Abs Workout Training

Overview

Acquiring six-pack abs takes hard work and a well-designed training program. As with any muscle group, perfecting your abs requires a combination of smart exercise, proper nutrition and adequate rest. You’ll also want to vary your abdominal training using weighted and unweighted exercises.

Exercise Types

Sit-ups and crunches are some of the most popular abdominal exercises, but they aren’t your best bets for revealing a six pack. A recent study from the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that core stabilization exercises are actually more effective at activating your abdominal muscles. Core stabilization exercises used in the study included woodchoppers and planks.

To perform woodchoppers, stand up holding a medicine ball or dumbbell down to one side. Slowly bring the weight up and across your body, focusing on initiating the movement with your abdominals. For planks, lie face down, resting your body weight on your forearms. Keep your legs straight out behind you and lift your body up, as if preparing to do a push-up. Instead of continuing down for a push-up, keep your back straight and tighten your abs to hold the position as long as possible.

An analysis of muscle activation from the website Testosterone Muscle indicates that the best ways to work your abs include using an ab-wheel and performing hanging leg raises and bodysaws.

Hanging leg raises are performed on the Roman chair—a piece of equipment with arm rests and a back but no seat. To perform leg raises, support yourself using your forearms on the arm rests and begin with your legs hanging straight down. Slowly raise your legs out in front of you until they are parallel with the ground, then slowly lower them to the starting position. To perform a body saw, begin in the plank position. Instead of remaining still, slide your feet backward to lengthen your body and then bring them forward again, focusing on tightening your abdominals.

Importance of Resistance

Some ab work—sit-ups and crunches—is done with little to no resistance. However, your abs require resistance to provide the stimulus for development. Adding resistance to ab exercises boosted effectiveness significantly. Resistance can be added by using weights or performing exercises on an incline. To add weight for most ab exercises, you can lay a weight plate over your torso. In other cases, using ankle weights may be helpful. If performing hanging leg raises, you can grip a dumbbell with your feet. Testosterone Muscle’s analysis also showed that performing exercises such as crunches on a Swiss ball (a large, bouncy inflatable ball, also known as a Bosu ball) offers a better workout as well.

Cardiovascular Exercise

While muscle growth is an important step in your quest for a six-pack, it’s not the only concern. In order for your abs to be visible, you have to have a low body fat percentage. A great way to burn body fat is through cardiovascular exercise. These activities burn a lot of calories and can help you shed fat. For example, running at a 10-minute mile pace burns just under 900 calories per hour. Meanwhile, rowing with vigorous effort for an hour burns around 1000 calories.

Weight Training

Using weights to exercise muscles other than your abs is also a great way to burn calories and shed body fat. To make the most of your time in the gym, try to perform mostly compound exercises—those that work more than one muscle group at a time. Some great fat-burning resistance exercises include deadlifts, squats, barbell rows, and the clean and press.

Importance of Rest

A common mistake that affects not only the abs but other muscle groups as well is training too often. While your muscles do require a stimulus, or exercise, for growth, they also require rest because exercise doesn’t actually build muscle—it damages it. The trauma of resistance training causes tiny tears in muscle fibers. The body requires nutrients and time to repair these tears and spur growth. The process can take many hours, so it’s best to take one or two days off before training the same muscle group again.

About this Author

Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the “Buffalo News,” the “Daytona Times” and “Natural Muscle Magazine.” Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.