The Evolution of the Ultimate Ab Workout

One of the hottest topics in fitness continues to be the achievement of tighter, flatter, and stronger abs. Whether it’s a six-pack you’re after, or simply getting rid of your love handles, current research indicates that a new way of working the abs will help reduce back pain, put less strain on the neck, and tighten your core like never before.

Back in the mid-twentieth century, sit-ups were the way we worked our abs. Sitting on the ground, anchoring one’s feet under a couch, men and women across America were attempting to strengthen their abdominal muscles. Hands were locked behind their heads as they moved up and down as fast as they could, most often with a straight, flat back. Because they were essentially hinging and swinging their bodies forwards and backwards at the hip, this technique often lead to lower back pain and lots of wear and tear on the hips.

As the century drew to a close, we began to see different contraptions that promised an intense, pain-free ab workout. In many cases, little attention was paid to the natural curvature of the spine. While hip injuries decreased, neck and back pain increased.

Today, thankfully, we know a lot more about what we need to work and how to work it.

Let’s start first with what we need to work: the entire core, which includes our upper and lower abs, lower back and the obliques. For example, if you wanted to have toned arms, you wouldn’t just work your biceps, you would work all of the muscles around your biceps as well (like triceps and shoulders). The same can be said for attaining a taught and tight core. Focusing on a combination of exercises that target multiple areas is the best way to get a well-rounded workout.

Next, let’s address how to go about truly working our abs: The first thing is to understand how to engage the muscles. Contrary to popular belief, when we work our abs, the stomach muscles should be pulling in, rather than puffing out.  To understand this concept, place your hand just below your belly button and cough. Notice how your abs pull in towards your spine. This is exactly what you should feel during every core workout. This is how we can do exercises for our abs while standing. If you’re contracting the proper muscles, you can work your abs anywhere.

The best way to get started is with both static and dynamic exercises. Static exercises, where you’re holding a movement (like The Plank), are a great way to work the entire core in one move. The longer you can hold a plank, the stronger your core will be. Start slowly and try to increase your time gradually. Twisting moves, like bicycle or Russian twists, are a wonderful way to target the lower abs and obliques. Basic crunches are also an amazing way to work upper and lower abs at the same time. Try to vary your crunches by changing the position of your legs (knees bent with feet flat, knees bent with feet in the air, and legs straight up).

The more you can continue to increase both your time and the types of moves, the stronger your abs will be. Be sure to take a break if you feel any neck or back pain, and try another exercise if one isn’t feeling right for your body. Practice holding your abs in while driving, sitting at your desk, or standing in line at the grocery store. It might feel funny at first, but your body will thank you for it.


Lisa Corsello is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, nutrition consultant and group fitness instructor who works with clients to create customized, goal-oriented exercise and nutrition plans. She works with a wide range of clients, from absolute beginners needing basic knowledge, enthusiasts who want to increase lean body mass and reduce body fat, people recovering from sports injuries or serious illness, and professional athletes in training.

Article source:

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Comment