Building strong abs and obliques is one thing, showing them off is another. Basic ab workouts can become boring and monotonous but can become fun and you can achieve great results with the correct workout for your body type and the correct diet. Variety is the key!
What Feels Right
There are hundreds of different ab workouts that can be modified to challenge any world class bodybuilder. I have a few different "favorite" ab workouts that work best for me, so I just pick and choose, and end up choosing the one that feels the best on any given day. These ab workouts can also be modified to suit the beginner and can be gradually changed to fulfill the needs of the individual, without getting "burnt out" of doing abs.
I have found that different ab workouts and combinations of workouts work better for some people than others. Something that really works well for my body type doesn't work as well for my wife. The trick is to find a few workouts that really work for you.
I believe that for those hardcore bodybuilders, abs can be worked 6-7 times per week. They need to be done at least three to four times a week, I personally don't know hardly anyone that can do less and have awesome abs. I see many people at my gym always skip there abs because they leave them until the end of their workout and then they are tired, hungry and want to go home. This is no excuse in my book, but if you ever have this problem plan your ab workout before your workout and this can help to warm you up for whatever body-part you are working that day.
Cutting Up For Competiton
When I am in the cutting phase of my schedule before my competition, I will do abs twice a day. I will do my first ab workout before or after my regular workout and then I always do 3-4 more sets before bedtime. This is also a good way to burn a few extra calories if you don't mind doing abs.
You can make your ab workout as painful as you want, but it is a matter of will and how bad you want it. I would have to say that abs can be very painful, but they are the most convenient muscle group in the body to workout because you can do them anywhere. Abs can be done in front of the TV (personally one of my favorites!), on vacation or even at work. I can remember going to my grandparent's house in the middle of the country and doing abs twice a day on their basement floor.
How many people end up watching a couple hours of TV at night before bed? I think that this is the easiest time to do abs. If you are strapped for time or just need something extra I will practice flexing my abs and holding it for 30 seconds to a minute at work, or in the car.
My Abdominal History
I consider myself moderately advanced when it comes to my ab workouts and I take them very seriously. I started back before high school when I was in the ninth grade, I worked on them hard but it was not until high school wrestling that I saw a huge change and this made me want to work them even harder. I learned many different ab routines and used them to sculpt my abs the way I imagined them to be. I remember in high school when I would come home after hanging out with my friends and do 300-400 sit ups before I went to bed. Hard work, time and effort are the key to any improvement to your figure.
The cold hard truth of the matter is that genetics play a rather huge role in whether or not your abs will be able to show like you want them to. If you don't have the proper genetics to be a world class bodybuilder don't let this discourage you. Don't blame genetics for an excuse not to do abs altogether. Strong abs are very important for many core lifts and overall good posture, which you might not care much about now but is very important when you get older.
Doing ab exercises will increase the strength in not only your abs and mid section but your lower back too. This is very important to have a strong core section because it acts as a stabilizing muscle for ALL the lifts you do. I personally believe that it is one of the most important groups you can exercise to help you squat more weight.
Great Ab Exercises
STABILTY BALL CRUNCHES
The awesome thing about ab routines is that they can be modified in any way you can imagine. You can take a simple ab workout, for example stability ball crunches, and superset it, add sets, time yourself, or even use weight. I think that stability ball abs is the number one ab workout you can do, no matter what level you are at. They allow for the largest range of motion and you can do less than fifty reps and be sore for a week.
A stability ball is a rubber ball that stands about knee high. It should be placed on the lower back and your feet should not have to be placed under anything to stabilize yourself. If you are moving too much, move the ball further up your back accordingly.
I usually like to superset two to three different ab exercises for three to four sets. One of my favorite workouts is super setting (super setting is doing several different exercises in a row without resting in between) stability ball weighted crunches, bicycles and isolation crunches. For the weighted stability ball crunches I hold a 45 lb plate straight above my head with my arms locked out. I get the biggest range of motion that is possible.
I think that the most important thing that should be done while using the stability ball is holding it for at least one second at the top. This hard flex at the top allows for complete isolation and is the key to this exercise.
If you are just a beginner it is ok to not use any weight but I would still put my hands up in the air, almost completely perpendicular to the ground. Bicycles are a good way to achieve a good burn and to help work lower abs and the obliques as well. To do bicycle abs lay down on your back, hands interlocked behind your head, legs straight down on the ground; alternating legs bring your knee to your opposite arm. Do this back and forth fast enough that your legs really never touch the ground.
Isolation Crunches are extremely painful and work to fully burn out your abs. Simply lie on your back and place your feet on the stability ball, your legs at a 90 degree angle. Interlock your hands behind your head and crunch lifting your shoulders as high as you can (it wont be far). Hold this position for a second or two and then slowly let it down, it should burn and hurt on the way down if you do them right. Doing these extremely slow is the key. You will only need to do ten!
Don't forget to breath! Breathing is extremely important when it comes to abs it will be one of the determining factors if you can do a lot of reps in a row when you become more advanced. I will do three to four sets of this workout. I will do 30 reps on the stability ball and then do 100 bicycles and then 10 isolation crunches. I rest for 1 to 1.5 minutes in between sets.
Hyper obliques are the hardest obliques exercise I have found yet I didn't start them until I learned them playing football for ISU. As you become stronger you can hold a plate in your hands and touch that on the ground.
Some gyms that I have been to don't have a Glut Ham station but I am fortunate that my does. Simply lie sideways on the hyper station making sure that your bottom leg is in front of your top one. Reach down and touch the ground and then extend up and reach for the sky.
This might be uncomfortable on your hip for the first couple of times until you get accustomed to it. I then end with the stability ball and just do enough to get a good burn. I usually like to rest 1 to 1.5 minutes between sets. I will do 3-4 sets of 30 throw downs and then 10-15 hyper obliques on each side, then I will burn out with stability ball and I will do anywhere from 10 to 40.
Another Exercise that I love to do is to superset throw-downs with hyper obliques to stability ball crunches. Throw-downs are one of the best routines besides hanging leg raises to hit those lower abs. While lying down grab your partner's legs as he stands with his feet on both sides of your head. While keeping your legs straight or slightly bent (but locked into place) bring your feet to your partner's chest as fast as you can.
Remember to use your abs as much as you can and don't let your hip flexors and legs do the work. Your partner should then throw your legs down fairly hard. Your partner can also throw every other one to the sides after you get the hang of it. Your feet should barely touch the ground before your bring them up for the next rep.
Two Great Abdominal Routines
Here are a couple of good, solid ab routines I have put together. Remember that you can and should mix it up by throwing in different exercises, timing yourself, and using more weight as you go on. Try these out for starters though ...
Note: Superset these routines using these exercises (or ones you substitute in) for 3 to 4 sets. Take a 1 or 2 minute break in between sets, but not the exercises. Remember your supersetting, which means you do these three exercises in a row, one after the other, with no rest period.
NIC'S KILER AB WORKOUT
|Stability Ball Crunches||25-30 Reps|
|Isolation Crunches||10-20 Reps|
NIC'S LOWER AB AND OBLIQUE WORKOUT
|Lying Throw-Downs||20-30 Reps|
|Hyper Obliques||10-15 Reps|
|Stability Ball Crunches||20-Burnout!|
Time Yourself For Variety
Sometimes when I get tired doing a routine I will just go and grab my kitchen timer off the stove and set it for anywhere from 6-10 minutes and just do as many ab exercises as I can think of in a row until the timer goes off. I will choose an exercise and do it until I can't do anymore then go to the next one until the timer goes off. I will end up doing half a dozen different exercises and then sometimes repeating them if I run out of ideas at that moment.
Finishing It Off With Nutrition
The truth of the matter is that the number one thing you can do for abs is a good diet. In one of my next articles I will talk about dieting and what has worked for me. Dieting is the number one key to showing off your abs. You can do thousands of abs but if you eat crappy and don't watch your carbs and fat your abs wont likely show unless you happen to be a genetic freak.
Lower abs can be very hard to show and may take a while, so don't give up on them just keep working hard. Running is a very good way to work those lower abs and to help your diet shed those unwanted pounds. But I can't reiterate a good diet enough, because it is 99.9% of the work and effort to show those abs that you have been working so hard on.