At Lucas James Personal Training, we know finding ab exercises and the right abs workout for a sick six pack and perfect lower abs can be tough. We also know that an abs diet can help you achieve the most shredded physique because nutrition is seventy-five to eighty percent of accomplishing any fitness goal, 6 pack abs included.
Here we’ll make it easy and give you the break down of the different muscles that form your abdominals, the best exercises for each group, the best ways to work-out your abs, as well as nutrition tips for cutting down the ‘ab-flab’ and burning that pesky belly fat.
- The Abdominal Muscles: Form & Function
When you hear the term ‘6-pack’ abs come to mind. But just like a case of beer, your abdominals are comprised of multiple muscle groups, each varying in function. The muscles that form your abdomen include:
1- The rectus abdominis, which we know as the 6-pack, includes both your upper and lower abdominals. The rectus abdominis is the most prominent and visible portion of the abdominals. It travels the full length of the abdominal region, from your pubic bone to right under your lower chest. When we contract this muscle, as in a traditional crunch, we’re flexing our torsos.
2- The external obliques, commonly referred to as your obliques are the visible side abdominal muscles that run downwards diagonally from your lower ribs and attach to the top portion of your hips and your ‘6-pack region’ or rectus abdominis. Similar to your external obliques, your internal obliques travel diagonally across your torso, but in the opposite direction from the external obliques. Together, they work to help rotate your upper body at the core. Both sets of oblique muscles also work to compress your torso when they contract simultaneously along with your rectus abdominis. The obliques primarily serve as rotators that help our bodies twist at the waist and straighten when bent over sideways.
3- The transverse abdominis, is the internal portion of your abdominals that is located within the abdomen. It lies underneath the oblique muscles and acts as a structural support for our organs. It also helps us with our respiratory functions, similar to the diaphragm. Instead of helping with core rotation, it pulls the abdominal wall inward when we ‘suck-in’ our belly.
Together, each of these muscle groups provides structural support, aiding our movement as well as assisting with lung function and breathing. Aside from the obvious functions, our abs are a critical component of our ‘core’ working along with our back muscles to provide proper posture and physique.
- Specific exercises for each abdominal muscle group
When working out, its important to work smarter not necessarily harder to see the results you’re looking for and that perfect six-pack. When weight training for better abdominal muscles and improved core strength, its crucial to note that high repetition exercises will help burn abdominal fat, but you must also include resistance exercises to increase abdominal bulk and muscle size. Here are some exercises specific to each goal, in order by each abdominal muscle group.
Upper & Lower Abs (Rectus Abdominis)
*Fat burning: Swiss Ball Crunches, Bench Supported Crunch, Bosu ball chop, ab deck crunches, un-weighted ab-master machine crunches.
*Muscle bulking: Weighted Crunches, Lying Cable Crunch, Roman Chair Weighted Sit-Ups, Standing cable crunch, decline cable sit-up, resistance ab-machine crunches.
*Fat burning: Reverse Crunch, Hip Thrust, Reverse Crunch on Decline, Hanging Bicycle Crunches, Scissor Kick, Swiss Ball Roll In, Hanging Leg Raise, Hanging Knee Raises
*Muscle bulking: Weighted hanging Leg Raises with dumbbell, weighted hanging knee raises with dumbbell.
Obliques (External Obliques)
*Fat burning: Side Oblique Crunch, Bicycle Crunches, Lying Resistance Ball Windshield Wiper, Cross-over Crunch, Side Planks
*Muscle bulking: Russian Twists w/ medicine ball, Windshield Wiper with medicine ball or dumbbell, Side Planks with weight-belt or dumbbell, Dumbbell Oblique Crunch, Standing Oblique Cable Crunch
Core Specific Work (Total Abdominals)
*Fat burning: Planks, Hanging Knee Raise w/ Twist, Double Crunch, Toe-Touches, Jackknife Crunch, Exercise Ball Transfer
*Muscle bulking: Cable Wood-Chop, Decline Medicine Ball Throw, Exercise Ball Transfer.
- Core Circuit Workouts
Due to the fact that both your abdominals and back muscles compose your ‘core’ and affect overall core strength, it’s important to build each muscle group gradually to ensure proper muscle growth and reduce the likelihood of injury. When engaging in an exercise routine to increase core strength and muscle definition, try incorporating lower back exercises as well in your ab circuit. Aim for one exercise for each abdominal and core muscle group i.e. One Upper Ab, One Lower Ab, One Oblique and One Lower Back exercise. Here’s an example for a complete core circuit workout.
- Swiss Ball Crunches
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Bicycle Crunches
- Roman Chair Back Extension
Your fitness level and progression will depend on the amount of reps and sets you perform, along with the types of exercises incorporated in your circuit and applied resistance. Remember, as you progress from beginner workouts to intermediate and advanced programs the type of core exercises may change as well.
- Abdominal Workout Equipment
As your Ab routine changes you may choose to incorporate various pieces of equipment such as an ab roller, bosu ball, swiss ball, medicine ball, cable machine, resistance bands, weight-plates or dumbbells. Different equipment will help you with different goals as well as aid with flexibility, comfort, body positioning and the way you are training your abdominals. For example, Bosu Balls and Swiss Balls help reduce hot-spots, pressure points and unnecessary strain on your back when performing core exercises, by adding a cushioned support. They also increase core strength due to proprioception training that requires balance to challenge an individual’s normal range of motion. Ab rollers, resistance bands and added weight can be used to keep constant tension on your abdominals to train for a more well rounded physique and increase overall core strength. You can find any of the above mentioned pieces of equipment at your local Scottsdale, Arizona fitness equipment store.
- Ab-Training for specific goals and body type
You should also choose exercises that support your personal goals and promote growth specific to your physique, body-type and frame.
For example, if you are lean, but lack definition focus on lower rep exercises with increased resistance using either weight-plates, dumbbells, medicine balls or resistance ab-machines. If you are overweight, start with simple movements and core exercises to build strength before attempting to increase muscle size and bulk. This can be accomplished through timed intervals and high-repetitions such as a minute of scissor kicks, flutter kicks, bicycle crunches, standard crunches etc. Remember no matter what your body type and training goals are, consistent fluid breathing is important to provide the high levels of oxygen your muscles need to perform at their optimal level, burn fat most efficiently and promote increased blood-flow and nutrient transport for energy.
- The Ultimate 6 Pack Ab Diet
“Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym” – Lucas James
When trying to achieve the perfect 6-pack abs, diet is key. Since people tend to store fat on our torso, men especially, the only way you’ll see your awesome abs is to eat a high-protein, low-fat diet. A lower body-fat percentage will increase your chances of noticing the abs hidden underneath your belly fat. The weight we store above our abs is primarily fat and water weight, so it’s important to eat the right amount of calories and the right types of foods to shed excess fat.
When shedding extra pounds to see those abs try incorporating more veggies and high-fiber foods in your diet. Here’s a few suggestions of ab-busting foods:
Turkey has one of the highest amounts of protein pound-for-pound of any lean animal meat. It also has less fat calories than red meat and is even leaner than chicken!
Quinoa is a high protein, high-fiber and low fat grain. All properties of a fat-burning diet!
Like broccoli, this leafy vegetable has a crunch—and less than half the calories and carbohydrates of its cruciferous cousin.
This sweet Asian fruit is a better source of vitamin C than your average apple.
This Dutch cheese is semi-firm, unlike the semisoft Muenster, and has more protein, fewer calories, and a richer, nuttier flavor.