Friday, November 2, 2007

Work Those Abs

In the previous article, Get Those Abs On Track, I wrote about the three most important components to achieving a "six pack". In this article, I will expand on the previous article information by addressing more specific information regarding what exercises are most beneficial to achieving your goal. There is no doubt that if you have the discipline to incorporate good eating habits and if you add systematic cardio and resistance training to your workout, you can get those "six pack" abs you've always wanted.

The best approach for successful resistance training of the abs is to work the abs from different angles. Be sure to train the inner, outer, and whole midsection area. Be slow and methodical while doing ab exercises. If you can do hundreds of crunches, chances are you are not applying correct form and technique or enough mental focus to make it more challenging. Fifteen to 25 repetitions should be enough with perhaps two to three sets with a little rest in between. And give your midsection enough time in between workouts to fully recover before the next time. Working the abs every day will only fatigue the muscles to the point that they will not respond as well to over-stimulation, thus defeating the purpose of doing the exercises. In addition, if you build too much strength in the abs, it could lead to tightness in the frontal torso, which in turn can cause postural distortions. Low back pain can often accompany this condition.

You can choose from numerous exercises in the bodybuilding database at

Inner Abdominal Exercises

Plank (Bridge)

To perform a prone bridge, kneel down resting upon your forearms and knees. Draw your stomach in and up while keeping your back flat, then hold this position for thirty to sixty seconds. Ensure you don't flex or extend your spine, but rather hold a neutral spine position throughout. You should feel a burning sensation deep in your stomach, this indicates you are doing the exercise correctly and working the correct muscle.

Straight Line Plank

Once you can do ninety seconds perform the exercise off your forearms and toes, so there is a straight line formed from your body running from your shoulders down to your feet.

One-Legged Plank

To make the exercise harder still you can decrease the base or points of support. Try to hold the same position but raise one foot of the ground. If you can do this, raise one foot and the opposite arm so you're only resting on diagonal opposite arm and leg.

Side Bridge

This is performed as the plank above but rather than resting on your arms face down you turn so you are supported on the side of one foot and one arm facing to the side. The easier version of this exercise is to rest on your forearm and by bending your legs to ninety degrees resting on the side of your knee.

Outer Abdominal Exercises

Ab Curl (Crunch)

To perform the Ab curl (crunch) lay face up on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. To reduce the stress on your neck, pick a point on the ceiling and stare at it through out the exercise. The easiest position has your arms straight and your hands on your thighs. Begin by bringing your shoulders and upper body off of the ground to the highest point before your lower back comes of the ground (around thirty degrees of flexion), pause and slowly lower back down. Repeat. To make the exercise more demanding start to bring your arms further towards your head to increase the mechanical loading on the stomach. Either hands across your chest, hands by the side of your head, or arms extended beyond your head with your arms in line with your ears. These are the choices before you have to add weight to increase the intensity.

Oblique Curls

This exercise is very similar to the ab curl, however, instead of just curling up you rotate slightly and bring just one shoulder off the ground and bring your shoulder towards the opposite knee. Often individuals forget that the shoulder is where the movement should come from and will just bring their elbows towards the opposite knee for maximal oblique stimulation. Don't be one of those individuals. Focus on bringing the shoulder up and across.


The following whole unit exercises are demanding and definitely fall into the advanced category. To ensure you have the prerequisite strength I suggest trying this little test. Lay supine (face up) on an exercise mat without crossing your feet, raise your legs up so there's a ninety degree angle at your hips. While lying in this position activate your TVA (transverse abdominis) by tensing your stomach so your lower back presses down on the mat and your spine flattens out from its normal arch. Put your hand on the mat so you can feel your lower back and ensure its touching the ground. If you can get your hand between the mat and your lower back you're not activating your TVA (transverse abdominis). Keeping your legs straight slowly lower them to the ground, if at any point your lower back comes off the ground you are not strong enough to perform the next series of exercises. For those of you who can virtually lower your legs to the ground while keeping your lower back depressed, read on.

Whole Abdominal Exercises (Midsection)

Sprinter Sit-Ups

This movement calls for simultaneous spine flexion and rotation as well as hip flexion and a whole lot of stabilization to boot. Lay supine on a mat with your legs out straight. Simultaneously sit up and rotate to one side as well as hip flexing the opposite leg so you bring the contra-lateral knee toward the side your rotating. What you end up doing is a sit-up with extra oblique and hip flexor work, but because of the stabilization required your TVA (transverse abdominis) should work overtime.

Press Up Point Supermans

To get into the start position get down into a press up position with your arms full extended. Keep your stomach tense throughout to maintain a neutral spine position. Simultaneously raise one arm and the diagonally opposite leg until they are in line with your body. Lower and repeat. The key to this exercise is to keep your back in a neutral position and avoid any rotation. You should be able to rest a broomstick on your back throughout without it falling off and maintaining contact with your hips, mid back and the back of your head. This will ensure you'r maintaining the correct anatomical position throughout. You can either do all the reps for one side first or alternate side's rep for rep.

Russian Twists

This exercise is a killer for your obliques when done properly. Start off in a sit up position, fully complete. Keeping your midsection tight and spine in a neutral position sit back until your upper body is at a forty-five degree angle from the ground. This is the start position. Extend your arms straight out so they are in line with your chest. Maintaining the position above, rotate your upper body at the waist so you are facing side on, slowly rotate back and go the opposite direction. If this is easy hold on to a small dumbbell or weight plate.


Adrian Bryant said...


The The best ab exercise that helped me get a six pack was reverse vurls

Basically - you setup a incline bench and put your hands where you put your feet and 'reverse' curl your legs ups to your chest said...

thanks for your comment :)

Rich said...

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I think it would be beneficial for us to do a blogroll link exchange, if you're interested. If so, please let me know what anchor text you'd like me to use,
and I can put your link up right away.

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charleston personal trainer said...

Great moves but it is also important to mention that no matter how great your workouts are, you can't spot reduce fat and it takes a balanced proper diet. Nutrition is so important but because think that exercise alone will give results.

charleston personal trainer said...

I love planks... plank holds are my favorite in push-up position. I am also a fan of the ab roller, but I don't recommend it for people with bad backs.

Anonymous said...

some of those ab excercises look very difficult, isn't the real secret to a sixpack low bodyfat ? said...

yes, but some form of exercise regimen has to be incorporated as well.

Music Therapy said...

This is wonderful-all of the pictures are really helpful to visualize.