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Abs exercises

Abs exercises
These abs exercises are my list of the ones that I feel give the best results and hit the muscles in a more direct manner with less interference from your surrounding muscles.

Introduction to your Abs

Abs anatomyThe abs (abdominal muscles) are made up of several muscles that are both visible and none visible and carry out several functions, such as helping with breathing, protecting your organs and along with your lower back muscles, help support posture and movement of your trunk. Along with the oblique’s they can also help with the rotation, bending and stabilisation of your torso. Of course the main muscle people look to develop are the rectus abdominus muscles (often called the six pack muscles), which helps the body bend forward. You don’t need to do hundreds of reps to work your abdominal muscles, so do these exercises in moderation and remember it’s your diet and the amount of body fat that will bring out your so called six pack and not the amount of abdominal exercise you do.

My abdominal exercise list:

Regular Crunch

Form:  Lay down facing up on a soft surface for comfort and to protect your spine. Place your feet flat on the ground with knees bent at around 90 degrees. Place your fingers against the sides of your head and take a deep breath. Next curl your upper torso up and forward towards your knees and concentrate on squeezing the abs as you breathe out. Slowly lower back down to the start as you breathe in. Repeat for your required reps and sets.
Tips/key notes: Do not put your hands/finger behind your head unless you can do so without putting pressure on the back of your head and using it to pull your head forward, as this can create neck strain. Try not to lead with your chin, by pressing it into your chest, but try to keep your neck as straight as possible and in the neutral position. Keep your lower back on the floor, you are going to be curling your upper torso only and not your neck or hip area.

Click on images below, the last one is a GIF animation:

Regular crunch 1 Regular crunch 2 Regular crunch gif

Frog Crunch with holds

Form:  Again just like the regular crunch, however instead of feet flat on the floor, you place the undersides of your feet together and allow your knees to part away from each other. The rest of the exercise is the same as the regular crunch. Repeat for your required reps and sets.
Tips/key notes: With the legs in this position, it removes much of the engagement that your hips can have when doing a regular crunch. This is in fact one of my favourite exercises, popularised by champion trainer Vince Gironda. I also like to hold the contraction for a count of three, but reduce the number of total reps. If you are holding a contraction, please either breathe normally or breathe out slowly while doing so, do not hold your breath.

Click on images below, the last one is a GIF animation:

Frog crunch 2 Frog crunch 1 Frog crunch 3 Frog crunch gif

Side Crunches (Side Jack-knife)

Form:  Laying on your side, place your arm that is closest to the ground across your body for comfort. Place your other hand next to or just behind your head. Now crunch your upper body by bringing your upper body towards your leg, at the same time as bringing your leg towards your upper body. Repeat for your required reps and sets.
Tips/key notes: The side crunch is a movement of just a few inches and gives much more direct work to the oblique’s. I prefer this exercise to all other oblique exercise due to the majority of the other ones incorporating spine shredding twisting motions. If you are having difficulty with this exercise, try doing it without lifting the leg. If you are also unstable, you can also place the hand that you put across your body on the floor in front of you instead.

Click on images below, the last one is a GIF animation:

Side crunch 1 Side crunch 2 Side crunch gif


Form: Start by lying on your back with your legs straight and with your arms also straight and positioned back and stretched out beside and above your head. Next raise your legs and at the same time bring your torso up and off the floor and reach for your toes with your hands. Lower back down and repeat for your required reps and sets.
Tips/key notes: If you are finding it difficult to do a v-up, try either doing a partial v or doing it one leg at a time, with the other leg bent and its foot on the floor. If you can’t keep a straight leg then it is OK to have a slight bend in it.

Click on images below, the last one is a GIF animation:

V ups 1 V ups 2 V ups gif

My final thoughts on exercising your abs

Don’t be fooled by those that tell you that abdominal exercise are the key to a flat stomach. The abs are a muscle, they don’t get flatter the more you work them. While you may be able to strengthen and tighten up your ab muscles, generally they don’t require a lot of work and in fact it is your body fat that dictates how much your abs will show.

Also over working your abs can have negative effects on your workouts, they are easily over stressed and injured and if you have fatigue from over worked ab muscles it will be difficult to maintain good core strength when performing other exercises.

I would also generally try to avoid abdominal exercises that make you twist your torso. While twisting may be good for working your oblique’s they tend to create a sheering effect on your spines. Also don’t do too many exercises where you just raise your legs only, such as leg raises, as they can overwork your hip flexor muscles. I’m not saying these exercises can’t be used or aren’t any good at hitting their intended muscles, but they just tend to be more problematic than they are worth, in my opinion.