All to often I hear the question “Coach, whats the best ab exercises I can do?” One out of every 25 times I hear this I feel the person means they want stronger abs for something valuable. Unfortunately, the other 24 times I know they just don’t know how to ask “Coach, how do I get my abs to show.” As I’ve gotten older, and a little more tactful I no longer answer “Don’t be fat.” to the second group of people.
But simply put, you can google, bing, wiki, and youtube every ab exercise known to man, but if you’re carrying excess bodyfat, that desired six pack will never come knocking at your front door. In 2009 I did a novice bodybuilding show, and in my five month preparation I did abs a max of 10 times. Sure, they were in my program, but I always neglected to do them because I had more valuable things to work on, and you know what, since I never missed a cardio session, and followed my diet, I had a ripped six pack on stage.
Why, might you ask are these the top seven ab exercises nobody cares about? Because nobody ever asks for ab exercises to help them improve their performance, and the following list is built exactly for that. I don’t care to do them for a six pack I can oil up in my bathroom while I take selfies to up my “likes” on Instagram. I do them to improve my overall core strength and performance.
So without further ado here are my top 7 ab exercises…
Don’t be fat. As mentioned earlier, the abs are already there, you’ve just put them in protective custody. Shed some pounds and they won’t be so shy. Remember that skinny kid in high school that never had A. a shirt on, B. any muscles, C. any body fat? Everyone called him “ripped” because he had abs. They’re there, just uncover them.
Squat. This is always my go to answer when I want to be facetious, but in reality it’s truly one of the best things you can do for a strong core. When squatting, your abs (rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques) are used to stabilize your core to keep you erect (along with your erectors). Even squatting reps at a light weight will do more for your abs than a bunch of crunches.
Planks. Talk about bang for your buck… and no excuses to not do it. Don’t need a gym, equipment, or much time even! Just set up in the pushup position with the body’s weight supported with your forearms, elbows and toes. In doing so you’re using your erectors, rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis… with helps from your delts, traps, glutes, pecs and quads.
Weighted Crunches.Advantage of crunches over sit ups are that you’re focusing solely on your abdominals, and not recruiting any hip flexors or quads (which are already tight in most lifters and don’t need the extra work usually). Reason for doing them weighted is the same reason we bench press instead of doing pushups our whole life, eventually you need to add weight as the body will adapt to the work being done. Simply lay on the floor with a dumbbell on your chest, legs bent at the knees,, feet shoulder width and flat on the floor.Raise your head and shoulders from the floor to feel your abdominal muscles contract.
Standing Cable Crunches.Position back against thigh pads on cable pull down with shoulders back and knees slightly bent. Place both cable ropes over your shoulders, hold them and pull tight. Flex at the waist so torso pulls forward and downward. Advantage here is the added resistance throughout each rep.
Hanging Knee Raise. Grab a pullup bar roughly shoulder width and hang from the bar with your knees together and bent at waist height. Turn your toes inwards. Now imagine you have no legs and try to tilt your pelvis as high as you can, by pulling your hips up and in, then lower knees back to waist level.
Ab Wheel Rollouts.Kneel on the floor (on a mat for comfort) and grasp the wheel. Position it near the front of your knees and lean over it with your arms straight. From here move your hips forward and extend your arms forward, try to roll out as far as possible. Raise your body back by flexing your hips and pulling your ass back, your arms will naturally move back to starting position. Don’t try to control the movement with your arms as you’ll get more lat and serratus work done than abdominal.