4 Exercises For Abs Of Steel

Six pack abs. A fitness goal that remains illusive to many people.

Ironic when you consider we’ve all got six pack abs. Most people’s are hiding under a layer of fat – waiting for the day they can reveal themselves.

Showing off six pack abs is more about diet than anything else. If you’ve got fat to lose then that is your first priority. I suggest you start here if you are in that position.

That said there are certain exercises that will help you develop “abs of steel” and build a stronger core.

There are several reason why this will be beneficial to you even if you still have fat to lose.

  1. When you get to a point where your abs are on show, they will look better and more defined.
  2. Having a “abs of steel” and a stronger core will help your other lifts in the gym. Yes, you use your abs in lifts like deadlifts and squats BUT if you strengthen them in isolation you will see a carry over in performance.
  3. Having stronger abs helps reduce your chances of getting injured. This is particularly true for people with lower back injuries. Adding in some extra core work may be a worthwhile thing for you to do.

There are hundreds of exercises you can do to strengthen your abs and core. Some are better than others. The 4 in this post are exercises that I’ve found help people address the above benefits time and time again.

The Movements

First, a quick lesson. When training the abs we can do so in several ways:

  • Flexion – think crunches
  • Anti -Extension – think planks
  • Rotation – think Russian twists
  • Anti-rotation – we’ll come to this one later

That’s important. You want to train the abs through every range possible. Having said that, in this articles I won’t be talking about flexion exercises.

Why? Most people do too much of that anyway. On top of that we sit down all day, mostly in a flexed position. Adding in flexion based exercises is likely not the best course of action for most.

Exercise 1 – Plank Sliders

I love this exercise. It requires minimal equipment and forces the transverse abdominals (deep ab muscles) to work overtime.

You can perform these with floor sliders or small towels. Just find a slippy surface and get to work. This exercise falls into the anti-extension category.

Key points:

  • Whilst rocking back and forth, keep your legs straight throughout the whole movement.
  • Keep your hips level, squeeze your glutes (buttcheeks) and brace your abs.

Enjoy the feeling the next day….

Exercise 2 – Plank Hand Sliders

This exercise is tougher than the first. It’s still an anti-extension based movement but adds in a little more anti-rotation work. This means that you are working harder to try and keep the hips level and stop them rotating.

Again some sliders or towels are essential for this exercise.

Key points:

  • When you set up in the straight arm plank position, make sure you are actually in that position. Don’t let the hips drop, stay in a straight line and squeeze the glutes.
  • Having your legs wider apart will make the exercise easier. As you get stronger bring your feet closer together. This makes it harder because you shorten your base of support – making it easier to rotate the hips. Fight against that.
  • As you slide your arm out, push your other arm hard into the floor. This will make you more stable.
  • When you pull your arm back keep in straight. Squeeze your abs and try to pull using them. This will become clearer when you try these out.

Exercise 3 – Lateral Ab Rollouts

You may have seen ab rollouts before. They have been around for years and you can buy cheap, quality ab wheels from major superstores.

They’ve been around for a long time because, well, they work. This particular movement is best performed with a barbell but the ab wheel still works.

The lateral ab rollout is a big favourite of mine and combines both anti-extension and rotation into one movement. This makes for a killer ab exercise.

Key points:

  • Start with an easier variation that you think. To make this exercise easier you need to have more of your legs in contact with the floor. To make it harder do the opposite. Until you can perform standing reps. No easy feat.
  • The first rep is a standard straight rollout. The second rep rotate to the left, the third to the right. That’s *one* rep. Ouch.
  • Squeeze your and keep your hips level. No saggy lower backs here, please.
  • As you grip the barbell imagine you are trying to rip it apart. This will help fire up your lats in your back.

You’ll feel muscles you never knew you had the day after performing these.

Exercise 4 – Pallof Press

A classic anti-rotational exercise that is deceptively hard. Of all the exercises listed this is the one that looks the easiest but for most people is the hardest.

In modern life rarely does our core have to resist rotation under load. So this is an untrained area for most people and thus it is something you should try.

Key points:

  • The further away you stand from the anchor point of the band or cable, the harder this exercise is. To make it easier do the opposite. I suggest you start closer than you think you should. Trust me on this one.
  • Stand up straight with your glutes squeezed together. Hold the band into your stomach and brace your abs. Hard.
  • As you push the band out, leave a slight bend in the elbow rather than straightening them all the way. This helps keeps tension on the abs.
  • Keep your hips and shoulders square throughout the movement. if you can’t do this you are either using too heavy a band or you need to stand closer to the anchor point. Remember we are trying to resist rotation.

This exercise will surprise you and if you were going to pick one of the 4 to try, this would be my suggestion.

Programming

When should your perform ab work and how often? Good question.

It depends.

How big a priority is strengthening your abs to you? Is it the number 1 goal?

It’s difficult to give you specific recommendations without knowing your goals and training history.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Train your core directly 2-3 times per week
  • If your abs are particularly weak try adding some core movements to your warm up/doing them at the start of your session
  • Pair up your core work with other exercises. This will help you do more work in a shorter time
  • If you’ve got fat to lose before they show, that is your priority. Add in some direct ab work to support that goal – not to replace it.
  • Work through multiple rep ranges. Sometimes go heavier for less reps. Other time work on endurance and perform more reps.

Building “abs of steel” is a worthwhile pursuit. But like anything it will take you time. If you put in the work it will be a rewarding pursuit.

If you want extra help reaching your goals or have questions about this article, drop me an email here and I’ll help you.

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