
How to do Sit-Ups:
- Lie down flat on your back.
- Bend your knees (At a 90-degree angle)
- Either place your hands behind your head or cross them in front of your chest.
- Crunch your abs and curl your shoulders and then the whole upper body off the ground and towards your knees.
- Either touch your knees with your elbows or lift until you feel pressure in your abdominals.
- Hold for a second.
- Then slowly lower yourself back down, into your starting position.
- Perform the whole exercise in a controlled and slow manner.
- Use a soft yoga mat or something equivalent to make the exercise more comfortable.
- If you find doing sit-ups difficult, ask someone to hold down your legs, or place them behind something. This will make the exercise easier to perform.
- When you place your hands behind your head, don’t pull on your neck or the back of your head.
- When doing sit-up repetitions try not to pounce your body off the ground. Remember to keep your movements controlled.
2. Dumbbell Sit-Ups
Dumbbell sit-ups are a weighted version of the regular sit-ups. Adding weight to sit-ups is a great way to make the movement more difficult and to force your abdominal muscles to work harder.
You don’t really need a dumbbell to do this ab exercise, any other kind of weight will do nicely as well. You can use medicine balls, dumbbells, weight lifting plates, a barbell, etc. If done at home, water bottles or sandbags can be a great weight to use.
You have two options for this weighted ab exercise. First, you can hold the weight at your chest. This is a more comfortable way to perform the exercise. It allows you to use heavier weights, if necessary.
Second, you can hold the weight in your hands. To do so, you would have to keep your hands extended out in front of you while holding the weight in your hands. As you do the sit-up, you move the weight over your head. This variation is physically a lot harder than keeping the weight at your chest.
How To Do Dumbbell Sit-Ups:
- Start by laying down on your back.
- Bend your knees.
- Hold the weight above your chest, with both of your hands extended out.
- Lift your shoulder blades off the ground by using your abdominal muscles.
- Keep your hands always pointing up.
- Lift until you feel your abdominal muscles contract and you feel pressure in them.
- Hold for a second.
- Slowly come back down to your starting position.
The v-up, also known as the jackknife, is a super simple exercise for your abdominal muscles that you can do virtually anywhere. This exercise is a bit more challenging than sit-ups, and it works your whole core, but most of the effort goes on your upper abs.
Ho to do V-Ups:
- Lie down on your back.
- Extend your arms behind your head.
- Keep your legs extended and together.
- In one movement: Crunch your abdominal muscles and lift both your torso and legs up. And touch your toes with your arms.
- Try to hold for a second.
- Return to the starting position.
- Keep your core engaged the whole time.
- Try not to arch your back.
- Don’t initiate the movement with your legs/ lower body.
- Keep all of your movements controlled.
The V-Up has many variations. There are a lot of different ways to modify the initial ab exercise to either make it more challenging or a bit easier. Here are some examples of v-up variations:
- Keeping your hands on your sides. In this variation, you start by lying down with your hands on your sides rather than behind your head. Otherwise, the exercise is the same.
- Keeping your hands and legs extended for the whole exercise. For many, this is the “real” v-up. Rather than trying to touch your toes, you keep your hands extended out so that you form a V at the top.
- Supporting the move with your arms. In this variation, you start with your hands on your side. You don’t lift them off the ground to touch your toes, but you support the whole “lift” with your arms.
- Alternative leg V-Ups. You perform the classic v-up, but with one slight difference- rather than lifting both of your legs and keeping them together, you lift them one at a time.
Best Lower Ab Exercises
4. Leg Raises
Leg raises primarily target your lower abdominal muscles. It’s an excellent and simple ab exercise to add to your training routine. You can perform it almost anywhere, and it doesn’t need any special equipment. All you need is a play to lay on (preferably a yoga mat or soft ground). This exercise is suited for both beginners and more advanced athletes.
How to do Leg Raises:
- Lie flat on your back with your legs extended.
- Keep your hands on your sides.
- Elevate your legs about an inch or two off the ground (and keep them elevated for the whole exercise)
- Lift your legs until there is a 90-degree angle between your body and your legs.
- Lower them slowly to the starting position.
- To make the exercise easier, perform the exercise with your legs on the ground (not elevated).
- To make the exercise even easier, you can keep your hands under your butt, rather than your sides.
- To make the exercise more challenging, you can perform it with weights. You can use ankle weights, dumbbells, or even a medicine ball for it. PS: If you are using a dumbbell or a medicine ball, be extra careful so the weight wouldn’t slip or fall. Keep the whole movement as slow and controlled as possible.
5. Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging Leg raises are much more challenging variations of the regular leg raises. They are quite tough on your abdominals and a super-effective lower ab exercise! To do this exercise, you need to have something to hang from (hence the name hanging leg raises).
How to do Hanging Leg Raises:
- Hang on a pull-up bar or gymnastic rings.
- Start with your body completely straight.
- Raise your legs until they are parallel to the ground.
- Hold for a second.
- Lower your legs to the starting position.
- Do not swing your legs or body.
- Keep the whole exercise slow and controlled
- If you want to make it more challenging, add weights.
Hanging leg raises variations:
Hanging leg raises have a few different variations you could try out to target different angles of your abs or to make the exercise either less or more challenging.
- Doing bent leg raises. Instead of raising your straight legs, you bend your legs and bring them to your chest.
- Weighted leg raises. You can use different kinds of weights or even exercise bands for it.
- Leg raises to your sides. You lift your legs onto your sides, rather than straight up.
- Overhead leg raises. In this variation, you bring your legs all the way above your head.
The scissors are a straight forward ab exercise that focuses on your lower abdominal muscles. It’s a great exercise that really “blasts” your core. In addition to the abdominals, it trains your legs as well.
There are two ways to perform the scissor ab exercise. You can either move your legs up and down or from side to side. The up and down movement puts more load on your lower abs, and the side to side will involve more of your thigh muscles, more precisely your abductor muscles.
How to do the Scissors Ab Exercise:
- Lie on your back with your legs straight.
- Place your hands either on your sides or under your hips.
- Elevate legs off the ground. They should be about 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Keep them elevated for the whole exercise.
- Now either move your extended legs in an up-down pattern or from side to side.
- While doing the exercise, you can vary your movements. For example, you can start by moving your legs up and down and then switch to moving them from side to side.
- To make it more difficult, you can use ankle weights or an exercising band.
Best Overall Ab Exercises
The plank is a popular exercise that is loved by many. It’s a great isometric or static exercise that works your entire core. The main load will fall on your abdominals, but it also trains your back muscles, your hands, and all of your stabilizing muscles.
It’s also an effective lower back exercise to strengthen your back muscles and both prevent and recover from back injuries.
It’s a great and challenging exercise for both beginners and more advanced athletes. And it’s an excellent addition to any workout routine.
How to do The Plank:
- Go into the plank position. Face down, your forearms and toes on the ground.
- Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders, with your forearms facing forward.
- Engage your core muscles.
- Keep your back and well, your whole body straight.
- Keep your head in a stable position looking down.
- Stay in this position for the entire exercise.
- You should hold this position for at least 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes.
- Keep your body and back straight for the entire exercise.
- Don’t move your hips. Also, don’t let them sag and don’t bring them up.
- Don’t tilt your head up. You have to keep it in a straight line with your body. Otherwise, you will place a lot of unnecessary strain on your neck.
- Weighted plank. To make this isometric ab exercise even more challenging, you can place weight on your back while doing it.
- Straight arms. Instead of lying on your elbows and forearms, keep your hands straight and extended, like the starting position for push-ups.
- Change the angle of your arms. To make the plank more challenging, you can bring your elbows a bit more forward.
8. Side Plank
The side plank is basically a variation of the classical plank exercise. Just like with the regular plank, this is a complex isometric exercise that involves many of your muscle groups. But the main focus of this exercise is on the core and ab muscles.
How to do the side plank:
- Start on one of your sides. Your feet should be together, and one of your forearms should be directly below your shoulder.
- Engage your core and ab muscles and lift your hips.
- Your body has to form a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Hold this static position. Hold the position at least 30 seconds and up to 4 minutes.
- You can keep your other hand either on your side or on your hip.
- Don’t swing your hips.
- Keep your body in a straight line for the entire exercise.
- Keep your core and abs engaged and activated.
- Balance yourself on the side of your feet rather than on the sole.
- Don’t forget your other side! You should perform this exercise for both of your sides for the same length of time.
Side Plank Variations:
- Straight arm. Instead of lying on your elbow and forearm, keep your hand straight and extended. So you are supporting your weight with the palm of your hand.
9. Russian Twist
The Russian twist is a simple yet very effective abdominal exercise that works your core, obliques, shoulders, and even hips. It’s popular amongst many athletes, and it is one of my favorite core exercises. It’s also amazing for gaining rotational strength and making your side muscles and obliques work.
How to do the Russian twist:
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight.
- Lean backward a little and elevate your legs off the ground.
- You can bend your legs a little, but you have to keep them in this position for the whole exercise.
- Keep your back straight and your core activated.
- Twist your torso from side to side without moving your legs.
- If you’re a beginner, you can keep your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
- Keep the movement slow and controlled.
- To make the Russian twist more challenging, you can use weights. Hold a dumbbell or a weight lifting plate in your hands while you perform this ab exercise.
10. Mountain Climber
Mountain climber is an excellent ab exercise to add to your workout routine. It’s not just an ab exercise but a whole-body cardio workout that trains and targets different muscles in your body. Mountain climbers are both great for your core strength and endurance.
How to do the mountain climber:
- Go down to the floor into a prone or push-up position, so you are supporting your weight with your hands and feet.
- Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. And your feet slightly apart from each other.
- Keep your back flat and your core engaged and activated.
- Bring your right knee up to your chest, as far as you can go.
- Now switch legs. Pull the right knee out (back into the starting position) and bring your left knee up to your chest.
- Continue this movement for the rest of the exercise.
- Don’t shift your weight.
- Keep your back flat and core activated!
- To make it harder, try adding ankle weights or using resistance bands.
- As a beginner, start by doing the exercise for about 30 seconds at a time. The rest between sets should be about 15 seconds.
12. The Dead Bug
This ab exercise is known worldwide as one of the best core strengthening exercises. Doing the dead bug exercise is a great way to work your abdomen and build core strength and stabilization. It’s also a super simple exercise to perform, and pretty much anyone can do it.
How to do the dead bug
- Lie down on your back.
- Extend your arms out and up. So they are directly above your shoulders.
- Bend and lift your legs. (they should be at a 90-degree angle)
- Engage your core.
- Reach your left hand backward. Move the straight hand above your head. At the same time, lower your opposite leg until its parallel to the floor. (Don’t let it touch the floor, keep it slightly elevated)
- Hold for a second.
- Bring them back into the starting position, and repeat the exercise with your other hand and leg.
- Keep the movement as controlled as possible.
- Keep your feet elevated for the whole exercise.
13. Ab Wheel Rollout
The ab wheel rollout is one of the most physically challenging ab exercises in this article, and possible at all. It’s a complex exercise that involves your whole body. The rollout works your abs, core, back, shoulders, hips, and so on. But the main focus goes on your abs and core.
This is an excellent exercise if you want to challenge yourself or want to add a compound core exercise to your workout routine. The only downside for the rollout is that you need an ab wheel and a stable ground to perform this exercise.
How to do ab wheel rollouts:
- Begin by being on your knees, with your hands straight.
- Grip the wheel.
- Slowly roll forward with the wheel. Keep going until you are parallel with the floor.
- Hold for a second.
- Return to the starting position.
- Keep your core muscles engaged for the entire exercise.
- Keep your hands straight and extended for the whole movement.
- Keep it slow and controlled.
Our abs and core are one of the most important muscle groups in our entire body. They are essential to both sports and athletic performance and for our everyday activities.
Core and abdominal exercises should be part of every workout routine and plan. There are hundreds of different abdominal exercises with even more different modifications and variations to choose from. Whenever adding ab exercises to your workout routine, you should choose and modify them to fit your specific needs.
We at Boost-Up Fitness hope you enjoyed this article and that you found some helpful information for yourself.
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