Our abdominal muscles are an integral part of our core, which helps provide stabilization for a lot of our movements. Strong abdominals contribute to a strong core. But abdominal workouts can be challenging and confusing, especially if you’re new to working out. So what is the best way to strengthen your abdominal muscles?
Your Abdominal Muscles
Abdominal muscles are one section of your core and are made up of mainly four different groups:
- Transversus abdominis,
- Rectus abdominis
- External oblique muscles
- Internal oblique muscles
The abdominal group of muscles cover your internal organs and can be found in front of your body, below your chest and above your hips. The internal and external oblique muscles span the sides of your body.
When you think of abdominal exercises crunches probably spring to mind. When you perform a crunch movement, your body targets the rectus abdominus muscle (what you see as a “6 pack”) and the external and internal obliques. Planks on the other hand, work all four groups of abdominal muscles and are deemed one of the best movements for strengthening not only your abs but also your core in general.
Top 4 Moves to Strengthen Your Abdominal Muscles
There are many types of exercises and specific moves that will help build and maintain core strength. But I’m going to share with you today, my top four moves to effectively target and strengthen your abdominal muscles:
1. Ball Crunches
Adding a stability ball into your abdominal workout allows your body to get a wider range of motion while protecting your back. So take your crunches up off the floor and onto a stability ball!
Work up to doing 2–3 sets of ball crunches, 15 repetitions at a time.
- Sit comfortably on a stability ball and slowly walk your legs out so that your back is in the middle of the ball.
- Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, your hands behind your neck to support it and your core tight.
- Contract your abs and exhale as you raise your torso about 45 degrees.
- Pause, then lower, inhaling as you go.
Adding planks to your workout is a great way to strengthen your entire core, as this movement works all four groups of abdominal muscles.
When you start adding planks to your exercise routine, work up to being able to hold the position for 1 minute at a time, with three repetitions.
- Get in a push-up position and hold yourself up with your forearms, with your elbow directly under your shoulders.
- Hold your body in a straight line with your core tight. Do not let your back arch.
- Hold for as long as you can.
3. Ab Roll Out Using Stability Ball
This seemingly simple movement is much harder than it seems. And again, we’re adding a stability ball into the mix!
As you stretch out your abdominal muscles using the stability ball, you’re making them work. This is a great exercise to help strengthen your abdominal muscles.
- Start on your knees with a stability ball about 1.5–2 feet in front of you.
- Rest your forearms on the ball and slowly roll the ball away from your body, keeping your back straight.
- When your arms can no longer go out anymore, or your form is going to break, slowly pull the ball back into the starting position.
4. Cable Wood Chop
This movement involves pulling a cable weight across your body in an upward to downward or downward to upward motion. You will need to use a free motion cable machine for this exercise, which is common to most gyms. This exercise works your stabilizer muscles including your rectus abdominis and oblique muscle groups.
- Using a free motion cable machine, put on the extension that looks like a triangle, with a hand hold.
- Select a weight you can pull across your body 15–20 times.
- Adjust the arm of the machine to your starting position, either up high or down low.
- Hold the triangle with both hands.
- Keeping your arms straight and legs hip-width apart, pull the cable across your body as your torso rotates, in one fluid movement.
- Return to the start and begin the movement again.