Abdominal muscles – simply called ABS are located in front of our body around the belly. They cover and protect our internal organs and also keep the whole body upright.
Front part of abs is made of 6 small squares. For this reason this muscle group is often called a 6-pack. Unfortunately abs aren’t visible when we have too much fat around our belly. Depending from our body fat percentage we can see 2 cubes, 4 or 6 when our body fat level is very low.
Anatomy of abdominal muscles
The easiest way to divide abdominal muscles is splitting them into 2 groups:
- Front part of ABS (rectus abdominis),
- Side abdominals (obliques).
This body part is a little bit more complicated – there are few more muscles underneath (internal) but because they are not visible I will not be describing them here.
Functions of abdominal muscles
Abdominal muscles are very versatile and have many functions in the human body. Their main job is to stabilize the whole body (along with the rest of the core muscles). Besides, they are responsible for:
- Bending the trunk (to the front);
- Flexing it to the sides;
- Twisting the torso.
Obliques are responsible mostly for flexing upper body to the sides and twisting it where the front part of abs bends it to the front.
Exercises for ABS
- Reverse crunches,
- Twisting crunches.
Because range of motion in above exercises is very short I advise to perform them a little bit slower and pause when abs are fully flexed for 2-3 seconds.
Exercises more advanced:
- Decline sit-ups,
- Weighted or Cable Crunches,
- Leg Raises (lying or hanging),
- Dumbbell Side Bends and Russian Twists,
- AB Rollouts.
There are much more different exercises for abs and many of them are very effective. I’ve listed here the basic movements, probably the most important ones. The page would become too long if we include all exercises for this body part.
Exercises that require lifting torso like crunches or sit-ups are working harder the upper part of abs, lifting lower body up like reverse crunches or leg raises hit lower abdominals a bit more. Any twisting or side bending movement emphasizes the obliques.
I’ve listed isolation exercises as a first because we need basic development in abdominal area before progressing to more difficult movements. If these muscles aren’t strong enough we will never be able to do something more advanced like hanging leg raises or decline sit-ups properly.
How to build abdominals
ABS or so called ‘six-pack’ aren’t much different than the rest of our muscles. We don’t have to do 100 or 200 repetitions per set to build them. We don’t have to train them 6 times in a week either.
To develop nice and muscular six-pack we have to use the same strategies as with the other body parts:
- Build them (make them bigger and stronger),
- Make them visible (burn the fat around them).
To build abs we should train them once to twice a week and perform 2-3 exercises at the time. To keep them growing we need to increase the resistance over time (progressive overload). To do this we simply start from the easiest exercises (isolation). Once we master them we can proceed to the more difficult ones and then do them with additional weight.
You are lucky enough if you are able to see your six-pack or even part of it. If not there’s only one way to make your abdominal muscles visible. You have to burn some fat. It is not possible to remove the fat only from around your waist. We are losing it gradually from all-over the body and usually from lower abs as the last. To lose some fat you have to start fat burning diet for 8 or even up to 16 weeks depending how much do you need to drop.
Example of workout for abdominal muscles depending from experience:
- Crunches 15/15
Add another set of 15-12 repetitions after week or two of training.
- Laying Leg Raises 12/10/8,
- Twisting Crunches 10/10/10 to each side.
- Decline Sit-ups 12/10/8,
- Russian Twists 10/10/10 each way,
- Reverse Crunches 12/12.
- AB Rollouts 4×15-10,
- Dumbbell Side Bends 4×10 to each side.
To build muscular abdominals as any other muscle group we should increase the weight over time. It’s necessary. However I don’t advise to use too heavy weights while performing exercises for abs. It may cause your 6-pack to become too big and bulky. Too big muscles in this area might destroy aesthetic look of the whole body.
Professional bodybuilders (read steroid users) don’t use additional weight at all while training abdominals. Anabolic drugs cause very fast growth of muscles. Working out abs with extra weight would make their abs simply far too big.
Natural athletes on the other hand need some additional resistance. They couldn’t develop this muscle group to maximum depending only on body-weight exercises. So use some extra weight over time just not too much.
Well-developed abdominal muscles are a trademark of any bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast. There’s nothing more impressive than visible six-pack, especially in summer on a beach.
There’s no magic formula in building abs. We train them very similar to the rest of muscle groups – first we build them (make them bigger and stronger) then we burn fat to make them visible. Some people are lucky enough to have low body fat level. Their 6-pack is visible then and they can focus only on making this body part more muscular.
Anybody who has excess weight around waist has to burn some fat to be able to see their abdominals. No amount of hard training will ever cause abs to be visible in such cases. It is the diet that does the job.