It’s hard to miss the fact that six-pack abs are huge all over the US (and even globally). For the common man and woman, we salivate over tight abs in the media on stars like Beyonce and Hugh Jackman. As a whole, society has placed a certain sex appeal and mystique on the truly toned abs that can’t be shaken. People want to have and want to see washboard abs.
There are great uses for a strong midsection beyond just showing off the body though. While it’s a great way to attract a member of the opposite sex it serves a certain purpose for professional and other serious athletes.
A powerful set of abs is responsible for maintaining stability in your center, protecting your organs and your spine while providing the strength to move large amounts of weight. If you want to be able to muscle around massive amounts of weight with getting crushed, then you need to have a strong central core and training your body with the top 5 abs exercises is the right way to go.
The Anatomy of the Abs
The abs are located on the front and flanks of the lower portion of the torso, the rectus abdominus, the transverse abdominus and the obliques – that is the core of the abdominal muscle group. The entire muscle group attaches in various ways from the ribs down to the pelvis.
- Rectus Abdominus – the striping of connective tissue that provides the impression of deeply cut muscles between the 6 visible heads of the muscle. The 6 pack. This muscle is responsible for flexing the spine and bringing the rib cage closer to the pelvis.
- Transverse Abdominus – the deepest core muscle that wraps around the entire abdominal area. This muscle is responsible for supporting the core of the trunk under duress and heavy lifting. This muscle has one major purpose; to keep your guts inside your body.
- Obliques – These muscles allow us to move our core in numerous directions. They run diagonally across the body and also work to support the core during common motions and heavy lifting.
The Top 5 Exercises for Killer Abs – The Breakdown
It’s easy to run through a lot of exercises while trying to get washboard abs, and you might even perform all of the top 5 abdominal exercises and still see few results if you’re not managing things properly. It’s important to use different speeds, tempos, positions and variations in the angles to mix things up. One of the best methods you can use is to ensure progress is to constantly set goals, then break them – continue to raise your goals with each workout.
Top Abdominal Exercise #1 – The Bicycle Crunch
It’s the move itself that mimics the bicycle ride, hence the name, but there is no real bicycle involved. This is one of the best exercises to hit your abdominals hard, including the oblique’s. The exercise uses the weight and resistance of your own body for training purposes, but if the entire process seems too easy for you then add weights to your legs or ankles.
To perform the bicycle crunch, lie down on the floor and put your hands behind your head. Do not lock your fingers as you don’t want to be pulling your head upward during the exercise using your arms. Raise your shoulder blades using the abdominal muscles, like you’re performing a crunch. Next, elevate your knees so that your knees are bent and your calf muscles are parallel to the floor. Begin by slowly pedaling your legs like you’re riding a bicycle. Compress your abdomen with each “row” by touching your knee with the opposite elbow as you draw the knee up.
Maintain your breathing – do not hold your breath. Your shoulders should remain elevated and you should not be using your hands to keep them elevated. This will ensure the maximum use of the abdominal muscles.
Top Abdominal Exercise #2 –Vertical Leg Raise
A vertical leg raise is ideal for hitting the lower abdominal muscles, and with variations in movement this top abdominal exercise can also hit the obliques as well – perhaps even better than the bicycle maneuver. It’s not truly possible to target a specific section of the abs because they are a cohesive muscle group, so expect this workout to hit all the major groups – you’ll definitely feel the pull in the lower abdomen though.
This works great from a captain’s chair. Support your body by placing your elbows on the horizontal pads with your back flush to the backpads. Grip the provided hand holds and let your feet dangle. Raise your knees toward your chest. Pause and flex your abdominal muscles then lower your legs under control to just before the starting position and raise again. Avoid the temptation to let your feet dangle and rest.
Top Abdominal Exercise #3 – Ab Wheels
This is one of those core exercises that hurts in just the right kind of way and will definitely sit at at the top of the most important core exercises for your abs. If you want washboard abs then this is most certainly the workout you want to aim for. It’s important to know your limitations because this workout can be difficult for someone that has a weak lower back.
To perform for starters, get on your knees using a mat or other workout pad under your knees for protection. Hold the wheel on the floor in front of you with your elbows extended slightly. Let the wheel roll out in front of your body as far as is comfortable. Use your abs, and no other part of your body, to draw the wheel back in.
Top Abdominal Exercise #4 – Clothespins
This is an abdominal exercise that uses full body motion while also delivering a core exercise to the abs. If you’re just starting your ab routines you may have a difficult time landing this maneuver properly but with work you’ll be able to get the motions down – it’s about a mixture of flexibility and core strength.
To perform, lay down and straighten your legs. Begin by sitting up in a semi-seated position while contracting your abdominal muscles then lift your legs to a 45 degree angle. Reach out toward your shins and hold the posture while contracting your abs. Return to your starting position slowly, under control.
Top Abdominal Exercise #5 – Flutter Kicks
Flutter kicks are a serious workout that will push the limits of your abs and stamina. This workout not only targets your abdominal muscles but will target your back muscles as well. There’s no set number of reps for this workout. The point is to push yourself to muscle fatigue where you simply cannot progress further. Continue challenging yourself to increase the length at which you do the flutter kicks or the number of kicks you get in within a set time limit.
To perform, lay on the floor with your legs straight. Place your hands under the outside of your gluts to support your lower back and raise your legs off the ground to a point where they are approximately 8-12” from the ground. Begin by raising one leg up to about 18-20” while lowering the other leg slightly then alternate the legs. Continue alternating for the full duration. If you need to take a break during this exercise, pull your knees to your chest and hold that position as if you were curled up into a ball. When ready, extend your legs and begin again.
- Bicycle Crunch – 2 Sets of 20 Reps
- Flutter Kicks – 2 Sets of 10 reps with each Leg
- Vertical Leg Raises – 2 Set of 15 Reps
- Bicycle Crunch – 2 Sets of 15 Reps
- Ab Wheel – 2 Sets of 12 Reps
- Flutter Kicks – 2 Sets of 12 Reps with Each Leg
- Ab Wheel – 2 Sets of 12 Reps
- Vertical Leg Raises – 2 Sets of 15 Reps
- Clothespins – 2 Sets of 12 Reps
- Bicycle Crunches – 2 Sets of 20 Reps
When adding these top 5 abdominal exercises into your regular routine, remember to also target some exercises that will improve the strength of your lower back. While you will be working your back muscles during your ab workouts, your back needs to have its own specialized programs so that it can sustain the itself through the duration of the other workouts.