Our Top 4 Exercises For Building Abs

“What’s the best way to get abs?” Not surprisingly, this is a question that we get asked a lot! It’s important to have an understanding about the function of your abs, including where they are, what they do, and how they should be trained for best results.

When we think about the midsection, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is the “six-pack”. However, the core involves many superficial and deep muscles including the front, back and sides of your midsection, which all play a vital role in its function. These muscles work together to stabilise the entire body, assisting with spine stability in a variety of postures and allowing us to flex, side bend, and rotate the trunk. They also protect the abdominal organs!

ANATOMY OF THE CORE

Here’s a quick overview of the anatomy of your core:

Rectus Abdominis

This is the muscle that is better known as the ‘six-pack’. The rectus abdominis starts at the bottom of the sternum and inserts at the pelvis. It helps to flex the spinal column, narrowing the space between the pelvis and the ribs. It is also active during side bending motions and helps stabilise the trunk.

Obliques

There are two sets of obliques, internal and external. The internal obliques originate on the lower ribs and insert on the pubic bone. The external obliques are a layer of muscle over the internal obliques, which also originate on the lower ribs but insert on the hip bones. The oblique muscles work together to allow flexion of the spine, rotation of the torso, sideways bending and compression of the abdomen.

Transverse Abdominis

The deepest layer of abdominal muscles is called the “transversus abdominis.” It wraps around the torso from front to back and from the ribs to the pelvis. This muscle helps with respiration and breathing, stabilises the spine, and helps compress the internal organs. It also helps to support the abdominal wall and compress the abdomen.

Other Core Muscles

These include the erector spinae (the muscles the run along the spine), and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius which all contribute to stabilisation of the core.

HOW TO PROPERLY TRAIN THE ABS

Now that you know a little bit more about the anatomy of the abs, let’s talk about how to train them properly! When it comes to training the abs, many people think that bodyweight exercises with high reps is the way to go. What many fail to realise is that the abs are just like every other muscle in our body and to build and develop the abdominals, it is essential to do weighted abdominal work. This is what will accelerate your results!

When it comes to structuring an effective ab workout, you need to include exercises that target all muscles of the core. It is also important to incorporate stability exercises to ensure the entire core is activated and strengthened.

Plan to train your abs twice per week if you are a beginner to weight training or three times per week if you are at an intermediate or advanced level. It is ideal to plan at least one rest day in between each abdominal workout.

As with training the rest of the muscle groups in the body, progressive overload is essential in building muscle. Your body is continually adapting to the current stimulus you provide it with. As a result, it is important to keep increasing the weight you are using or increase the number of rounds as your strength increases, to ensure the workout remains challenging. Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

Training your abs is required to build them and make them more visible but it won’t reduce the amount of fat covering them. In order to “reveal” your abs you need to reduce your overall body fat by ensuring that you are in a calorie deficit (eating less calories than you are consuming).

OUR FAVOURITE AB EXERCISES

The following are 4 of our favourite exercises for building strong and functional abs. Together, they effectively train and strengthen all of the main muscles of the core!

V-Up


Primary target muscle: Rectis abdominis

How to perform:

  1. Lie on your back and extend your arms behind your head. Keep your feet together and toes pointed. This will be your starting position.
  2. Keep your legs straight and lift them up as you simultaneously raise your upper body off the floor. Keep your core tight as you reach for your toes with your hands.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Note: you can hold a dumbbell in your hands to increase the difficulty.

Cable Crunch


Primary target muscle: Rectis abdominis

How to perform:

  1. Kneel below a high pulley that contains a rope attachment.
  2. Grasp cable rope attachment and lower the rope until your hands are placed next to your face.
  3. Flex your hips slightly and allow the weight to hyperextend the lower back. This will be your starting position.
  4. With the hips stationary, flex the waist as you contract the abs so that the elbows travel towards the middle of the thighs. Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement and hold the contraction for a second.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position as you inhale.
  6. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Tip: Make sure that you keep constant tension on the abs throughout the movement. Also, do not choose a weight so heavy that the lower back handles the brunt of the work.

Russian Twist


Primary target muscle: Internal and external obliques

How to perform:

  1. Lie down on the floor or an exercise mat with your legs fully extended and your upper body upright. Grab a weight plate/medicine ball/kettlebell with both hands out in front of your abdominals with your arms slightly bent.
  2. Cross your legs near your ankles and lift them up off the ground. Your knees should also be bent slightly. Note: Move your upper body back slightly to help keep you balanced turning this exercise. This is the starting position.
  3. Move the plate to the left side and touch the floor with it. Breathe out as you perform that movement.
  4. Come back to the starting position as you breathe in and then repeat the movement but this time to the right side of the body. Tip: Use a slow controlled movement at all times. Jerking motions can injure the back.
  5. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Plank


Primary target muscles: Rectis abdominis, transverse abdominis, erector spinae

How to perform:

  1. Get into a prone position on the floor, supporting your weight on your toes and your forearms. Your arms are bent and directly below the shoulder.
  2. Keep your body straight at all times, and hold this position for the recommended amount of time.

Tip: To increase difficulty, an arm or leg can be raised.

We hope that you found this helpful! Just remember to stay consistent and patient!

Holly & Alana xxx

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