Get Massive Abs With These Exercises

Target That Six-Pack!

Combo Crunch
Combo Crunch for Abs. (c) Paul Rogers

Your abdominal muscles (abs) are at the front and side of the abdomen around the stomach area. The big muscles here are the rectus abdominis, rectus transversus and the obliques - the abs.

If you are an athlete, strong abdominal muscles help you twist, bend or turn your upper body, and, help you ensure a strong back and freedom from injury during vigorous upper-body movement. And if you're not, strong abs can still help you with superior physical function in everyday life.

Well-defined abs also help create a pleasing body shape for men and women featuring a slim waist and, for those that have the body and genetics to attain it, that 'washboard stomach' look.

Here are my top exercises for the abdominal muscles. (It's worth noting that full-body exercises like the deadlift and squat also work the abdominals strongly.)

See a more detailed guide to weight training practices and procedures here.

The 'core' has become synonymous with the abdominal muscles -- the transversus abdominis and the rectus abdominis. The transversus is the deeper muscle while the rectus is the broad surface muscle that we identify as the abs or the six-pack, from which you need to lose a layer of fat to show. You can feel these muscles when forced to brace them -- when you cough or are expecting a punch in the stomach for example.

The core, however, is more than that.

Core muscles are involved in bending, twisting, flexing of the torso and in fact, in most of the very agile and athletic movements that we do from time to time. These muscles are essential to our strength and mobility.

The Core Muscles

The main core muscles are:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transversus abdominis
  • Obliques (side muscles) - external and internal
  • Erector spinae (back)
  • Latissimus dorsi (back)
  • Quadratus lumborum (back)
  • Multifidus (back)
  • Diaphragm (chest)

You will notice varying opinion on which of these muscles is critical for core competency, but in the main, these are the muscles involved in optimum core strength and functionality. Notice heavy involvement of the back muscles as well as the abdominal muscles.

Best Full-Body, Compound Exercises for Core Strength and Abs

Synonymous with core exercise are trunk flexing exercises like crunches, situps, and rollouts with a wheel or on a stability ball. Now these are fine exercises, but you can get a similar effect, and a more comprehensive core workout with compound, full-body exercises as suggested here.

The Deadlift

The deadlift is the classic compound exercise because it hits muscles all over the body, including the legs, abdominals, back, chest, arms, legs, and neck - some harder than others, naturally. When you progress to lifting sufficiently heavy weights in the deadlift, you can't help but brace the core muscles as you begin the lift from the floor.

This is a key to control and stability of the lift and you must develop strong core - abs and back -- when you diligently practice the deadlift. Repeats in the Romanian Deadlift variation is especially useful.

The Squat

The squat is mostly known for building big, strong legs, but you can't help bracing the abs and core when squatting. Again, core muscles are crucial to control in the best squat form -- on the way down, and on the way up. You can do back squats, front squats, dumbbell squats, and even hack squats -- an oldie but a goodie.

Olympic Lift Variations

The deadlift and the squat are competition lifts for Powerlifting, and, more or less, elements of the big two Olympic lifts - the clean and jerk and the snatch. Other formative practice lifts and derivatives of Olympic lifts are power cleans, hang cleans, push presses, and thrusters. Work these exercises into your regular workouts and you may never need to do another crunch.

Ultimately, it's fun to do crunches and other targeted abdominal exercises like hanging leg raises and rollouts, and variety in training is always good for the longevity of your physical activity. Even so, build standard strength training protocols into your weight training and lifting and you will notice vast progress in your core bulk and strength.

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