There’s a lot more to abs training than doing curl ups. The 4 layers of abdominal muscles play a key role in movement and stability. In order to get the best possible abs training results, you should work them all in as many different ways as possible, including challenging the stabilising muscles.
Top 10 abs training tips
#1 Train the core stabilising muscles
Doing curl ups will train your 6-pack muscles, but it’s the muscles underneath these that pull the abdominal area in. This means that you need to work these muscles to get flat abs. There are lots of ways to train the deeper muscles, but basic exercises like pelvic tilting and ab hollowing are a good place to start. See this beginners core workout for more on this.
#2 Do standing ab work
Abs training on the floor has the advantage that you work directly against gravity, but doing standing work challenges the muscles in a more functional way. If you do some standing work, then you’ll train your abs to support your spine and look good when you’re standing and moving around. Try this standing abs challenge.
#3 Make an effort with your posture
It’s not just about workouts. Using correct posture throughout the day will help to strengthen your core muscles and give you flat abs. See here for a list of posture tips.
#4 Concentrate on technique
With all exercise, making sure you have correct technique helps you to get the most out of the exercise and minimise the risk of injury. Poor technique is quite common in abs training. Often people fail to engage the deep abdominal muscles and put strain on the lower back muscles instead. If you make sure you use correct exercise technique, then you’ll get better results from your efforts.
#5 Use a stability ball
Even just sitting on a stability ball has a training effect on the abs. All the core stabilising muscles have to work in order to compensate for the instability of the ball. Using a stability ball for abs training not only adds to the challenge, it also helps to make sure you engage the core muscles. Stability balls can be used for complete beginner right through to advanced abs workouts.
#6 Train your pelvic floor too
The core abdominal muscles, muscles of the lower back, diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles all work together. If your pelvic floor is weak, then training your abs can put pressure on them. See physiotherapist Michelle Kenway’s youtube channel for everything you need to know about the pelvic floor: https://www.youtube.com/user/MichelleKenway
#7 Stretch your hip flexors
These are the muscles which connect the pelvis to the front of the thigh bone and raise the leg towards the body. Tight hip flexors are accompanied by the pelvis being in a forward tilting position and a “pot belly” look. Stretching out the hip flexors will help return the pelvis to the neutral position and flatten the abs. Here’s how to stretch them.
#8 Avoid double leg raises and windshield wipers (unless you have extremely strong abs)
These are very advanced exercises. Most people don’t have the ab strength to keep the pelvis stable while doing them. Losing control of the pelvic position causes stress to the lower back which can result in pain and injury. They are therefore not a good choice for most people.
#9 Do reverse curls as well as curl ups
Curl ups and reverse curls both work the 6 pack muscles, however the reverse curls work the lower section more. Try this 6 pack challenge.
#10 Do exercises which challenge your balance
Our core muscles work to stabilise us, which means that putting the body into an unstable position gives them more work to do. Exercises which challenge balance include:
- Any exercise where the weight is on one leg, for example knee lifts, side leg lifts, high kicks etc.
- Movements where the weight is on the toes, for example calf raises, squats with heels raised
- Stability ball work
- Balance board and Bosu work
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