The topic we discuss is abdominal muscles (abs). Abs is composed of rectus abdominis muscle, obliques and transverse abdominis muscle. Strengthen the rectus will give you six packs. Strengthen the obliques will give you shark-like core. Strengthen transverse will give you stable core.
Rectus abdominis muscle are usually referred to upper and lower abs. The no. of abs exercises are enormous, which are be classified as follows:
- Upper abs: Crunch towards to lower body
- Lower abs: Crunch towards to upper body
- Obliques: Rotation of upper body
- Transverse abs: Tighten the core
This video will discuss
- The techniques for executing abs exercises
- Recommended abs exercises
- Notes on abs training
Techniques for Abs Exercises
To make the best use of the abs exercises, you need to tighten your core and move your pelvic to Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT). Let’s talk more about the pelvic positions.
- Neutral: lumbar has normal curve.
- Anterior pelvic tilt (APT): the curve and the butt looks bigger. Tight lower back. Abs and hips relax.
- Posterior pelvic tilt (PPT): the curve become smaller and is best for abs contraction. Lower back relax. Abs and hips tighten.
Some floor exercises such as crunch, your lower back should always stick to the ground, which looks like PPT. Keep PPT when you are doing hanging exercises as well. Activate the related muscles before any execution.
If you feel confused about APT and PPT, you can memorise it in this way:
- Pelvic is like a glass of water.
- APT: the glass leans forwards.
- PPT: the glass leans backwards.
The following exercise is dedicated to practise the techniques. It is a easy but effective version of hanging leg raises that allows you to practise the techniques.
Hanging Abs Raises
Grab the bar and hang, tighten core, keep PPT and then contract your abs and crunch upwards. Slow tempo and pause at the top. Feel the peak contraction and the squeezing. The advantage is that no hip flexor is involved in the movement. So that you can engage your abs solely.
In general for hanging abs exercises, you should always keep PPT and maintain the tension or return to neutral position whereas you abs still engaged. Do NOT relax completely.
Recommended Exercises for Abs
The followings are the recommended exercises.
#1 Hanging Leg Raises
It targets the lower abs. Keep your body stable. Slow tempo. If your hamstring are too tight such that you cannot straighten your leg nor lift above 90°. It is alright. Just make sure you practise the techniques mentioned.
Easier version: Hanging knee raises.
#2 Around the World
It targets the obliques & rectus abs. Keep your body stable. It is alright if you have tight hamstring. Slow tempo. Keep the tension in abs when it reaches the bottom.
About the hanging exercises, please don’t try to comprise by using your back to lift you up. Though it can still train your abs, our solely goal is to isolate and train the target muscle.
#3 Hollow Body Rocks/ Hold
This is a killer exercise. Your lower back should always stick to the ground. Lift your leg up a bit. Crunch your upper back. Rock your body like a ship.
You can try isometric hold as well. The closer to centre of gravity (CG). The easier. The farther, the harder.
If you find the exercises too difficult, you may try the followings:
Target upper abs. Lower back stick to the ground. Tight core. Crunch your upper body. Remember the lower back does NOT move. Slow tempo.
#2 Lying Leg Raises
Target lower abs. Lower back to the ground. Tight core. Lift your leg up. Slow tempo. When it reaches the maximum, lift your hip up a little bit for better abs contraction like a reverse crunch.
#3 Rotational Crunch
It targets the obliques (& rectus abs). Lower back stick to the ground. Tight core. Crunch your upper body and rotate to side alternatively. Slow tempo.
Notes on Abs Training
You can train abs more frequently. Some propose training abs everyday. I think 3 times/week is good enough for most people. The higher frequency, the shorter training time.
For 3 times/week, choose 2-3 exercises. Do 2-3 sets. Do each set close to failure. Rest 30-60s. An all-round routine should consists of both rectus abs and obliques. Train the harder exercise first, follow by the easier. For example, lower abs/obliques exercises first, follow by rectus abs exercises. If you want to emphasise on particular part, then choose multiple related exercises.
Besides, you need to stretch more often and strength the antagonistic muscles as well if you train frequently. Otherwise, you may end up lumbar issues such as lower back pain and PPT.
Regarding body fat and fat loss, there are a lots to cover, and we will discuss in future videos. You should know that the body fat should not be too high if you want visible abs. Aka. You need to manage your nutrition.
About the transverse abs. Since it will involve in almost all abs exercises, don’t worry about it. Unless you want a very strong core, then you need a core workout. In my opinion, abs workout is very different from core workout. We may discuss it in future videos.