Since we’re fed images of ripped models and athletes by the media, we may be cornered into thinking a six-pack is the ideal. But for most of us, abs training means achieving a strong, protective core along with a body composition we’re comfortable with.
Yes, I am talking about your “core” here, not just your abs. The term “core” is used to define the area that controls our center of gravity – the abs, lower back, glutes, lats, and hips –the stabilization and movement center of your body. A weak core can cause other muscles to overcompensate, work inefficiently, and, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
“A weak core is a fundamental problem that causes inefficient movement and can lead to predictable patterns of injury.”
Do you have low-back pain? Studies show that people with chronic low back pain (85% of U.S. adults) have weak core stabilization muscles. You need your core muscles to be endurance rock stars to protect your back, and this means integrating plenty of stabilization exercises into your workout. Letting your body be unstable and fighting against gravity is one of the best things you can do for your body.
This should all be enough reason to strengthen your core. But you also want them to look good, right?
What Does Ab Definition Mean to YOU?
There’s nothing wrong with simply wanting to look good in clothes while not having an obvious pooch. Seeing ab definition is hard to attain and maintain; even fitness competitors lean out close to competition and don’t have perfect abs year round. Seeing abs definition also has to do with genetics – you may need to have extremely low body fat to see your lower abs. And a six-pack isn’t just about abs training; you have to follow a strict clean eating diet to see your abs.
So if being strong and having some upper ab and oblique definition is what you want, you’ll need to dedicate some abs training to strengthening your stabilization muscles and a clean diet.
Abs Training Protocol
Most of the following exercises train your entire core, not just your abs. Train your abs as you would any muscle group, leaving a day of rest in between.
Tip: Use the drawing-in maneuver to increase pelvic stabilization and protect your lower back. Draw in the area just below your naval into your spine when you perform these exercises and throughout the day.
If you’re new to training, do one to two sets for 10-15 reps, working up to three sets.
- Plank. Start with knees on floor, progressing to toes.
- Floor Bridge. More on progressions HERE.
- Reverse Crunch
- Oblique Crunch
If you’ve been working out at least six months and lift weights, perform two sets each for 20-30 reps.
- Back Extension. Works low back, hamstrings, and glutes – thus your core.
- Side Plank (obliques). These are harder than regular planks but are very effective at firming up your sides.
- Woodchop (obliques – medicine ball or cable). You can also do this side-to-side.
- Hanging Leg Raise. Can progress to straight legs.
If you’ve been working out consistently for at least a year and don’t have low-back problems, perform three sets of each for 15-20 reps.
- Medicine Ball Pullover Throw. Some gyms have a machine you can use for this.
- Rotation Chest Pass (obliques)
- Exercise Ball Pull-in
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.