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.
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.
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.