The midsection (abs) is made up of four muscle groups; rectus abdominis also known as the 6 pack, internal obliques, external obliques and the transverse abdominis. Each plays a role in stabilising your body, creating intra-abdominal pressure to generate power and finally for providing aesthetic appeal!
Whilst the midsection is crucial for athletic performance, it’s still comprised of small muscle groups and taxing it to the point of extreme soreness will have a negative impact on the rest of your sessions. Everyone has had a leg session that means you can’t walk for a day or two afterwards, however you can still lie down and bench press or do some curls. Overworking your abs will have a negative carry over to ALL exercises.
Why Train your Abs Every Day?
Based on that, the title of this article then sounds crazy, why would you train them every day, especially when they already get worked through lifts such as the squat and deadlift? The reason is that you want to stimulate and train your midsection without overdoing it. By targeting a different muscle group each day, you will still get adequate recovery and not only will you have a solid midsection to aid other lifts but will look good in the process!
Use these 6 exercises once a week on separate days to allow you to train abs every day without overdoing it (I know I said every day but you still need at least one rest day a week…).
1.) Ab rollouts
For this, you’ll need an ab wheel or if you don’t have one, a barbell will do. Starting from a kneeling position you’re slowly going to roll your torso forward with arms outstretched until you’re a few inches parallel with the floor. Next you’ll roll back to the starting position to complete a rep.
This provides an intense stretch so you’ll want to start with 3 sets of 6 reps and build on that over time. For beginners, the rolling out might be the only bit you can complete, so just do that portion of the movement, sit up, reset and go again. Stick with it until you build up the strength to complete full reps.
2.) Hanging leg raises with twist
Hanging from a pull-up bar, you’re going to raise your knees (beginner) or legs outstretched (experienced) until your thighs and torso is at a 90-degree angle to each other and then lower, that’s one rep. Next, you’ll do the same but raising your legs to the right side of your body rather than in front, so your left leg will be in line with your right rib, that’s another rep. Finally you’ll repeat this to the left hand side.
This twisting rotation is to work the oblique’s as well as the abs, work up to 3 sets of 12 total reps. To progress further you can hold a dumbbell between your feet for added resistance.
3.) Reverse crunch
These can be done on a bench or even a sofa/chair at home. Sit on the edge with your legs outstretched and heels an inch from touching the floor. Slowly bring your knees to your chest by pulling your legs up with your abs (to do this tense your abs so that you’re already engaged and in a semi crunched position), again slowly lower your legs until your heels are an inch from the floor making sure to keep your abs tensed throughout.
Your body is in a mechanically advantageous position for this movement so try for 5 sets of 12-20 reps. Again you can add further resistance by placing a small weight plate on your feet, the added need to balance it will further engage your midsection.
Get into a push-up position with arms placed shoulder width apart resting on your forearms. Now you simply want to hold this position, you can either do it as timed sets such as 3 sets of 45 seconds or as one set timed for as long as possible.
The key to effectively engaging your core here, is to squeeze your abs and glutes as hard as possible. This will make it incredibly hard to hold this position for a long period of time but it will ensure tension stays on the midsection which is where you want it the most.
5.) Cable crunch
Attach a rope attachment to a cable pulley machine and select a moderate weight, kneel down and hold the rope behind your neck with arms tucked closely to your body. Flex your abs and perform a crunch, taking care not to lean too far forward or overextend as this with take tension off of the muscle, return to an upright kneeling position to complete the rep. 4 sets of 15 reps is a good benchmark for this exercise.
*an expert tip is once you’re in the crunch position, exhale fully and really empty your lungs of air. You’ll feel your abs start to really tighten and harden and it’ll make them work/engage that little bit more.
6.) Loaded carry (farmer’s walk)
For this exercise, pick up two dumbbells and make sure it’s a challenging weight – around half your bodyweight in each hand is a good start. Then you’re simply going to walk with it for as long as possible, making sure to maintain good posture with shoulders back. One set is all you’ll need for this and it’s a good finisher for the end of a workout.
About the Author
Simon Byrne is a health and fitness writer covering a range of subjects including training, nutrition and supplementation. Whilst currently a certified nutritionist, he is also studying towards a degree in sports nutrition. Outside of the fitness industry Simon’s career is in venue and events management.