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5 MOST EFFECTIVE EXERCISES FOR ABS

We all want those sexy washboard abs that we can show off at the beach. But how do you get them? The answer is simple: abs exercises!

In this post, I will go over five exercises that you could implement in your abs workout that are proven to give you the best results for a killer six-pack.

When we hear the word abs, the first thing that pops in our minds is Zac Efron’s rock-solid, beach-ready ab muscles. No? Just me? Fine, but one reason he was able to attain those is from the most important ab exercises.

Ab exercises have too many benefits as well.

HOLD ON! These are not only for aesthetics. Benefits are well spread into function. Having strong abdominal muscles assist in providing good posture, eliminate back pain, balance translates into your sport, and provide power for your compound movements. It’s an overall good balance in our system.

Especially in calisthenics, all exercises are compound which heavily requires you to have ab muscle strength and endurance. 

 

A quick brief on the abs

Abs muscles

 

Photo from Repkefitness

When talking about the abs, we are usually talking about the rectus abdominis. This is the building 6-pack once you lower your body fat percentage and when you are doing the proper ab workouts.

But the stability of the abs also requires training the other core muscles such as the Transverse abdominis (inner abs), and the obliques (side abs).

Building STRONG CORE MUSCLES

**DISCLAIMER**

Don’t get too hung up on getting a visible six-pack. While getting six-pack abs is great, it’s not everything especially if you want to focus on performance and health. Don’t forget about also developing overall core strength.

Having chiseled abs CAN be a manifestation of a strong core but it’s not always the case.

 

 

How to make your 6-pack visible

Body fat percentage

 

A sample rough estimate of when your abs will show with this chart from pfitblog.

Even if you do the most effective ab workout, it will only do so much. Nutrition still plays a major role in lowering your body fat so your abdominal muscles can be visible.  

All of us do have the rectus abdominis (ab muscles). It’s just usually covered under a layer of fat when our body composition still has a high-fat percentage.

Focusing on proper nutrition such as meeting your personal caloric deficit should be your top priority. Get some proper diet advice. Keep in mind that this is highly individualistic. The next one is getting the best abs workout.

Abdominal workouts are done to make our abs stronger and BIGGER so they can easily be visible when we reach the proper body composition. The leaner you are, the more they will show.

Hanging on the bar requires you to work your abs even more.

 

TMA Pullups

 

If your form is correct, the simple act of hanging already puts stress on your abs. Your core works to stabilize you on the bar and part of the core is the abdominal muscles. Gravity is not your best friend for these types of exercises. Plus, you’ll have a stronger grip and forearms for hanging around.

Bar ab exercises are challenging and will definitely build your towering 6 pack. Just remember that form is everything and shift to an easier progression or similar exercise first if you can’t do the proper form yet.

 

BEST ABS EXERCISES FOR KILLER 6-PACK

 

If you’re going to train your abs, might as well use the top exercises to maximize your ab gains in no time! Here they are:

KNEE UPS

This is the first exercise in your hanging leg raise journey. The easiest in this list but still a contender among all of the ab exercises. Your lower abs will do most of the work and contraction so prepare for upcoming pain the next day.

One advantage of this exercise is the focus on rectus abdominis and hip flexor muscles which is essential for many calisthenics exercises.

Another reason why this is such an effective exercise is scalability. You can easily change the difficulty of this exercise by adding a dumbbell or weight plate to your feet. It increases the intensity of the exercises while not adding mobility limitations to the exercise.

Just be sure to add the weight slowly. You still want to perform the exercises with perfect form and a full range of motion.

Adjusting the intensity

Easier – Leg raises on the floor

Harder – Slower tempo, weighted

Hanging Frog Raises

How to Perform

1. Grip the bar with hands slightly more than shoulder width apart.
2. Make sure your arms are straight and shoulders, back, hip, legs fall in a straight line.
3. From this position, bend your knees and lift your knees up towards your chest. The closer to chest, the better.
4. Come down slowly to the first position.

Coaching Pointers

1. Engage abs and hip flexors from the starting position to the end. Let your lower back slightly round as you lift your knees.
2. Throughout the exercise tilt your hips forward to engage your core.
3. Don’t use momentum. Lift and comedown slowly as possible.
4. Resist the rocking motion you’ll feel when you’re doing the movement.
5. Please Don’t forget to breathe. You’re still a human.
6. Your shoulder blades should be depressed for maximum stability.

7. You can hold the bar with a chin-up grip to minimize leaning backward which activates the lats and lessens ab engagement.

LEG RAISES

This is like the harder version of the previous exercises. Instead of bended knees, keep the legs straight. Aim to reach the top of the bar with your toes. The increased lever length puts more stress on the abs. Your upper and lower abs will work together to execute the movement. You should also perform lower body mobility exercises prior to your attempt since mobility is required for the exercises. Don’t be lazy now!

You can also do this exercise on dip bars if your hanging endurance doesn’t hinder you to meet the necessary volume to build your rectus abdominis.

Adjusting the intensity

Easier – knees bent, partial range of motion by lifting the legs a few inches lower than the bar, L-sit hanging hold

Harder – Slower tempo, weighted

TMA Leg raises


How to Perform

1. Grip a hanging bar with hands placed shoulder width apart
2. Back and arms extended.
3. Extend your legs. Keep your feet off the floor.
4. From this position, lift your legs up till the feet touch the bar while keeping them straight.
5. Slowly return to the first position.


Coaching Pointers

1. Contract your abs and hip flexors from the starting position to the end.
2. Focus on your ab muscles to facilitate the movement, not your legs.
3. Let your lower back round as you lift your legs.
4. Throughout the exercise tilt your hips forward to engage your core.
5. Don’t use momentum. Lift and come down slowly as possible.
6. Resist the rocking motion you’ll feel when you’re doing the movement.
7. Perform mobility exercises so you can reach the top portion of the movement.

8. Avoid leaning backwards especially when reaching the top position.

9. If mobility hinders you from repping out, you can first do half reps which means at least moving your legs until parallel to the ground. Increase the range of motion as you get stronger.

WINDOW WIPERS

This is an advance and quite a challenging ab workout. Lower and upper abs will do work but your obliques will also come to play as you move your legs side to side. You can train this movement on a yoga mat if the hanging is too difficult for you. This is a difficult exercise, but don’t leave it be because window wipers can wipe your way to strong and complete rock-solid abs.

Not only this will train your rectus abdominis, this is also effective for building strong oblique muscles (side core) which helps you control your abs with side-to-side movements. So you can remove the bicycle crunch that you’ve been doing with too much reps and focus on a more challenging exercise such as this one.

Adjusting the intensity

Easier – knees bent, move to the floor

Harder – Slower tempo, weighted

TMA Wind wipers


How to Perform

1. Grip a hanging bar with hands placed shoulder-width apart for a dead hang position.
2. Make sure your arms and back are straight.
3. Let your legs dangle straight.
4. From this position, lift your legs straight up towards your chest till the feet are above the bar.
5. The back is rounded and almost parallel to the floor.
6. Now twist your lower back such that the legs move slowly towards one side then twist to the opposite side as well.


Coaching Pointers

1. Contract your abs and hip flexors from the starting position to the end.
2. Let your lower back round as your lift your legs.
3. Throughout the exercise tilt your hips forward to engage your core.
4. Don’t use momentum. Lift and come down slowly as possible.
5. Resist the rocking motion you’ll feel when your doing the movement.
6. Perform the movement with control.
7. Maintain the abs engaged.

8. Depress your scapula.

V-Snaps

Another excellent core building exercise that targets your abdominals, obliques, and hip flexors. This is like a leg raise but you don’t need any gym equipment, just the floor. This way, you won’t be limited with your hanging endurance to build a stronger core.

Think of this as the advanced version of the basic crunch exercise with a longer lever, added lower ab motion and basically no rest in between rep since you will lower down into a hollow position.

Adjusting the intensity

Easier – knees bent, move to an easier ab progression such as: hollow hold, or hollow leg tucks

Harder – Slower tempo, weighted

TMA V Snaps


How to Perform

  1. Lie on your back with your legs together and straight. Extend the arms straight overhead.
  2. Engage into a hollow position by lifting your upper and lower torso a few inches off the ground. Simultaneously extend your arms and legs.
  3. Bring legs and arms together by crunching your body upwards and meeting your limbs at the top position explosively at the same time.
  4. Lower down to the hollow position with control.

 


Coaching Pointers

1. Use your abs to initiate even with the explosive movement while maintaining tension throughout the whole body.
2. Explosively crunch but lower back to the hollow position with control.
3. Maintain your full back flat on the floor.

 

ONE-ARM PLANK

A solid core training isn’t complete if you don’t add an isometric hold. One of the most popular exercises when talking about effective ab workouts: the plank. In our case, we’ll take it up a notch and focus on the one-arm plank.

The added instability of the one arm position trains heavily your rectus abdominis as well as your obliques to resist the twisting motion when you remove one arm.

This exercise also develops your upper body since you will be pushing down on the floor hard to sustain the plank position.

Implementing the one-arm plank in your ab workouts will develop you a strong bodyline which is fundamental in calisthenics and a position required in many exercises such as the planche, levers, and regular push-ups. The strong core the exercise develops also transfers to other body forms.

Adjusting the intensity

Easier – Two arms plank, resistance band over your body with two arms, two arm plank with arms extended forward

Harder – Place feet on medicine or balance ball, weighted, slowly extend your working arm forward

TMA One-arm Plank


How to Perform

  1. Begin in a plank position with shoulders and feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lift one arm and place it beside your body.
  3. Hold the position
  4. Switch the arms and hold the position again for a specified time equal to the previous working-arm’s duration.

 


Coaching Pointers

1. Fully body tension
2. Breathe normally as much as possible
3. Keep your hips squared and resist twisting to one side
4. Grip the floor
5.
Maintain a straight bodyline

Now that you have an arsenal of exercises for your abs, plan and set out your routine.

Workout sample

Hanging leg raises – 3 sets of 12 reps, 1 minute rest period

Window wipers – 3 sets of 12 reps, 1 minute rest period

One-arm plank – 3 sets of 30-sec hold, 1 minute rest period

You can switch up the hanging leg raises with v-snaps or knee-ups. You can even do them together if your skill level allows you to.

 

Treat your Ab Workout like any other Workout.

This means that you don’t have to do your ab workout everyday and only with high reps. Just like other parts of your muscles, the same principles apply to your abdominal muscles when creating a routine. Train with proper rep ranges, sets, difficulty and rest periods.

And if you’re aiming for that luscious 6 packs, eat well as you train. That goal relies more on your caloric deficit. But no worries, we got you covered regarding your eating.

Try it out and let us know in the comment section below what you think.

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See what our users are saying:

“Would you rather have the ability to boast of bench pressing 300 pounds or to do a one-arm pull-up? To me, pulling my entire body up with one arm is much more impressive. – Michael – The Movement Athlete User”

“The Movement Athlete Academy is not the kind of program that demands you to be this physically fit to be able to perform. Instead, it caters to your own strengths and capabilities and keeps track of your progress.”

“Stick with it! It is hard at first, especially if you are stuck on a lower-level, high rep exercise. But persevering is worth it! Finally reaching each goal is so exciting.”

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