Whether we’re male or female, we all want those six pick abs. Yet, men and women tend to store fat around the midsection differently. As a result, they need to train slightly differently in order to sculpt their abs. In this article, we discover how each gender should train optimally for ab development. We’ll provide you with 4 separate workouts in this article:
- Beginner home ab workout
- Beginner intermediate ab workout
- Beginner gym workout
- Intermediate gym workout
The Best Ab Exercises
To find the best abdominal exercises, you first need to understand the biomechanical movement of the abdominal muscles. The abdominals perform only one task – spinal flexion. The flat rectus abdominis muscle originates on the pubic bone and inserts on the front of the ribs. When you contract the abs, you pull the upper and lower body together. All of the parts of the ab contract together – you cannot isolate a certain part of them. That means that there is no such thing as an upper ab or a lower ab exercise. There are only ab exercises!
So, what are the best exercises to work the abs?
Those that simulate the natural function of the abs. That means variations of the crunch exercise. Here are the four best variations.
Position a back supported bench a few feet in front of a cable pulley machine. Set the cable in line with your shoulders when you are sitting on the bench. Put a rope handle on the end of the cable. Now sit on the seat and hold the cable just above your head. Next, crunch down to bring your elbows toward your knees.
Lie on an exercise ball on your back so that you are arched over it. Position your feet on the floor. Place your hands by your ears. Extend all the way back and then crunch up to contract the abs. Hold for a second and then return to the start position.
Legs High Bench Crunch
Sit on the end of a bench or seat with your hands supporting you behind your body and your feet extended at a 45 degree angle. For those that need support to hold their legs at a 45 degree angle use a support like a jumping box. Lean back and lift your legs until they are parallel with your torso. Where those that can and not using a jumping box, bring your knees up toward your torso as you crunch your abdominals. Kick your legs back to the start position. Do not round your lower back. That is one rep.
Lie on an exercise mat with your legs out straight and your hands alongside your ears (do not clasp your hands together). Lift your feet off the ground and, lifting your head and shoulders, begin a cycling action with your legs, simultaneously bringing your elbows across to the opposite knee.
Differences Between Men & Women
The abdominal muscles of men and women are identical. That means that the actual training of the abs needs to be the same. However, men tend to have more fat covering the abs than women. That’s partly because men tend to consume more calories and partly because men are genetically predisposed to store excess fat on the stomach whereas women tend to store it on the hips and thighs. That means that men need to do more cardio to burn off stomach fat than women.
Men and women should both train their abs twice per week. However, men should also do 2-3 30-45 cardio sessions to burn off excess abdominal body fat.
Beginner Home Ab Workout
- Basic Crunch – 3 x 20 reps
- Bicycle Crunch – 3 x 20 reps
Beginner Home Intermediate Ab Workout
- Bicycle Crunch – 4 x 20 reps
- Leg High Bench Crunch – 3 x 20 reps
Beginner Gym Ab Workout
- Cable Crunch – 3 x 20 reps
- Ball Crunch – 3 s 20 reps
Intermediate Gym Ab Workout
- Cable Crunch – 6 x 30/25/20/15/10/8
- Ball Crunch – 3 x 20 reps
Notes: On the Cable Crunch, start with a weight that will allow you to get 30 reps, with the last 5 being a struggle. Then increase the weight, so you can only just get 25 reps. Continue to add weight as you lower the reps on each succeeding set, until you are doing 8 reps on the last set.
Do You Need Super High Reps for the Abs?
Many people think that you need to pump out hundreds of reps of crunches in order to develop your abs. You do not. The belief that you need to go extra high rep on exercises like crunches seems to spring from the belief in spot reducing. This is the idea that you can do high rep exercise for the abs and burn off body fat from that part of your body. That is a patently false belief.
The only way to get rid of body fat is to consume fewer calories than you need for energy. You do that by eating less food and doing more cardio type exercise. You cannot however, determine what part of the body the fat will come from. In fact, it usually comes off the stomach area last – at least, that’s the case for men.
There is no benefit to doing super high reps for the abs. It is a muscle just like any other muscle. As such, it needs a range of repetitions to stimulate both the fast twitch and the slow twitch muscle fibers. In our intermediate level cable crunch workout, you will see that the rep range runs between 30 and 8. That is the ideal range for working any muscle group. The abs are not the exception to the rule.
Training the abdominals is far less complicated than people have made it seem. When you understand that the only thing the abs do is spinal flexion, you will understand that most of the supposed ab exercises out there, like hanging leg raises and the plank, do not work your abs at all. The only exercise you need to do is the crunch. Use the one of the four sample workouts presented here that applies to you and you will be well on your way to revealing your six pack abs.
These workouts come from qualified personal trainers so if you are looking for ab exercises for women or ab exercises for men that are smart look no further !