The 5 Best Ab Exercises You Can Do
These five ab movements are more effective than any crunch or sit up.
And so it begins… Summer is around the corner and we’re already starting to see articles and ads for 7 day ab transformations.
“Do a 100 sit ups or ab crunches a day and you’ll start to see a rippling 6 pack.”
Hopefully by now you’ve cottoned on to the fact that these are just gimmicks full of empty promises, but when you’ve only got a short amount of time to prep for a holiday, the temptation is there.
Here’s the truth about abs and getting a 6 pack
For many of us, ab training means doing a few sit ups or bicycle crunches at the end of a workout thinking that abs will be coming in time for summer… usually ending up in summer arriving and the abs being left behind.
Let’s be 100% honest here, you’ll never see your abs if your body fat isn’t low enough to see them, no matter how many ab crunches or sit ups you do (but this is something coaches fail to tell you!)
Everyone is different but generally speaking your body fat needs to be between 7-15% to even see a single ab.
The second thing to mention is that nutrition is king and there is no denying it. Again, if your nutrition isn’t on point, and your body fat is too high, you won’t be seeing your abs at all.
Even if it was possible to get a washboard stomach or abs from certain core exercises, crunches and sit ups would be some of our least favourite.
Number 1 because they’re not the most effective for strengthening your abs and number 2 they will actually increase chance of injury. Consider this, you sit down the majority of your day which leaves your body in a spinal flexion position, you go to the gym to train more flexion dominant exercises placing more strain on the lower back… need we say more.
There are better ways to train abs, increase performance in sport and become pain free. Trust me, it’s time to break free from your usual crunch-heavy routine.
Try these 5 ab exercises instead:
These exercises can be hit in one circuit, which will take roughly 10-15 minutes for 3 rounds.
Exercise 1: Side Plank
The obliques (muscles on the side of the waistline) not only play a role in creating a sexy slim waistline, but they play a crucial role in helping to stabilise the spine. It would therefore make sense to ensure that they are working correctly. When performing the side plank, rather than holding for time, you are better off holding for extended periods of breaths, 10-20 breaths and advancing the exercise using bands and rotations to target the obliques.
How to side plank:
Lie down on one side,
Place the elbow under the shoulder so it’s in one line
Keep the legs straight with the knees locked and place the top foot over the bottom foot
Once ready push yourself up onto the side with the hand facing down pressing the floor away as hard as you can which will engage the lats. This creates more stability and tension around the spine and increase intensity in the obliques.
2 Variations you can use:
Side Plank with Rotation
Side Plank with Cable Pull
Recommend rep range:
8-10 breaths each side for 3 – 5 sets
Target areas: The obliques (waistline muscles)
Exercise 2: Stir the Pot
Once you have your body fat under control, talk about washboard abs and creating superior core stiffness and strength, stir the pot is a fantastic exercise that makes the plank much more dynamic and relevant to everyday life (twisting and turning.) Keeping in tension and focus on your breathing during the exercise is key.
How to set up:
Get into a plank position on the ball with a neutral spine
The movement comes from the elbows, maintain hip position not allowing them to shift.
Clockwise rotation 10-15 both ways
10 reps forward and backwards then 10 side to side
Rep Ranges: 10 circular rotation both ways 10 forward and back, 10 side to side x 3 – 5 sets
Target areas: The TVA (underline muscle that supports the spine) obliques (Waistline muscle) rectus abs (the washboard) intercostals (upper rib muscles)
Exercise 3: Straight Arm Planche Progressions
Moving along from the normal plank, let’s advance this to the next level. Assuming you can hold over 30-60 seconds in a normal plank from the elbows let’s take it to straight arms with a lean.
The idea here is to lean the shoulders over the wrists as much as possible to create more tension in the abs and the arms. This will not only leave you with stronger arms, but also stronger abs.
How to set up:
Assume a push up position
Press the floor away as hard as you can
Tuck the tummy under engaging your abs and squeezing the bum
Point the toes to the floor like a ballerina
Lean the shoulders over the wrists as far as you can.
Constantly squeezing the glutes and engaging the abs whilst pressing the floor away.
Rep Ranges: 30-60 seconds for 3-5 sets
Target areas, Shoulders, triceps, lats, rectus abs, obliques, lower abs.
Exercise 4: The Pallof Press
As mentioned earlier – the importance of stronger obliques. The pallof press should be bread and butter for creating stronger obliques and what’s also known as core stiffness, which protects the spine. The pallof press is a simple set up can be done on a cable machine or at home with some resistance bands.
How to set up:
Grab the cable or band creating tension
Stand side onto the band/cable
Holding the cable/band at chest height push the band out locking the elbows out whilst keeping the shoulder down.
Using breath take a big inhale through the nose, holding the breath as you press out and breath out as you bring the cable back in
Rep ranges: 8-10 reps for 3-5 sets
Target areas: TVA and obliques.
Exercise 5: The Bear Crawl
Since we have been talking about dynamic exercises and creating strong stability around the spine whilst maximising tension around the abs to create (with sufficient body fat levels) washboard abs, I think the bear crawl is a strong way to train your whole body and whilst also targeting the abs, you are going to burn more calories than holding a plank. You will also use more muscle groups all whilst still training the abs!
How to set up:
Set up wrists in line with the shoulders and knees in line with the hips
Keep the knees as close to the floor as possible whilst walking
Take smaller faster steps rather than bigger reaching steps
Press the floor away as hard as you can this will create more tension in the abs
Rep ranges: 20-40 metre walks x 3-4 sets
Target area: Shoulders, triceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs.
How to Do AB Exercises
There are 5 of our favourite ab exercises that you’ll frequently see in our programmes at Foundry, however, whilst they’re very effective, remember that your body fat percentage will be the biggest determination as to whether or not you have visible abs!
Our mission is to help people live their best lives outside of the gym by providing the best possible standards of personal training in the gym.
- The Best AB Exercises To Get a 6 Pack
- Pallof Press: Benefits, Exercise & Variations
- So You Can Hold a Plank For 3 Minutes?
- Exercises To Help You Get A Well Conditioned Core
- Our Top Five ‘Core’ Training Tips