Updated: May 13
A common relative gauge of someone’s fitness level and health is their midsection. Just because you can get away with not having chiseled abs 2/3 out of the year, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to build your core. The ability to display a great set of abs does indeed indicate a commitment to fitness. After all, it's also an indicator that you take your nutrition seriously as well. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, they serve an important function in the stabilization of your body. Let's first establish that everyone has abdominal muscles, however, they may be a weak point in your body. Functionally, a stronger core means increased strength in compound movements, and all movements essentially. Aesthetically, if you have weak abdominal muscles they won’t be visible on the outside. You also may have trouble seeing your abs if your body fat percentage is too high. If wanting to build a chiseled set of Abs is in your goals, it is important to stick to great nutrition, track macros, and stay away from processed foods. Once the nutrition aspect is in check, all that’s left is to build your core like any other muscle in your body. Here are 4 exercises for chiseled abs that will get you on the sequel of Baywatch:
1. Hanging leg raise or Captains Chair leg raise
The Hanging leg raise is great for activating the Rectus Abdominis (Abs). First, start this exercise by hanging from a bar. Second, you want to raise your legs towards your chest, almost in a tucking motion. During this movement, it is important in focusing on engaging your abdominal muscles and not your hip flexor so as to just lift your legs. At the top of the movement, you want to squeeze your Abs. Lastly and slowly, lower your legs back to starting position. If you’re a beginner to this exercise you can keep a bend in your knees and eventually work on progressing to keeping your legs straight out. This exercise does require some ability to hold your own body weight. If you find your grip giving up before your Abs, you can switch to the alternative of Captain's Chair leg raises. The Captain's Chair is my preference over hanging leg raises as it allows me to focus on squeezing my Abs tighter, with better control, and not having to focus on maintaining my grip.
2. Russian Twists on Bench
Russian Twists are a popular exercise when it comes to building a great set of Abs. However, they are often done incorrectly as people just swing their arms from side to side without actually twisting at the core. This exercise done correctly activates your Transverse Abdominis, Serratus, and Obliques. To do this exercise more effectively I would recommend getting on a decline bench. First, you want to slightly elevate into a sit-up, just enough to feel and maintain contraction in your Abs. Second, you want to twist to one side at your core, picturing your opposite shoulder coming across your body. You finish by alternating to the other side in the completion of one rep. To make this exercise more difficult and add resistance, you could introduce a medicine ball or weighted plate, and hold it in your hands as you twist. Make sure to twist slowly and controlled to get the best contraction and to avoid any injuries.
Planks should really get more love than they do. I would rank this exercise for beginners to intermediate-level fitness. Those with advanced fitness levels might find that their core strength allows them to hold a plank for a long time quite easily. However, if you’re new to planking, it is one of the few exercises that activate muscles found deeper in your core. These muscles include the Intercostals, Internal, and External Obliques, and the Transverse and Rectus Abdominis. To do this exercise correctly you will need a gym mat. Get into a push-up position and rather than stacking your shoulders over your hands, get on your elbows, then lift the rest of your body off the ground. The most important part is then to squeeze your abdominal muscles at the naval. This is the part that most people get wrong and miss out on the benefits of this exercise. You should not be able to take deep breaths during this exercise, as you’re squeezing at your midsection. 2-5 minutes for 3-4 sets is a good start.
4. Gymnast Tucks
This exercise is a great variation for Abs and deserves recognition. The Gymnast tuck is very similar to a leg raise and requires good core stabilization. My preferred variation for this exercise is on the Captain's Chair machine. First, you want to hold on to the handlebars as if getting into a Dip. However, you’re going to hold yourself up keeping your arms flexed with a slight bend at the elbows, not locking out your arms as to cause an injury. From here, squeeze your abs and start to tuck, bringing your legs upwards and finishing with a squeeze at the top; as a variation, you could bring your knees to your chest instead. Make sure you are not just swinging your body back and forth and just lifting your legs without contracting your Abs.
A strong core means you’re not dancing like a tube man during your lifts. Aside from the strength gains, a good set of abs are for everyone. These 4 exercises will build your core muscles, and get you chiseled abs so that they grow and become more visible as your bf% drops. Keep in mind, that the most important factor in having Abs is nutrition so that you can see the fruits of your labor.
Before starting any fitness program or dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.