Exercise Tips to Build Abs

The abs are the structural powerhouse of the body. Good posture, force production with sports, and body stabilization are all key components that a strong set of abs can give you. When it comes to building your abs, exercise is a necessity; and there’s more to it than just targeting your stomach.

Whole Abdominal Area

The entire abdominal area consists of the upper abs, lower abs and obliques, which are the muscles on the sides of the ribcage. When it comes to building abs, it is tempting to focus on one area, such as the upper region. To get the best results, you should target each individual section with specific exercises. This can help recruit the most amount of muscle fibers. Reverse crunches, leg lifts, side oblique twists, side plank lifts, stability ball crunches and v-ups are examples.


By far the most important factor involved with building abs is the use of good form. Your movements should be slow and controlled, and you should “squeeze” forcefully with every rep. Performing high reps with sloppy form will yield you very little results. Always choose proper form over high reps. When you first start working your abs, aim for 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, aim for 15 to 20. Once you are able to pull off 20 plus reps of any ab exercise, use external resistance, such as ankle weights, medicine balls, weight plates, barbells and dumbbells.


Abs need to be worked and rested just like any other muscle. If you exercise them every day, you will overtrain your muscles and risk injury. Take at least one day off in between ab workouts and do not work them more than three times a week.

Weight Training

Weight training is an important aspect of ab building. First of all, muscle fiber is metabolically active. Building it can help burn calories and reduce any fat that is on your stomach. Secondly, when you perform free weight exercises with dumbbells, you are forced to contract your core to stabilize your body. You can get an even better effect by doing weight training on a stability ball. By constantly contracting your abs, you get a workout without specific ab exercises.


Cardio does not build abs, but it can burn fat on your stomach. If you have flab on the abs, do cardio three or more days a week for 45 to 60 minutes. To increase the caloric expenditure, do it in an interval format where you alternate back and forth from high to low intensity.


The transversus abdominis (TVA) is an internal abdominal muscle that helps support the spine. This muscle is often not even thought about when it comes to ab training, but it should not be overlooked. You can target this muscle with an exercise called a vacuum. To do this exercise, sit or stand in a comfortable position, exhale the air out of your lungs, draw your navel in toward your backbone and hold as long as possible.

Changing Routines

Performing the same exercises for months on end can lead to boredom and adaptation. Once your abs adapt to a set of exercises, you will not make any further progress. To prevent this from happening, change your exercises every 4 to 6 weeks. This will spark new muscle growth and definition.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.