People often wonder what the best way to work the abdominal muscles is. There are plenty of routines out there, odd devices, and strange programs on the market all with the goal of getting your abdominals into shape. How can you figure out what works?
Obviously trying every single program takes a long time. Instead of taking the time to do all of that, why not see what we have come up with after trying tons of programs over the years?
The Proper Program
Before we get to specific exercises, let’s look at how you should plan your program. The abdominal muscles are just like other muscle groups and should be trained with a few days of rest in between. Some people think that working abs daily or four times per week is acceptable, but really two times is great and three times should be the maximum.
Next, when do you work them? The best idea is to either do them first in your workout or just do them completely separately. If you have the time, first thing in the morning is a great time. Along with helping get the blood flowing, it also makes you mindful of your fitness goals and can even help with posture.
Why first in a workout? The obvious answer is energy and focus. If you want a great set of abdominal muscles, you need to prioritize them.
Finally, how do you work the abdominal muscles? While straight sets used to be all the rage in more of a typical bodybuilder format, it has been shown that a circuit routine is much more effective. As you move from one exercise to the next with literally no rest in between you are keeping more tension on the muscles which makes the work harder. Plus there is the added bonus of more calories burned from doing the circuit which helps burn fat off to show off those abs!
So how do you pick the exercises to properly work the abdominals? The beauty of a circuit routine is that you have variety. One of the best methods is to make a small pool of exercises and then draw from the pool during each session. Exercises should be grouped based on type such as upper abs, lower abs, oblique muscles, and even general core work.
For each workout you do, look to focus on one particular area of the abdominals during the workout. Take two exercises from the focus section and one from each of the others to create your circuit.
For example your exercise list might include: Swiss ball crunches, leg raises, jack-knife crunches, side crunches, toe kicks, front planks, side planks, roll-up crunches. Then your circuit could be: front plank, Swiss ball crunches, leg raises, side crunches, and side planks. Pick exercises you like and that really hit the abs.
Now that you have the program created you need to do the actual work. For abdominal muscles a huge key for working them is making sure you feel them engaged. If you are feeling an exercise then you might not be activating the abdominal muscles properly and instead are using momentum or the hip flexors instead. So how do you learn to feel it?
The first step is to slow down. When you work a muscle slowly it is much easier to feel if it is engaging because you keep more tension on it. Next you need to focus your breathing. You should always exhale completely on the contraction. By getting all the air out it allows for a tighter contraction.
So now you have the tools to work your abdominal muscles. Craft a program of exercises that you enjoy and are effective then get to it!