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Core + Abs

Strong core. Strong body.

Ab exercises are always a good idea. That’s because strong abs are needed if you want to boast a rock-solid core. The core plays a part in virtually every type of major movement, including bending, twisting, jumping, walking, sitting and even just standing.

It’s the key to running faster, hiking longer, and basically doing any type of sport better. And of course that carries over into every day life. A strong core supports good posture and balance, makes day-to-day activities easier, and reduces the likelihood of suffering pain or injury.

The basic and most important part of something.

Abs Anatomy

Here’s an easy breakdown of your ab muscles that you’ll want to target.

The abdominal muscles are located on the front of the body between the ribs and the pelvis. The main muscle groups that make up the abs are:

Rectus abdominis (upper + lower abs). This muscle is located at the front of the torso and is responsible for ab definition. Its main function is bend the torso, in other words to bring the rib cage and hips closer together (trunk flexion). For the purpose of targeting the recuts abdominis with exercise, this muscle is sometimes divided into the upper and lower abs.

Internal & external obliques (side abs). The external and internal obliques are located on the sides of the midsection. The internal obliques lie beneath the external obliques. These muscles are responsible for rotating trunk, as well as bending the torso to the side.

Transverse abdominis (deep abs). This is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. It wraps around the torso like a corset and cinches in the waist. Its main function is to stabilize the core, to help hold the organs inside the trunk in place, and to maintain internal abdominal pressure.

Abs Muscles Illustration

Main Types of Abs Exercises

A well-balanced abs routine should include different types of abs exercises. Abs exercises can be divided into 4 categories. Include exercises from each category for an effective ab workout that will target your abs from every angle.

Upper Abs Exercises
Involve bringing the ribs closer to the hips. E.g. sit-ups and crunches.

Lower Abs Exercises
Involve bringing the pelvis towards the ribs. E.g. leg kicks, reverse crunches, mountain climbers.

Side Abs Exercises
Involve in twisting the torso and bending it to the side. E.g. bicycle crunches, wood chop, side planks, side bends.

Deep Abs Exercises
Involve bracing abs or hollowing (contracting abs and pulling belly button in). E.g. plank, bird dog, hollow hold.

Abs Exercise Library

Abs(olutely) More

Abs v Core

Abs versus core. What’s the difference? While these two terms are often used interchangeably they are not the same. The core is like a big box sitting in your torso.Your abs make up the the front of the core, while the erector spinae (back muscle) are at the back, the pelvic muscles at the bottom, and the diaphragm (the muscle that helps you breathe) is at the top.

Balanced Abs Workout

Many abs exercises involve bending forward at the hip, that is bringing the ribs and the hips closer together (trunk flexion).

However, for a balanced workout also include trunk extension exercises that target the erector spinae (back) muscles, which forms the back part of the core. These exercises involve bending backwards, such as the superman exercise. This will help promote uniform muscular development front to back. 

Abs Exercise Tips

Here are some basic points to remember when doing ab exercises:

  • Change your abs routine regularly. The abdominal muscles are more likely to adapt to a regular workout routine than any other muscle group. This means you need to change abs exercise more often to keep getting great results. You can do this by changing up your ab workout every 4 to 6 weeks. During that period you can also slowly add more challenging variations of the exercises you're doing as you become more proficient and stronger (e.g. harder plank variations). This also allows you to add more exercise variety and create greater overall balance.
  • Keep your joints in good alignment during the exercise. Awkward positioning increases the probability of injury.
  • Do not bend (flex/ extend) your joints excessively. For example, when straightening your arms or legs, don’t go to the point of locking the elbow or knee joint. Your arms/ legs should be soft and a little relaxed.
  • If the exercise is new to you, your range of motion will be limited (e.g. how far you can lift your legs). But, don’t force a movement and try to cheat by using other joints/ muscles to do the exercise. This will force your body out of alignment and risk injury. Go slow. Stop if the movement gets awkward/ uncomfortable. With time your range of motion will steadily increase.
  • Protect your back and support your spine by engaging your core. That means contracting your abs and pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
  • Movements should be slow and controlled. Focus on using the muscles the exercise is targeting. Don’t let gravity and momentum do the work for you. It will be ineffectual and increase the likelihood of injury. Also, refrain from bouncing during an exercise.
  • Don't hold your breath. Remember to breathe. Blood pressure increases during weight training and holding your breath may increase blood pressure further, to an unsafe level.

How to Get Toned Abs

You’ve probably heard that abs are made in the kitchen. That’s because to get defined abs or a 6-pack, you need to decrease your body fat percentage.

Many people will naturally have an okay (not great) set of abs. The reason we can’t see them isn’t because they aren’t big enough, but mainly because they’re hidden below a layer a belly fat.

Generally, the body fat percentage at which abs become defined is around 10% body fat for men and 14% body fat for women. 

The point at which people tend to sport 6-pack abs is around 6-7% body fat for men and 11-12% for women.

The body fat percentages needed to boast defined abs are quite low, especially for women, and not everyone will be able to healthily achieve defined or 6-pack abs.

How feasible it is will depend in part on your body type and body shape. For example, women with a pear shape will find it easier to achieve ab definition than someone with an apple shape.