Below you will find a library of 200 exercises with video instruction that target the abdominal muscles. Abdominal exercises help build a strong core, which reduces injury, and increases balance and stability.
However, if you’re not only after a stronger core, but want to create defined abs, you need to do more than just ab exercises….
The main muscle groups that make up the anterior abominal wall are:
- Rectus abdominis
- Internal & external obliques
- Transverse abdominis
DEFINED ABS & BODY FAT PERCENTAGE
To get defined abs, a 8-pack, 6-pack or 4-pack, you need to decrease your body fat percentage. Almost everyone will naturally have a good (not great) set of abs. The reason we can’t see them isn’t because they aren’t big enough, but because they’re enveloped in a layer a fat (read, how to lose belly fat). Think about it. Have you ever seen anyone with defined abs, who was chubby or lacked firmness in any other part of their body? Highly doubt it, unless they went down the liposuction route.
Generally, the body fat percentage at which abs become defined is around 10% body fat for men and 14% body fat for women. The point at which people tend to sport 6-pack abs is around 6-7% body fat for men and 11-12% for women.
It’s worth having your body fat percentage professionally measured. Alternatively you can buy a body fat scale (less accurate than professionally taken body fat measurements) or try the body fat calculator for a rough estimate.
ABS & BODY TYPE
The body fat percentages needed to boast defined abs are quite low, especially for women (read more about healthy body fat percentages), and not everyone will be able to healthily achieve defined or 6-pack abs. For example, endomorphs naturally carry more body fat than ectomorphs or mesomorphs, and will have to work incredibly hard to get defined abs. Thus, endomorphs should to focus primarily on cardiovascular exercise to reduce body fat percentage. Russell Crowe is a good example of a male endomorph who can sport an incredible physique. Jennifer Lopez is a female endomorph who has also had defined abs. Alas, unless you are a female endomorph who also gains muscle fairly easily, it will be fantastically difficult to have the ab definition of, say, Janet Jackson who is a mesomorph. That isn’t to say that you can’t have a body that is firm and toned all over, but only that 6-pack abs are unlikely to be a realistic goal.
Mesomorphs will find it easiest to sport defined/ 6-pack abs, as they lose fat with relative ease and gain muscle almost effortlessly. Taylor Lautner is a mesomorph, so is Janet Jackson and most fitness models. Ectomorphs naturally have a low body fat percentage, and will mainly have to work on targeting and building their abdominal muscles through the exercises below.
AB EXERCISE & SPOT REDUCTION
AB EXERCISES: PROPER FORM
The videos below have instructions and so will talk you through the exercise. Still, here are some basic points to remember when doing ab exercises and to look out for when watching the instructional video:
- Keep your joints in good alignment during the exercise. Awkward positioning increases the probability of injury.
- Do not bend (flex/ extend) your joints excessively. For example, when straightening your arms or legs, don’t go to the point of locking the elbow or knee joint. Your arms/ legs should be soft and a little relaxed.
- If the exercise is new to you, your range of motion will be limited (e.g. how far you can lift your legs). But, don’t force a movement and try to cheat by using other joints/ muscles to do the exercise. This will force your body out of alignment and risk injury. Go slow. Stop if the movement gets awkward/ uncomfortable. With time your range of motion will steadily increase.
- Protect your back and support your spine when shifting position. For example, if you need to bend over, bend from the hips not the waist/ back. Also, don’t arch your back too much.
- Movements should be slow and controlled. Focus on using the muscles the exercise is targeting. Don’t let gravity and momentum do the work for you. It will be ineffectual and increase the likelihood of injury. Also, refrain from bouncing during an exercise.
- Don’t hold your breath. Remember to breathe. Blood pressure increases during weight training and holding your breath may increase blood pressure further, to an unsafe level.
A couple the exercises below also target the back (i.e. back extensions) to counter balance the mostly forward bending ab exercises. You should know how to do a few back strengthening exercises to help prevent back pain, and promote uniform muscular development front to back.
To watch the videos, simply hover over the little black ring next to the exercise and click on the video to play. If the black rings don’t appear, try switching browsers. (There may be a problem viewing in Firefox, but Internet Explorer, Safari & Chrome work fine). If you have any issues let me know.