With the sun finally edging closer to the northern hemisphere, it’s time to shed the fat accumulated during hibernation and work up those abdominals. Whether you’re just starting out, or would simply like to see more progress from your ab workouts, the following information can help steer you in the right direction.
Ab Workout Frequency
Before moving on to discussing the 10 most effective ab workouts, it’s important to look at a few fundamentals when it comes to your mid-section. First of all, many people try workout their abs every day when really they should be treated like any muscle group and given time to repair and strengthen. Overworking won’t do you any favors. However, when it comes to how often to workout, some people get by with one ab session a week, while others train their abs two or three times per week. Experiment to find out what works best for you.
Best Rep Range and Isolation Techniques
Generally, when using a machine or weight it’s best to aim for 8-12 reps when working out your abdominal muscles. However, for endurance type exercises such as crunches, ab rollers, planks and such, you’ll probably automatically go for the maximum reps you can push out per set – or in the case of plank based exercises – a longer time. As for isolating the abdominals, remember to really focus on the muscle group when performing your exercises. You should also do this with other exercises such as squats, lat pulldowns and others. Core strength is important in a variety of movements.
Find Out What Works
As with most things body related, everyone is different. The best approach to any abdominal workout (and other exercises for that matter) is to try different exercises to see what works for you. Choose exercises that get you excited about starting your routine, and ideally ones that make you feel like you’ve been gut punched the next day. Mix it up though. Bodybuilding is all about hitting muscle groups from different angles (the abdominals consist of multiple muscles after all). Always watch your form and know the difference between good pain and bad pain.
Top 10 Ab Workouts
- One-Arm Medicine Ball Slam – This one was top of the list as it’s a fun abdominal workout. Start with a staggered position and using one hand raise the medicine ball above your head (same side as your back leg) and slam it down to the ground. Lift the ball with the first bounce and repeat – remember to extend through your hips and knees when rising, and flex your shoulders, spin and hips when throwing the ball. Alternate left and right sides and contract your abs while slamming the ball.
- Weighted Suitcase Crunch – This exercise involves lying flat out on the floor with straight legs and your arms extended behind your head supporting a medicine ball. Perform a crunch motion by bringing your legs and arms up at the same time, touching your feet or ankles with the medicine ball. Perform this exercise slowly.
- Decline Reverse Bench – This exercise is performed by lying down (face up) on a decline bench, holding the top of the bench with both hands behind you, and your legs parallel to the floor. You’ll then need to bring your legs straight up, raising your hips off the bench as you roll your pelvis. Hold for one contraction and return slowly.
- Cable Crunch – The cable crunch is an old favorite and involves kneeling in front of a high cable pulley machine with a rope attachment. Using both hands bring the rope so your hands are next to your face. With your hips stationary, bend at the waist while contracting your abs so your elbows are brought down to the middle of your thighs and return slowly. Remember to keep the abs contracted the whole time this exercise is performed.
- Oblique Cable Crunch – This exercise is performed similar to the last one, except as you contract your abs and bend at the waist, bring your elbow to the opposite thigh. Alternate this exercise, pausing at the bottom of the motion.
- Ab Roller – The ab roller exercise has become quite popular in recent years and is a great all round ab workout. Start the exercise in a kneeling push up position, hold the ab roller right in front of you. Slowly roll the ab roller straight forward, stretching out your body. Go down as far as possible without touching the floor with your body and return. Keep your abs contracted during the whole movement. If you don’t have an ab roller, this exercise can be performed with a barbell.
- Exercise Ball Pull-In – This exercise is performed in a push up position, with your lower shins on top of an exercise ball. Start this exercise with your legs fully extended, pulling them in toward your chest while squeezing your abs. Hold for a second before returning to the start position. It’s important to keep your back straight during this exercise.
- ¾ Sit Up – This classic sit up is hard to beat. Lie down on the floor with your feet secured. Your legs should be bent at the knees. With your hands gently touching the sides of your head, start the exercise with your back on the floor. Flex your hips and spine, bringing your body toward your knees. Reverse the motion stopping ¾ of the way. Movements should be slow and controlled.
- Hanging Leg Raise – This exercise involves hanging from a pull up bar. Your starting position will be hanging with straight arms and legs. Raise your legs into a 90-degree angle, holding the contraction briefly before returning. Concentrate on the abdominals during the whole exercise. Variations of this exercise include the gorilla chin, hanging pike and hanging oblique knee raises.
- Plank Variations – The plank is a versatile exercise that is great for building core strength. You can remain in the standard plank position for a minute at a time to build the core, or mix it with exercises – such as walking from your forearms up to a push up position and back again, alternating knee contractions (bringing your knee to your chest one at a time), and others.
Remember that there are countless exercises you can perform during your ab workouts. If you perform any ab exercises that you swear by which haven’t been listed above, let us know in the comments below. Lastly, don’t forget cardio and a correct diet – no one will be able to see your abs if you have a layer of fat covering them!