6 Ab Workouts That Target Specific Abdominal Muscles
It seems everyone dreams of having a tight stomach and rock-hard abs, so finding the best ab workouts achieve this is essential. Every year there are thousands of new exercises, gadgets and serums that claim to give you this, some even claiming to be ‘overnight’ miracles. Unfortunately, the truth is that most of this is usually marketing tactics to get you to buy the product and merely doing a few ab workouts will not give you the mid rift you are searching for. Everyone has abs (abdominal muscles), but the general agreement is that to have a visible six-pack, you need to have around 10% – 14% body fat. This percentage is a healthy weight that is lean enough to show abdominal muscles but also allows bodily functions to process normally and is easy to maintain. For women, this is slightly higher, around 14-24%, due to women needing more fat to support hormone production, control periods, fertility and overall cell production to support bodily functions. To find out your body fat percentage visit https://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/bodyfat
If your overweight, it’s essential to understand that to gain visible abs, you will need to lose fat overall. Unfortunately, targeted fat loss (also known as spot reduction) doesn’t exist. You can’t do ab workouts and expect to lose body fat on your stomach similarly you can’t do triceps exercises and expect to lose arm fat, also referred to as bingo wings. Genes play an essential role in fat loss and where it is located, so it’s vital that you take part in regular exercise and focus on your nutrition to lose fat overall and in turn lose fat across your stomach. A great way to burn calories, and lose weight is by HIIT workouts, read our article on workout programs you haven’t considered.
Now that we understand the importance of body fat percentage concerning visible abdominal muscles, it’s vital to have an understanding of each muscle and the best ab workouts to target each.
This is the most prominent top layer abdominal muscle and is best described as the long flat muscle at the front of the stomach that begins at the pubic bone and ends at the ribs. It is commonly referred to as the muscle that gives the ‘six-pack’ appearance when trained correctly. Keeping these muscles strong is important for daily activities that require bending the spine, such as getting out of bed or putting your shoes on. Great ab workouts to strengthen the muscle are:
The forearm plank is a great way to get your Rectus Abdominis muscle burning. It focuses on keeping it contracted and holding your entire body up over the floor. Not only does is target this muscle, but it also challenges your entire core and some upper body muscles.
1. Lie down on the floor with your forearms planted beneath your shoulders and legs extended behind you.
2. Raise your body off the floor so that your forearms and toes are holding you up.
3. It’s important to bring your belly button toward your spine and contract your abdominal muscles and glutes (Butt muscles).
4. Hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds and return to the start- repeat around 4-5 times.
Toe taps, also known as heel taps, are another great way to engage your Rectus Abdominis muscle; originating from Pilates.
1. Lie down with your back flat against a mat and your feet lifted perpendicular to the floor in a tabletop position.
2. Raise your chest slightly toward your belly button to engage your core while still keeping your back flat.
3. Keep your feet in a flexed position.
4. Hold the tabletop position and keep knees fixed at 90 while you slowly lower one leg till your heel touches the floor.
5. Return your leg to the start position and repeat with the opposite leg
6. Do this for four sets of 12 repetitions each leg with 30-second rest between each set.
The external obliques are a pair of muscles that are located on either side of the Rectus Abdominis. They run downward diagonally across the side of the torso and form a letter V across the abdomen. These muscles allow for flexion of the spine, rotating the trunk and bending sideways. Daily activities that use these are things such as turning to talk to someone behind you or turning in bed to turn your alarm off.
The bicycle crunch is a well-known movement to engage and strengthen the external obliques, highly recommended by professionals and able to be conducted by any level of fitness.
1. Lie down with your back flat against a mat and extend your legs out, so your body is straight.
2. Elevate your feet slightly off the floor and lift your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing outwards.
3. Slightly raise your chest towards your belly button to engage your core and bring your right knee and your left elbow toward each other to meet just above your belly button.
4. Return your leg and elbow to the start positions and simultaneously swap each leg to the opposing elbow, crunching your abdomen with each move.
5. Perform this for four sets of 12 reps for each side.
The Russian twist is another exercise that strengthens the external obliques by rotating the torso. It also works all the abdominal muscles as they work together to perform the movement. Moreover, it helps to strengthen and stabilise the spine for a fitter more functional abdomen.
1. Sit on a mat and bring your legs out in front of you with your back up straight.
2. Elevate your feet off the floor and cross your ankles, lean back slightly, so your body forms a V shape, engaging your core to help you stabilise your body.
3. Hole your hands out in front of you to also aid your balance.
4. While balancing on your glutes, slowly rotate your upper body side to side while keeping your legs fixed.
5. Perform three sets of 12 repetitions on each side of your body.
The internal obliques are the deepest abdominal muscles that are just below the external obliques. They are at a right angle to the external obliques and the muscle fibres run almost horizontally across the side of the torso. They work alongside the external obliques to help flex the spine, bend sideways and rotate the body.
Side Plank with twist
The internal obliques work with the external obliques to rotate the body as apposing rotators. The side plank with twist helps to engage both muscles.
1. Lie on your side with your legs stretched out, so your body is straight.
2. Use our forearm to prop your body up, so only your forearm and feet are touching the floor. Keep your body straight.
3. Place your unused hand on your head, pointing your elbow toward the ceiling.
4. Slowly rotate your upper body, so your elbow moves down toward the floor, ensuring you engage your core the whole time.
5. When your elbow reaches your hand on the floor, slowly return to the starting position and repeat 8-12 times each side. Do four sets of this.
The Transversus Abdominis is the deepest layer muscle within the abdomen. It wraps horizontally around the front of the torso to the back and looks similar to a corset. It works to aid with respiration and breathing, supporting forceful expiration of the lungs. They also help to stabilise the spine and compress the abdominal muscles. This muscle contracts whenever you move your arms and legs and whenever you work out, it helps to brace the core. Therefore, this muscle mustn’t be neglected as the stronger it is, the more stable you will be when performing daily activities and other workouts such as heavy lifts.
The hollow hold is an exercise that braces the core and keeps it engaged, which is a great way to work the transversus abdominis. To perform this, form must be perfect for ensuring you get the most out of it.
1. Lie on a mat with you back flat against the floor and your legs extended out, so your body is straight, reaching your arms out straight behind your head.
2. Slowly lift your head, neck, shoulder blades and legs off the floor, so you’re forming a V position with your core engaged.
3. Hold this position for 20 seconds and return to the start position.
4. Ensure your back stays straight and it doesn’t arch, repeat these 4 to 5 times with 10-second rest in between
Training cardiovascular activities regularly alongside ab workouts is essential when trying to get prominent abdominal muscles. There is no quick fix or overnight miracle that can get you the results you’re looking for and only hard work and determination with a focus on your diet will help.
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By Ella Orrock