If you ask the majority of people what they’d rather have, great abs or the freedom of choice when it comes to food, they’d usually choose the latter. If you asked the same question about having a strong Core, well, ‘that’s the same thing right?’
When it comes to abs, having a tight midsection is a bi-product of numerous factors, those of which do require discipline, but considering that the ‘6 pack muscles’ can only really be seen at a certain body-fat % are they really worth training?
The superficial –those closest to the surface of the body– abdominal muscles are trained just like any other, although their visual development can be deceiving to often weaker, deep rooted core muscles pertaining postural balance and healthy movement.
Lets start with the ABS,
Can you ‘contract’ them?
Can you target specific areas?
Do you feel like you’ve worked them the following day?
As much as I am always going to encourage doing more of something IF it serves a purpose, reflect on whether this extra twenty minutes in the gym can be utilised more effectively. Focus on your CORE* until you can answer YES to all three
Just like any other muscle group, sound abdominal training should involve focusing on the concentric part of the movement,
breathing IN as you would before submerging into water
bracing as you would receive a punch to the stomach.
When it comes to breathing OUT, contract your abs and exhale sharply to complete the movement.
Breathing with intent during the crunch of the movement will determine the difference between merely doing 1000’s of sit-ups and actively engaging your stomach muscles as they should be.
Do you have tightness in your lower back?
Chances are, anterior weakness in the midsection, especially after prolonged periods of sitting with a rounded –kyphotic– posture presents more stress to the lower back than necessary,
strength to the front is strength to the back.
My top 4 exercises for abs along with the fundamental progress points that must be mastered beforehand
Twisting/Knee raise on parallel bars 15 side/ 15 middle/ 15 side
Lying knee raise 45 rep total
Partial into full rollouts
4×20 rollouts from knees
The ‘rolling’ plank
3-5 minute plank all sides
Cable crunches – all sides
4×20 weighted decline crunches
Performing each of these exercises regularly or even as part of a short 4 exercise circuit together will certainly strengthen your abs, but they will need just as much time to recover as any other muscle. If you were to do 20/30 minutes of ab training every 2 days, try to avoid doing them before a leg or a heavy compound lift day, if you cannot squeeze them into your routine aside these factors, do them at the end as opposed to before.
Look out for my next posts ‘Is Caffeine killing your appetite?’ and further videos on my Instagram for Core basics and Core progressions.