You might think that you’ve mastered the core of all ab exercises, but is it even possible to know it all? You might be a champion in planking or have the core strength of a mountain, but it is possible that you have missed out on some of the key techniques that no one talks about. Let’s face the facts here; different people have different opinions about ab workouts and in the end, it all comes down to individual preferences.
Regardless of where you stand in your goal of getting the perfect rock-hard abs, you can follow these 11 most underrated tips for training your abs.
1: Use a decline bench
This largely overlooked gym instrument enables you to make the most out of your core strength. An exercise such as Decline Leg Raises engages the core and hips to function as a single unit. This exercise targets the lower abs and is helpful in giving you a stretch in a position that you wouldn’t normally get. For safety, start doing this on a decline bench by having your knees bent by 90 degrees and eventually you’ll be able to get your legs up straight.
2: Get into a plank position
From beginners to professional athletes, everybody knows the usefulness of planks and has, at least, tried it for themselves. You might think that planking is itself the only exercise that helps you to stabilize the core by getting into a prone position.
This where you are wrong because you can get into a plank position in many types of exercises. For example, you can tense up your abdomen consciously while doing a push-up, lifting weight in a barbell curl, or in movements like shrugs and lateral raises.
3: Use an Ab Wheel
This instrument lets you focus on dynamic stabilization, which in layman terms, means to stabilize the core while the movement of the extremities goes about their original range of motion. Exercise on an ab wheel is best done after you have mastered the art of plank as it requires a fair amount of core stabilization. Fight the urge of giving in to gravity’s power and make your hips square by performing the exercise.
4: Keep your back rounded
Going against the swarm of opinions, having round your back rounded does indeed have some benefits if done properly. Far too many people believe that our back should be straight while doing movements such as squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, and other exercises; this is not necessarily true because keeping a slightly arched back ensures that the antagonistic muscle doesn’t fully contract actively. Keeping a flat back while bending the hips goes against the ideas of ab training because it is not possible to contract abs and lower back at the same time.
5: Target key regions
Whoever says that it’s not possible to isolate the lower and upper portion of the rectus abdominis, is only partly correct. While pure isolation is not feasible, you can, however, target specific areas by individual exercises. To get the most out of your ab workout, you must know how to focus on particular areas to be able to create a routine. A good way to concentrate on the upper region is to keep your lower body stabilized, which leads to hips hinge while you curl the upper body.
6: Keep your hip flexors out of the game
You probably don’t know what we’re trying to get at because this aspect always goes ignored. Hip flexors are a muscle group that originates from the lower back and pelvic region and goes all the way into the upper part of your thigh.
It is possible for you to train the hip flexors by mistake when you should be working on your lower ab movement. How do you correct this? Easy, just hang from a bar, keeping your body straight, try to raise your knees by 60 degrees and notice if your lower back hasn’t started to become round.
7: Eliminate resting time between reps
The next time you train with cables or machines, do not let the plates touchdown in between reps. By acting against the force of gravity, you will prevent the stimulus on your target muscle from disappearing. Keep the tension on your abs as much as you can to improve the quality of a set. Remember; quality wins over quantity every time.
8: Hold at the peak contraction
Everybody knows that lifting weight is one thing and holding the weight in a contracting position is another. When it comes to contraction training, you can utilize this formula to apply to any part of your body. You must consciously squeeze your muscle when you reach the end of your range of motion. You might find that you can do less and reps this way, but remember that you are getting more out of each rep.
9: Do push-ups differently
Tighten your abs while doing push-ups and get rid of the weight belt that is tightened around your waist and keep it for the heavy sets. You will soon find that your core is more involved in certain sets than it was when you tried to do the exercises wearing the belt. Using belts can have the opposite of your desired effect as it will make you want to let go of the gut contraction.
10: Make progression a daily routine
Just like you wouldn’t do the same exercises over and over, and lift the same weight time and again, same goes for ab exercises. You need to be able to work your muscle into overload to build strength and get see the desired results with abdominal training. You can do this by increasing resistance, decreasing resting time, and of course by doing more reps.
11: Make the most of a weighted move
Since the abs contain a higher percentage of muscle fibers that are slow twitch when compared to skeletal muscle groups, you would want to train them the best possible way. One way to do this is to perform cable crunches where the gravity and leverage are truly working to put you down. Starting with three sets of 8 to 12 reps is a good idea and would help you to build up strength slow and steady.
Need more reasons to try these out? Well, the power is in your hands to try them first and then decide on their effectiveness. Franco Columbo is known worldwide for having one of the most killer abs and he revealed that he never trained this muscle group directly, but always squeezed hard in every exercise that he would perform.