Just as Mother Nature changes its behavior through the seasons, so does the fitness world. We start our slow climb out of winter hibernation and wave farewell to the holiday treats and late night ice cream binges in the pursuit of one, simple, three letter word...
Abs and summertime go together like Arnold and the saying "I'll be back." You simply can't have one without the other.
Related: 5 Advanced Abdominal Exercises for More Challenging Core Workouts
For some of you, the bulk life is in your blood. You're going to ride that Bulk Train right through the summer and into the following winter. But, for the majority of you, abs reign king during the summer, because once summertime hits you want to pop that shirt off and leave it off until Labor Day.
If this is your first ab rodeo, you need to understand one thing first: Abs are made in the kitchen. I know you've heard this phrase before and seen it plastered across magazine covers, but this phrase will forever remain true. Unless you have your nutrition in check, you will never see those washboard abs you desire.
Once you have your diet dialed in it's time to start building and sculpting your midsection. These 8 abdominal movements go beyond the traditional ab crunch and take your ab training to another level. With these exercises in your workout arsenal you'll be able to construct a strong, shredded, Summer-ready core.
Build strong, hard abs: The cable crunch!
8 Ab Exercises for a Shredded Midsection
#1 - Reverse Bench CrunchesLie on a bench and stabilize your body by grabbing the bench above your head. Lift your legs so your feet are pointed at the ceiling and bend your knees slightly. Contract your lower abdominal muscles and lift your tailbone off the bench by pushing your feet towards the ceiling and pushing your lower back into the bench.
Return to the starting position. Begin with one set of ten repetitions. Increase the number of sets and reps as fitness increases.
#2 - Russian TwistsSit down on a mat with your legs together straight out in front of you and your upper body straight up at a 90 degree angle. Now, bend your legs slightly up at the hip and knee. Lean your body back so that your feet are slightly off the ground and your back is at about a 70-75 degree angle.
Put your hands together in the middle of your body close to your chest and move your upper torso to the left and down, touching the ground with your grasped hands. Move your hands and upper body from the ground up and over to the right side of your body; that's one rep.
You want to try and keep your lower body as stabilized as possible as you twist your upper body to the left and right. For added resistance you can perform this exercise while holding a light dumbbell or medicine ball.
#3 - Seated Barbell TwistGrab a straight bar curl bar or straight barbell and place it behind your neck on your shoulders as if you were performing a squat. Sit down on a bench and twist your torso to the left, breathing out on the turning movement and keeping your abs tight. Turn back to the starting position, breathing in, and repeat to the right side, breathing out.
This is a great exercise for targeting the lower oblique's and creating that desired V-taper.
#4 - BicyclesLie flat on the floor on your lower back with your hands beside your head. Bring your knees toward your chest to about a 45-degree angle and make a bicycle pedaling motion with your legs, touching your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.
Begin with one set of 10 repetitions and continue to increase the reps as you get stronger, aiming at eventually being able to perform 20 repetitions.
#5 - Side BridgesLie on your side and support your body between your forearm and knees. As you increase fitness, first move your non-support arm across your body as you hold the side-bridge; later, support your weight between your forearm and feet. Do this exercise on your left and right sides and try to hold your spine in a neutral position to avoid letting your side drag down.
Start by aiming to hold the side bridge for 15 seconds with a goal of eventually being able to hold it for 30 seconds.
#6 - Hanging Leg RaisesA straight pull-up bar works great for this exercise. You will hang from the bar during the exercise. If you have poor grip strength, you can use arm straps that attach to the chin bar to eliminate this problem.
Begin with your legs hanging straight down from your waist, to the floor. Keep your knees locked (almost completely straight) and slowly raise your legs (hip flexion). Do not swing, but use a controlled pulling of your hip flexors to raise your legs.
Raise your feet as high towards your head as possible, taking care not to bend your knees. Your hip angle should be 90 degrees or less, at the top. Try to curl your pelvis forward to activate the rest of the abdominal wall. Slowly lower your legs back down, again focusing on not swinging your body too much.
This is a difficult movement and will take some time to master, but once you are able to perform these correctly you will come to realize this movement is one of the best abdominal movements for a shredded midsection.
#7 - Rope Cable CrunchesAttach a rope handle to one side of a cable pulley apparatus. Place it on the highest setting and grab the ropes from the ground while in a kneeling position. Lock your arms at the side of your head and use your abdominals to contract the weight down, bringing your elbows to your hips. Hold for a slight squeeze and control the movement with each repetition.
#8 - Decline Bench Sit-UpsWith this movement you will be performing a traditional abdominal crunch movement, but on a decline bench. Lock your feet into the decline bench and bring your body up as you reach for the ceiling on each rep. Aim at being able to perform 20 repetitions straight without rest. Once you've reached 20 repetitions, try holding a 5-10 lbs. weight in your hands to perform the movement in a weighted fashion.
You can use any of these exercises within your abdominal routine as you see fit, but if you are looking for a new ab routine you can use the two shown below to hit your midsection from all angles.
2 Workouts for Abs
Ab Workout Routine #1
- Rope Cable Crunches - 3 sets, 15 repetitions
- Decline Bench Sit-Ups - 3 sets, 20 repetitions
- Seated Barbell Twist Superset with Reverse Bench Crunches - 3 sets, 20 repetitions each
Ab Workout Routine #2
- Hanging Leg Raises - 3 sets, 10 repetitions
- Russian Twists - 3 sets, 20 repetitions
- Side Bridges - 3 sets, Hold for 30 seconds on each side
Get To Crunchin'Abdominal training should remain a staple with your training program year-round. Strong, shredded abs will not only have you looking summer-ready, they will also help you stay strong within your training as a whole. A stronger core will assist you in staying strong throughout other power movements such as squatting, deadlifting, and bench-pressing.
So, whether you are looking to maintain your strength, or just looking to get that lean, cut, aesthetic midsection, these abdominal exercises will help you in maintain and strengthening your core.
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