When training for abs, keep these do's and don'ts at the forefront of your mind. They cannot be separated from the work you are putting in at the gym. Now that you are equipped with these essential tips for trimming your waist, it's important that you are doing the best exercises for muscle growth. Let's take a look at the top 5 ab exercises that made the list in terms of effectiveness for sculpting your midsection.
1. PLANK- 3 sets of 60 seconds.
The plank exercise is great for conditioning your core, helps to improve your posture and balance, not to mention also works your glutes and hamstrings (butt and back of legs). Having to hold the position for a length of time improves your muscular endurance and this exercise activates 130% more muscles in your abdomen than a regular crunch.
How to: Start in a prone position (stomach to floor) on your elbows, knees and toes. Make sure that your elbows are aligned with your shoulders. Lift your body weight off your knees while balancing and holding your weight on your elbows and toes. Tuck in and tighten your abdomen to make sure you are not rounding your back, sticking your butt in the air, or allowing your stomach to dip too close to the floor.
Increase difficulty: Widen feet and reach forward while holding the position. Try to keep your hips from tilting or swaying.
Variations: Spiderman Plank Crunch, Moving Plank
2. SIDE PLANK - 3 sets of 60 seconds per side.
Similar to the regular plank, the side plank helps to correct imbalances and weaknesses in the body. It is an effective exercise because it works not only the abs but also the legs, upper body and lower back.
How to: You must be on your side with ankle, hip, and shoulder in line. Lift your body weight off the ground and balance on your elbow.
Increase difficulty: You can raise your top leg so that it is parallel to the floor while holding your other arm straight in the air. Also, you can try a moving side plank, where you use your free arm to conduct a sweeping or 'reaching' motion underneath your torso and back out into full extension in the air.
3. HANGING KNEE RAISE - 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
This exercise is great for working your lower abs, however keep in mind it's a tough one and your form must be good for it to be effective.
How to: For this exercise, you will need to have access to a structure to hang from, such as a horizontal pole. Grab the bar with a shoulder width grip and let your body hang down, legs straight. Make sure the momentum is gone and your body is not swinging prior to starting the exercise. Keep a proper posture in your shoulders and back, while raising your knees past your mid section, then lower them back down to starting position. The movement should be slowed down to avoid any swinging, and your knees must pass your hips or you will only be activating your hip flexors.
Increase difficulty: Straighten out legs fully or alternate between lifting the left and right. Place a dumbbell between the legs for added resistance.
Variation: Side to side knee raises will allow you to target your obliques.
4. BICYCLE CRUNCH - 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions per side.
This ab exercise comes the closest to targeting all 3 muscles as it combines a regular crunch (rectus abdominus), reverse crunch (lower abs), and oblique twist (obliques).
How to: Start by lying in a supine position (on your back) on the floor. The motion of this exercise mimics the pedaling of a bike, hence it's name. Bring your right knee up off the ground and move it towards your left elbow followed immediately by bringing your left knee up towards your right elbow.
5. SWISS BALL ROLLOUT - 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
This exercise mimics the Ab Wheel rollout, however it is easier and often safer for the lower back. It works primarily your rectus abdominus. Training with swiss balls allow you to work your stabilizer muscles while strengthening your core at the same time. It will also help you to improve during your plank exercise.
How to: Start by kneeling on the floor facing the swiss ball. You should be within arms reach, with your arms straightened in front of your body and resting on the ball (you can keep a slight bend in your elbows). Lean forward (as far as you can go) while rolling your arms out over the ball, then raise your body back up by pulling your arms back until you are upright and again in the starting position.
Increase difficulty: The more your roll your body out into extension, the more challenging the exercise becomes. You will need to have a strong core for this or you risk injuring your back from the strain of supporting your body weight.
Variation: If you roll out on an angle (about 45 degrees), you can also target your obliques.
As we previously mentioned, knowledge is key when it comes to getting abs. However, no amount of knowledge will be able to help you reach your goals unless you are prepared to put in the effort. There is no perfect or singular formula or approach to getting the abs you always wanted - it is a combination approach. Remember, getting and maintaining a six pack can be hard work, so set realistic expectations for yourself and define the type of abs you will be satisfied with. Most importantly of all, have fun with it!!