Behind every belly, there's a six-pack just wanting to come out. Maybe you lift heavy and you are very strong, but those stubborn abs just won't show up. Or maybe you're simply looking to grow and define them. Whatever the case, there are 2 steps you must take in order to make sure that you're doing the right ab-splitting exercises, and that you're reducing body fat levels, so that we can actually see those splits.
Many athletes train their core with compound movements. Effective core training consists of three main planes of motion: frontal, transverse, saggital. If done in high intensity circuits, this will also help burn more fat.
And melting fat down is the second most important part of splitting the abs, the first one being training. If you've been training your abs for a while and nothing showed up, it means that there's too much fat covering the abdomen. So, you can train all you want, if you’re not doing something about that fat. I know so many misleading ‘information’ promises targeted fat loss, but in all honesty, you need to accept that it is a full body process.
Abs start showing at about 15% body fat for men and 25% body fat for women. There are many diets that can aid you in reducing your body fat percentage, but you just generally have to:
- Eat healthier meals frequently in smaller portions.
- Gorge on veggies and ensure a high protein intake.
- Avoid sugar drinks and snacks.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Incorporate HIIT sessions in your workout routine.
1. Cable Crunches
A classic ab move, this one one targets the entire rectus abdominis. It's a favorite of those who like to lift, because it's a weighted exercise.
- Kneel below a high pulley.
- Grasp the rope with both of your hands and place the wrists against your head.
- As you flex your hips, allow your lower back to hyper-extend. Assume this as the starting position.
- Hold your hips in place and flex your waist by contracting the abs until your elbows reach the middle of your thighs.
- Do a negative and return to your starting position.
You can do variations of this exercise to target your obliques. For this you would need to do twists: touch your left elbow to your right knee and vice-versa.
2. Russian Twists
A great move to help you target your obliques which are often neglected. You can do this exercise using only your body if you feel it's a bit hard, but if you are confident, do it by holding a weight for resistance.
- Lie on the floor and place your feet under something to hold them in place. Bend you knees.
- Pull your upper body up to a 45 degrees angle. Extend your arms in front of you. Assume this as the starting position.
- With explosive movements, twist your torso to the left, until your arms are parallel with the floor.
- Hold the load for a bit and then move back to the starting position.
- Do the same on the other side and repeat!
3. Hanging Leg Raise
This exercise requires a little bit of stabilization effort. It targets the rectus abdominis, obliques and lower abs. It's another exercise that you can do with or without weights, depending on your strength levels.
- Hold on to a chin-up bar using a shoulder width or slightly wider grip. Hang with arms extended and keep your legs straight down. If you are not used to this exercise, you can bend your knees. Hold your pelvis back a bit and assume starting position.
- Raise your legs until your torso is at a 90 degrees angle, exhale and hold the load.
- Inhale as you return to the starting position.
If you are familiar with this exercise and would like a little bit of challenge doing it, add some weight. Hold a dumbbell in between your feet as you perform it.
4. Barbell Ab Rollout
Designed to strengthen the core, this exercise targets the abdominals, lower back and other stabilizing muscles. It's actually a full upper body exercise, rather than just an ab exercise, because it also focuses on the lats, hams, triceps and delts.
- From a push-up position, grab a barbell (5-10 lbs on each side) or an ab-wheel and assume this as a starting position.
- Keep a slightly arched back, lift your hips and keeping your abs tight, roll the barbell towards your feet.
- Hold for a second at the top and then do a negative by rolling the bar forward to the starting position.
Make sure that you keep proper posture and that you keep your arms perpendicular to the floor as you perform this exercise, otherwise your abs won't get as much work as your shoulders.
Train your abs frequently, about 2 to 3 times a week. Also be very cautious of what you eat and focus on reducing body fat so that your abdominals would show. Gradually increase the weight you use and alternate between bodyweight and weights. Try increasing the number of reps and make sure you rest between circuits.
An ab circuit can look like this:
- Cable Crunches - 1 set x 10 reps
- Hanging Leg Raises - 1 set x 15 reps
- Barbell Ab Rollout - to failure.
Practice makes perfect! And abs are pretty stubborn. While you can develop them pretty easily, it's a bit harder to make them show. That is why you cannot neglect a proper diet, no matter how hard you train. Try to reduce your body fat to 15%-25% with clean eating and with proper targeted training. Your results will be amazing! What are your favorite abs exercises? Let us know!