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Implement this abdominal routine to improve your look and function of your midsection.
Having cannon ball delts, lats as wide as a barn door, and a chest so big that you could balance a glass of water on it are all features that bodybuilders aspire to achieve. But the one bodypart that everyone wants to have look freaky shredded is the abdominals! From the rectums abdominus, to the serratus and intercostal, nothing says conditioning like a drum tight midsection. Ultimately to have razor sharp abdominals you need to make sure your diet is in check or else a layer of unwanted fat will just cover them. A solid abdominal routine will only enhance the detail in your midsection, but more importantly, it will provide you with a strong core to help you use maximum poundage on your big lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and bent over rows. Working the abdominals through multiple planes of motion, instead of just the standard crunches, will allow you to tap into all the possible muscle groups in the abdominal region.
Exercise Sets Reps
Ab Wheel Rollouts 2 15-20
Side Bench Crunch w/Hold 2^ 15 each
Cable Rotations 2^^ 10 each
TRX Pikes 2^^^ 15
^ Once 15 reps for both sides become easy, add load by holding onto a weight plate or dumbbell.
^ Set the cable attachment to about chest height.
^^ Make sure your feet stay flexed at all times. Set the straps about 12-16 inches from the ground
Quality Reps are Key
There is no need for high rep, high volume abdominal routines. Anything more than 20 reps just mean that the exercises are too easy. The abdominal region does respond to slightly higher reps than say your back or chest, but not much more. A muscle is a muscle, and to truly tap into those type IIa and type IIb muscle fibers, you need to make each rep hard to perform. Make sure you can feel and visualize the muscle that is supposed to be doing the job. On the ab wheel rollouts you should feel it totally in the anterior (abs) core, not the lower lumbar region. On the cable rotations, don’t muscle through it with your arms; instead make the torso do the job. You should see plenty of benefits by incorporating the following routine twice a week. The abdominals need rest and recovery, so doing them everyday will be counterproductive.
Ab Wheel Rollout
The king of all anterior (abs) core exercises is the abs wheel rollout. It engages the entire front abdominal wall from the rectus abdominus to the transverse abdomenus. The rollout also teaches the body to maintain a neutral spine, thus protecting the lower back from arching too much during certain lifts such as strict barbell curls. Starting on both knees place one hand on each side of the wheel. Start with your back slightly rounded so you prevent too much arch in the lower back as you rollout. Leading with the hips extend as far out as possible until your face comes close to the floor. Pause for just one second and then return to the starting position and repeat.
Side Bench Crunch w/Hold
Lay laterally on a bench in the same position as a lying side crunch. Do not stack the ankles. Instead, have the left foot tucked under the bench (when on left side), and right heal locked underneath the bench to straddle the bench and stayed locked in. Go down until the shoulder almost comes in contact with the floor. The shoulders stay stacked as you lower to the floor and the hips are square. The negative portion should last 2 seconds, the positive should be explosive, and then hold for 2 seconds at the top of the rep.
The core musculature primarily moves in a transverse (rotational) plane of motion. In order to hit all of your core muscles you must incorporate some type of rotational movement. The cable rotations provide a great bang for your buck. Face the cable attachment with the arms straight and in front of the chest. Grasp the handle with both hands. Feet are shoulder width apart and knees are slightly bent. Turn 90 degrees to the right. Rotate the body by using the torso pivoting on the left foot. This is an abdominal exercise, not an arm exercise. Once the 90 degrees to the left is reached, stop for one second and come back and slowly return to the starting position. Then rotate to the left and pivot on the right foot. Hold for one second and come back to the starting position. One full repetition has been completed.
TRX Strap Pikes
The TRX strap provides an unsteady environment, which requires more deep stabilizers in the abdominal region to engage. Pikes are also a killer lower abdominal exercise, making the combo hard to beat. Place both feet in the TRX strap in a prone position, hands on the floor, shoulders above hands. Bend at the waist and pull the feet towards the chest, which forces the hips to go straight up in the air. Make sure to pull with the abdominal muscles and not the arms. When the torso reaches a vertical position (the torso and head in total alignment) there is a three second stop and then come down slowly. Repeat.
Justin Grinnell is the Owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. State of Fitness opened up just four years ago and is already one of the leading training facilities in the Midwest. State of Fitness has over 450 members who train every day under his leadership. In addition to being a facility owner, Justin has his own blog at www.grinnelltraining.com (link below), and has been a featured writer for over 6 years in the magazine Healthy & Fit and is a writer for Muscle & Fitness.