Our standing for Black History Month UK is not just to tell Black, British stories, but to amplify Black, British voices, and ask them to tell their stories themselves. Episode 1: Aminata Kamara...
Right, so you want to train abs, but you have no idea where to start? Great, you've landed on the right page.
With a huge variety of abdominal exercises on offer, we've narrowed it down to six of the best ab exercises to help you build strength and stability in your core, make these part of your next ab workout.
Before we continue though, allow us to debug a few myths that many of us come across during the pursuit of a lean stomach.
You can't spot-reduce body fat
Training your core has many benefits, but don't fall into the belief that the result will be a direct reduction of body fat in that area. You might have one of the best ab workouts in the world, but ultimately, your body decides where it stores extra calories, and where it takes that energy from.
So, don't neglect HIIT workouts and strength training as you strive for a stronger core, it all counts!
You can't get abs if you eat carbs
The devil's food, right? Not quite. Eating carbohydrates has no effect on whether you have visible abs or not. Instead, consider your eating habits and calorie consumption. Eating in a healthy deficit will reduce overall body fat, increasing the visibility of abdominal muscles and promoting a leaner physique in general.
You need to train your abs every day
Let's be real here, you don't need to do 500 sit-ups every day. Train your abdominals as you would any other muscle group, and focus on your core as a whole. Giving your muscles time to rest is key to ensuring they return stronger than before, and if you're training abs purely for aesthetics, you need to ensure your diet is on-point, too.
With those myths out the way, training your core is a must. Our abdominal muscles are constantly utilised throughout the day, from deadlifting to maintaining correct body posture; a strong, conditioned core isn't just about looks, but helps us in our day-today life too.
Remember: Train to improve core strength and performance, not just aesthetics.
The Six Best Ab Exercises
A core staple, the Plank exercise is excellent for placing your core, and abdominal muscles under constant tension. The Plank is an isometric exercise, meaning that the muscle does not lengthen, instead remaining static throughout and is one of the best core strengthening exercises.
The Plank requires engagement from the entire body to ensure the correct position can be held for the set length of time.
To progress the Plank, you can increase the time in which you hold the position, lift one foot in the air or add weight to increase resistance.
TIP: As you fatigue, focus on keeping your hips elevated, to prevent them from dipping and placing strain on your lower back.
Leg Raises help increase strength and muscular control throughout the core, with an increased focus on the lower section of the Rectus Abdominis making it one of the best lower ab exercises.
Leg raises can be performed flat on the floor, on an incline bench or hanging from a bar, dependent on the individual's strength and experience.
TIP: A common mistake with leg raises can be poor control during the eccentric part of the rep, be sure to lower your legs slowly and avoid your feet from touching the floor.
Toe Touches Crunches
Toe Touches is one of the best core exercises for isolating the abdominal area. Holding your feet in a vertical position reduces the ability to 'cheat' whilst performing the exercise, challenging the Rectus Abdominis intensely.
TIP: When completing the exercises, keep your scapula retracted and avoid a 'rocking' motion. Control each rep, engaging your core throughout.
Another weights room classic, and for good reason. The Russian Twist places constant tension on the abdominals while the obliques help maintain balance and rotation of the torso. Russian Twists are one of the most challenging ab exercises to perform correctly.
To increase difficulty, hold a weight or cable extension and perform Russian Twists slowly, focusing on muscular engagement and balance.
TIP: To help balance, cross your feet and try to hold your legs in the centre of your body, avoiding swinging when rotating your torso.
The Abdominal Crunch, easily the most common abs exercise to grace the gym mats. However, this one is often confused with the sit-up.
A much smaller movement than many think; the aim with the abdominal crunch is to curve the spine, lifting the top half of your back off the floor, before controlling the movement back down to the start position.
The sit-up, however, requires the entire back to lift up off the ground, often worse for those with lower back issues.
TIP: To increase the difficulty of the Crunch, hold a small weight and increase the time you hold the crunch for at the top.
A hugely underrated core exercise for overall stability and mobility, when performed correctly, the Cable Rotation exercise engages the abdomen and obliques.
Superset Cable Rotations with Russian Twists for the best oblique workout.
TIP: When performing cable rotations, focus rotating your upper half of the body, twisting the torso away from the cable, keeping your arms straight and thighs facing forwards.