Working the abs


New Member
Hi everyone,

I don't know about everyone else but as far as my abs go I'm looking for definition and tone rather than size...with that in mind is it really necessary to do exercises such as crunches where the abs actually contract or are isometric exercises of equal or greater value?

I try and tighten my abs for all exercises to create a greater neural drive and maintain good posture...then after my weights I do various crunches.

However I'm now thinking of doing exercises such as a straight leg raise just a few inches up and holding and another position where you lie on your front and then put all your weight on your elbows and toes whilst using your abs to maintain your body's position (I think this might come from yoga but saw it in an exercise mag somewhere).

Basically I want a flat defined stomach (don't we all) and am wondering whether this would be a more effective way to achieve that goal rather than other exercises to contract the muscles. Or possibly whether tightening the abs for all exercises will be enough and therefore mean no specific ab work :D

Opinions appreciated! Although please don't mention diet, I know how important that is but I'm focusing on the exercise part of good abs for the sake of this post!


[b said:
Quote[/b] (robefc @ April 09 2005,2:36)]Although please don't mention diet, I know how important that is but I'm focusing on the exercise part of good abs for the sake of this post!
Sorry, but its gota be said....

It doesnt matter how good your stomach muscles are, if youve got fat there, you aint gona see the muscle... which comes down to diet and cardio.

As far as the exercises go, I like using the crunches and full range leg raises you dont wana use. Its just my personal opinion, but while I can get a good feeling just doing partial movements and contracting the muscle as much as poss, isometric movements havnt been the recomended thing since the adverts in the 60s and I dont feel there the best way of doing things.

Take something like biceps.... You can really feel an isometric workout using no weights, but
Is it really gona have any affect on the arms???
(I'l answer) Not as much as other methods
Do you use this type of workout for other bodyparts?:confused:?
So why use it for stomach?:confused:

Which brings me back to the quote...
Seeing as spot reduction (ie losing weight from a specific area of the body) is impossible, we're back on diet and cardio!

Sorry mate.
Hi mate,

No need to say sorry and thanks for the reply! But either Iàm not expressing myself very well or you've missed my point, one of the two!

Diet is a given, hence why I don't want to address it in this post.

And no I don't use this sort of workout for other body parts because I'm exercising other body parts to increase muscle size not tone...however I have no wish to increase the size of my abs. Therefore it would make complete sense to consider exercising them differently....
If you don't want to increase the size of your abdominal muscles, don't train them for size...

Don't your a progressive weight and don't decondition them...?
Fair enough...

Im not sure whats going on here, but il hava go...

I would say that your abs dont need too much work for maintenance. I dont know your actual routine, but if your doing a typical HST routine, youl be doing squats and maybe deadlifts a good few times a week. Your abs act as a stabilizer (especially in squats) in many compound exercises and they may be kept to maintenance level just doing these.

However, iv posted on this point before and I got told.....
you dont start doing a couple of proper ab workouts a week and you suddenly get a massive stomach, it takes years, just like it would any other bodypart.

And as regards to not getting your point, I honestly dont :confused:
As I said, you cant have a toned stomach with fat on it (which comes back to your unmentionable!) and you cant specifically reduce fat from one area of the body.

So whats your stomach like now??? Cut, a bit of weight on it, etc??
He realises that diet and fat loss are critical. He's ticked that off on the check list, now he wants to know the best way to train abs for when the fat is gone.
Dude..if u just want a flat stomach then I'd say -- dont do anything? No seriously. If you have good abs just do the fat loss thing and see what they are like. If they dont stick out much and you want more then do the crunches. But the flat stomach wont come without losing the fat and doing the crunches (if u have no abs yet
Thanks for the reply guys...Jester I think you put what I was trying to say to Ian perfectly :D

I guess I'm just trying to figure out what is really necessary to do to get a decent set of abs beyond the fat loss part of it. I'm leaning towards doing less as I'm not sure they need specific work (as you point out Ian they are used as stabilisers in several exercises) and if they do need specific work to ensure they are toned and tight I'm not convinced exercises such as crunches are necessary.

Jester - for ages I didn't do anything for my abs...but then I didn't do any cardio either :D All I did was weights but now I'm interested in toning up a bit whilst maintaining, or if at all possible increasing, muscle mass. I've upped frequency to 6x a week and have 3 different sessions with one exercise per bodypart for each. Loving it at the moment and the routine has been quite comprehensively sorted out and tweaked thanks to vicious! I'm doing 20mins of interval training after my weights and then some ab and lower back work - which was various crunches and lower back extensions but now I'm wondering whether they're necessary...and that's where this post was born from!


[b said:
Quote[/b] (robefc @ April 10 2005,6:50)]
IMHO, they aren't needed unless they are truly lacking, and I'm not talking about being covered in fat. I have seen some people with very low BF and still they didn't have defined abs.

Even still I don't think crunches are the way to go, there are numerous exercises that can be used for abs that are a whole lot more effcient.

Vicious pointed out one recently, can't remember where though or what he called it. :confused: But it sounded good. :)

I've always liked captain chairs.
[b said:
Quote[/b] ]
I think the exercise vicious posted was this one:
Not certain though this exercise definitely is a pretty good one

Yes (Nelson situps I think they are called) and I will vouch for that exercise...quite frankly it is fabulous. It is more of an isometric exercise, and I cannot speak for the "toning" effect that it will have on your abdominals, but it will give you more stability from your core.
Excellent, cheers guys, exactly the sort of thing I was looking for, going to try that exercise and continue with the other ones as well...stealing some from my girlfriend's yoga book!
From the same site as that exercise...

'From the Eastern Experts

After a few research visits to Russia and collaborative projects with Eastern scientists and coaches, I learned that many experts regard special abdominal exercises as a total waste of time. They consider that the trunk muscles are strongly involved in stabilizing and/or moving many parts of the body.

At one NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) conference in the United States, I remember one of the top Bulgarian strength coaches, Angel Spassov, laughing at questions from American football coaches who wanted to know the best way of doing situps or crunches to strengthen the abdominal area. His response was that if players were squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, etc., their trunk muscles were already much more strongly involved than they ever are during situps, crunches or machine training.

His attitude and approach were not unique. I encountered them time and again in Russia and among the world's finest Olympic athletes from the Eastern nations.'
Just because a bodypart or muscle group is involved in another exercise doesn't mean you don't hit it on it's own. How many people do only squats, reasoning that they don't need to do any other exercises, since squats use so many muscles?

If anything, I would say rather than being a waste of time, ab and core exercises could only help you. And I would think, considering the type of muscle we are talking about here, that it's probably pretty hard to overtrain the abs, so why not do ab/trunk exercises?
Could someone either post a new link for the Nelson Situp or describe how its done. The link given comes up blank.

If you don't work on your abs you can forget about doing heavy squats or deads without risking injury.

Years ago I had a weak core section and had back pain. Today I have a strong core section and the pain is gone.

Case closed.
Yeah, my old link appears to be dead as well. Ill try as best as I can to describe it:

1) Get in a situp like position on the ground
2) Bring your feet as close as you can to your butt (So that your upper leg is as vertical as possible)
3) Bring your upper torso up, as if you were at the top of a situp, your pectoralis close to your knees
4) Grab the outside of your knees with your hands.
5) Slowly lower your upper torso towards the ground, increasing the angle between your upper and lower torso until your arms are fully extended
6) SLOWLY let go of your knees with your hands and raise them towards the sky, without changing the angle between your upper and lower torso. Keep them in the air for approx 10 seconds (?)
7) Lower your hands and slowly return your upper torso to upright position.

Basically, the idea is with your upper leg nearly vertical to hold your upper torso at about a 45 degree angle to the floor.

That is about as good as I can describe it without pictures.