I’m constantly looking for ways to challenge my abs. I mix it up with a huge variety of bodyweight exercises, but since I’m working towards muscular abs, I need to use weights. Here are my favorite resistance exercises for smokin’ hot abs. Five tips for getting there are at the end of this post.
Weighted Hanging Leg Raise
This exercise is a great all-over abs exercise but especially the lower abs. It can give you a burn without even using a weight, but if you’ve already been doing these awhile, ramp it up and put a dumbbell between your ankles. (Set the dumbbell on the platform, get into position on the Roman chair, and then grab it between your ankles. Make sure the dumbbell has large, round plates, which will help hold it in place.)
Weighted Decline Crunch
Using the decline bench is essential for building ripped upper abs. Crunches are challenging on this bench but you can really take it up a notch by holding a medicine ball, plate, or dumbbell. The demo doesn’t show it, but you can do this exercise as a V-up, raising the weight above your head; you can crunch up with the weight against your chest; or you can twist at the waist with the weight to hit the obliques.
This exercise hits both lower and upper abs with an emphasis on upper abs. All you need is a cable station and a rope. Then, get down on your knees and crunch. You can go heavy on this one but watch your form.
Ab Crunch Machine
Once in awhile I like to use the abs machine just to mix it up!
Stability Ball Weighted Crunch
I couldn’t find a good demo for this so use these instructions and add a weight plate either behind your head or hold at your chest.
This is my favorite oblique exercise. You can use a FreeMotion machine or any cable station in your gym. You can also use a dumbbell for this exercise, holding the dumbbell with both hands.
Another great variation on the woodchopper. See the link for instructions.
Tips for Getting There
Eat clean. According to Tosca Reno, author of the Eat-Clean books, a lean, toned body comes from 80% nutrition, 10% exercise, and 10% genes. (The Eat-Clean Diet is a must read by the way.) Eating clean is a lifestyle!
Do your cardio. It’s a no-brainer that if you want to see your abs you need to keep your body fat low with regular cardio exercise. How much cardio you need depends a great deal on your body type.
Don’t just count reps. As Vince Delmonte says, focus on gorging your muscles with blood, sweating, and getting your heart rate up instead of committing to a certain number of reps. Focus on the experience of challenging your muscles, feel the contraction in the muscle you’re working. To really light a fire in your abs, do a circuit-style workout with back-to-back exercises and very little rest.
Don’t worry about becoming “thick waisted.” You’ll be fine if you don’t go heavy on your oblique muscles (those at the lower sides of your waist) too often; a few sets a week is perfect.
Train your abs like other muscles. Work your abs twice a week and use a weight heavy enough so that you can do 8-12 reps. Why that range? If you want to go heavy, use enough weight to do 8-10 reps. If you want to go lighter, stay in the 10-12 range. Incorporate exercises that hit your upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. However, most abs exercises involve all the muscles so you don’t need to worry about which muscles you’re exercising.