by Tony Gjokaj March 10, 2020 3 min read

Abdominals are one of the most sought after muscles. The first thing to get out of the way is that the abdominals will only be visible under a lower body fat percentage. Second is the following mindset: if you do strength lifts, you MAY NOT need to directly train your abs.

Before you feel the need to skip this section, read this: while abdominal muscular development can occur with Squatting and Deadlifting, this does not mean you’re training your core in various planes.

With this being said, there are a lot of things to talk about when training the abdominal area and we are strong advocates of doing so… not just for muscular development, but also for overall health!

This is an excerpt from our Muscle Compendium eBook.

Anatomy and Function of the Abdominals

The Abdominal area consists of the following four muscles: the Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, and the external and internal obliques. These four muscles assist in keeping our posture in check.

  • The Transverse Abdominis is the main powerhouse of the abdominal area as it is the main muscle that helps stabilize the spine. Usually the main cause of lower back issues correlates to weak muscles in this area. This muscle allows support to the lumbar area.
  • The Transverse Abdominis allows us to exhale and “push things out” of our bodies(bathroom breaks and children).
  • The Rectus Abdominis assists the Transverse Abdominis in exhalation of air and stabilization of our spines. This muscle allows us to “crunch”or curl our torso.
  • Both the Internal and External Obliques assist in rotating and bending the trunk (our stomach).They also help the Transverse Abdominis stabilize the spine.

Now that we understand the functions a little more, let’s get into a few strategies in building these “cheese-graters”!

Abdominal Training Strategies

  • Exhale when you contract/flex your abs: When you contract or flex your abdomen, make sure you exhale at that moment. This will help support development in our abs (remember that the Transverse Abdominis contracts or flexes when you exhale)!
  • Do an RTC – Raise, Twist, Crunch: To maximize core strengthening and mobility overall, do a leg raise exercise, a twist, and a crunch exercise.
  • Full Range of Motion: People tend to do partial reps when doing ab work. Never neglect the full range of motion because development occurs in both parts of the movements.
  • High Repetitions: When training abs, utilize repetitions in the 10-20 rep range. In addition, you should do AT MOST 16 sets per week of direct ab work.

Effective Abdominal Exercises

When it comes to effective ab exercises, I prefer to view them as “core” work: since the abs are a small muscle, we train abs for functionality. We optimize this by doing a leg raise, a crunch, and a twist exercise.

  • Hanging Knee Raises/Hanging Leg Raises
  • Machine Ab Crunches
  • Reaching Sit-Ups
  • Russian Twists

Abdominal Training Summary

To conclude our abdominal training, let’s start by saying in regards to abdominal development, you might not necessarily need to directly train abs. This is because you may develop them from squatting and deadlifting heavy. 

I prefer to utilize abdominal training to provide spinal mobility and to reduce any tightness or emphasis on my lower back. When training the abdominals, I would utilize high repetition bodyweight sets upwards in the 10-20 rep range. You should be able to get away with at least 16 sets per week with direct ab work if you’re passionate about working your abdominals. 

Personally, I would do 4 sets of 10-20 reps on leg days. Which leads to the importance of training abdominals on your leg days. We emphasize this to allow adequate recovery for your next leg day. If you train abs the day before legs, for example, you might not be able to be as effective on a heavy squat or deadlift session.

Anything you would like to add or any other tips you would like to give? Throw them in the comments below!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He has been in the fitness space for over a decade, previously coaching individuals in body recomposition and strength training. His goal is to connect others with the knowledge they need to reach their greatest potential.


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