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High Ab Exercises

Tuck Crunch

START Lie flat on the floor with both your upper and lower legs bent at 90 degrees and your feet resting on a bench. Cup your head with your hands but don’t pull on it.

DO IT Contract your abs to lift your shoulder blades as high as possible off the floor.

Form Tip This is a short movement, so strong contractions are crucial. Hold the top position of each rep for a full count. To maintain tension on your abs, keep your shoulder blades slightly elevated in the bottom position so that you can’t rest between reps.

abs

Knee Up

START Sit on the end of a flat bench and hold the sides to stabilize yourself. Raise your legs straight out, maintaining your balance on the bench and a slight bend in your knees.

DO IT Pull your legs into your chest by bending your knees, then kick your legs back out.

Form Tip To make knee-ups more difficult you can bring your knees up to your left on one rep and to your right on the next rep, alternating sides. This will involve the obliques as well as the lower abs.

Decline Russian Twist

START Sit on a decline bench and hook your ankles under the pads. Grab a weight plate or medicine ball with both hands. Lean back so that your torso is perpendicular to the bench. Hold the weight out in front of your chest, arms bent.

DO IT Keeping the weight in the same relative position to your torso, twist your body as far as you can to the right and then as far as you can to the left. Count the movement from left to right and back left again as one rep.

Form Tip Your upper abs isometrically contract during this move while your obliques power the back-and-forth twisting motion. You can also do this movement for time.

big muscles 2

Mixology

The key to a successful abs workout is choosing the right combination of exercises and rep schemes to fully target all muscle fibers over your entire midsection. Follow these eight simple rules of the low/mid/high routine to ensure results.

1. Choose one exercise from each category. Pick one low-rep exercise, one mid-rep exercise and one high-rep exercise.

2. Make certain these three exercises work your lower abs, upper abs and obliques. Although no exercise will entirely isolate any one abdominal area, we’ve noted the primary focus of each exercise. Three of the exercises (one in each category) focus on the obliques in addition to a number of moves for the lower and upper abs, which offers plenty of variety in your workouts to prevent stagnation.

3. We define low as 10, mid as 15 and high as 25 reps.
Perform the low-rep exercise for four sets of 10 reps. Perform the mid-rep exercise for three sets of 15 reps. And perform the high-rep exercise for two sets of 25. Just remember 4–3–2 (number of sets for low, mid and high) and 10–15–25 (number of reps for low, mid and high).

4. Stick to the order. Make sure you do the low-rep sets first and high-rep sets last. The exercises in each category have been selected by difficulty, so do the most challenging one first when your strength level is at its highest.

5. Hit your rep targets. Select the exercises and resistance that allow you to reach failure at or near the target rep range. Until you grow stronger, some of the exercises may be difficult for you to perform correctly for the required number of reps, but there are easier alternatives within each group. For example, two of the low-rep exercises (windshield wipers and reverse decline crunches) are challenging, while the third (kneeling cable crunches) can be made easier or harder depending on where you set the pin in the stack. If you can’t yet get 10 good reps on the first two bodyweight lifts, select a weight on cable crunches that brings you to failure at 10 reps. If a move is too easy, find ways to make it more challenging (add more weight) so that you’re barely able to reach your desired rep target.

6. Change up your workouts. Out of the three exercises you choose in the low/mid/high routine, try to select at least one that’s different from your previous workout. Doing so will stress your muscles in a slightly differently pattern, keeping your workout fresh.

7. Make your workouts progressively more challenging. While sticking to the target rep ranges of 10, 15 and 25, try to increase resistance from workout to workout. Seven of the nine exercises don’t typically involve weights, but nevertheless you can add resistance via using, for example, a steeper decline on the exercise bench or by bringing your legs higher on leg/knee lifting exercises, or even wearing ankle weights. You can also reduce your rest period between sets to make a movement more difficult. Typically, you should rest about 60 seconds between sets when training abs, but you can progressively shrink this to as few as 20 seconds to boost the degree of difficulty.

8. Do your routine three times a week. Hit the low/mid/high abs routine three times weekly with at least 48 hours rest between workouts (or every other day if you prefer), depending on your schedule.

Strong abs with Kneeling Cable Crunch technique

START Facing the weight stack, grab a rope attached to an overhead cable. Kneel down on the floor. Hold a rope end steady on each side of your head. The weight will remain elevated from the stack throughout the set.

DO IT Making sure your back is rounded, not flat, crunch your abs to bend forward at the waist as far as you can go, holding the peak contraction for a count. Allow the weight to pull you back to the start position.

Form Tip Don’t sit back as you bend forward, a common mistake, as that means action is taking place at the knees as well.

 

abs exercises

Mid Ab Exercises

Hanging Leg Raise

START Hang at arms length from a pull-up bar with your feet together.

DO IT While keeping your torso steady, raise your legs as high as possible, keeping your legs as straight as possible. At the top of the move your legs should be above the horizontal plane to the floor.

Form Tip Swinging shifts the focus away from the abs. To minimize momentum, come to a complete stop at the conclusion of each rep and perform the concentric (up) and eccentric (down) half of each rep at a controlled pace.

Hanging Knee Raise

START Hang at arms length from a pull-up bar. Keep your feet together and maintain a bend in your knees.

DO IT While keeping your torso steady, raise your bent knees as high as possible. The higher you go, the more the lower abs have to work, so don’t do partial reps.

Form Tip This is generally seen as an easier version of the hanging leg raise, but even those who can get 15 reps of that exercise can benefit from this one. Hanging knee raises allow you to bring your knees higher and curl your hips up for stronger contractions, sort of like a vertical reverse crunch. Again, work to minimize momentum.

abs routine

Decline Twisting Crunch

START Hook your ankles under the pads of a decline bench. Lie halfway back and hold your hands behind your head, cupping it.

DO IT Crunch as high as you can, then aim your left elbow toward your right knee, turning your shoulder toward the opposite-side knee. On the next rep, aim your right elbow toward your left knee. Alternate sides with each rep.

Form Tip Don’t just flap your elbow across your body to fully engage your obliques; consciously turn your shoulder to the opposite-side knee.

Your First Mix’n’Match Abs Final Solution

Forget the one-size-fits-all approach to abs training. Use our low/mid/high mixture of options to build your abs and tighten up your midsection in only 18 workouts (that’s only 18 days)!

Here’s the problem with most abs training plans: They’re either too complicated or too simple. On the one hand you’ll find those intricate battle strategies that come with an encyclopedia and/or DVD encompassing every exotic exercise and technique imaginable, complete with meal plan and a 100-page instruction book. The only thing missing is the time to go through it all. On the other hand, you may be offered the promise that a new gadget or “secret” exercise is the one missing element you need to swiftly refine your abs in high-def 3-D.

The truth, of course, rests somewhere between these extremes. That’s where the strategy under discussion makes sense — it blasts your abs with more than just a single bullet. The muscles of your midsection are, in fact, composed of a greater degree of slow-twitch muscle fibers (the more resilient fibers that are less prone to growth), so a singular approach to abs training that doesn’t address the muscle-fiber composition of your midsection is only half a strategy as it is.

Then there’s the issue that your midsection is typically divided into the lower and upper abdominals as well as the obliques. While there aren’t a lot of muscle groups involved, your abs are a bit more complex than, say, your biceps, and yet they can be thoroughly stressed with moderate variety. That’s why a low/mid/high approach to reps is ideal: By stressing all three areas over three rep ranges, your workouts avoid being overly complicated while not being limited by a one-size-fits-all scheme of one-device workouts. Instead, this approach hits the sweet spot and serves up the perfect mix for abs training success.

 

Your Low/Mid/High Reps Abs Workout

Low Abs Exercise
Windshield Wiper
Kneeling Cable Crunch
Decline Reverse Crunch
Sets
4
4
4
Reps
10
10
10
Mid Abs Exercise
Hanging Leg Raise
Hanging Knee Raise
Decline Twisting Crunch
Sets
3
3
3
Reps
15
15
15
High Abs Exercise
Tuck Crunch
Knee-Up
Decline Russian Twist
Sets
2
2
2
Reps
25
25
25

Anatomy of Abs

abdomen

START Hang at arms length from a pull-up bar. Keep your feet together and legs slightly bent and raise your legs so that they’re higher than your head.

DO IT While keeping your upper body steady, rotate your legs as far as you can to the right and then across your body as far as you can to your left. Think of your legs as windshield wipers traveling across wet glass. Each “wipe” from left to right and back again counts as one rep.

Form Tip This is a difficult gymnastics-style move that requires a lot of isometric abs strength. To focus it entirely on your abs and not your arms, use abs straps to eliminate losing your grip on the bar.

Decline Reverse Crunch

START Lie on a decline bench so that your head is elevated above your legs and grab the ankle pads at the top (where your feet would be if you were doing decline sit-ups). Hold your legs up slightly with a bend locked in your knees.

DO IT Without bending your knees any further, bring your legs toward your chest by contracting your lower abs. Raise your glutes just off the bench at the top as your knees come over your chest.

Form Tip Don’t lower your feet all the way to the bench at the start of the move. Instead keep your legs slightly elevated so that tension remains on your abs throughout.