The Ultimate Guide to An Intense Ab Workout

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The Ultimate Guide to An Intense Ab Workout

So you want to rock tight and sexy abs.

A small and fit middle section is the goal of many of us when we go to the gym or workout at home.

Sadly, for many people the abdomen is the last place to tighten.

The results of your workouts will start showing in your legs and arms first before your abs.

Why?

Because your core is made up of small muscles that are tricky to sculpt and reveal. That’s why many people get frustrated when a few workout sessions don’t give them the abs they want.

But fear not, I’m here to give you the secret to the defined middle section you’re looking for.

I’ll show you exactly what you need to do to workout your abs effectively.

First, I’m going to give you a crash course on what your core is really made of.

Don’t skip ahead! Once you learn what muscles you need to target, you’ll stop wasting time with exercises that don’t work.

What Is Your Abdominal Region Really Made Of?

You’ve probably seen on magazines exercises to “tone your abs”, but “abs” is just a part of your whole abdominal area.

Your abdomenis divided into three muscle sections:

Abdominal Region

Transverse Abdominal, aka “Core.”

The transverse abdominal muscle is the deepest layer of your core. It’s right behind the oblique muscles.

It plays a major role in your posture and core strength.

Even if your abs are not visible, if you have a strong transverse abdominal (or core), you’ll be able to do challenging exercises and poses like handstands.

External And Internal Abdominal Obliques

Your oblique muscles are divided in 2 external and two internal obliques. You have one external and one internal on the right and left the side of your torso.

They’re the middle layer of your abdomen muscles.

They help your torso twist and bend to the sides. Defined obliques make your middle section look slender and nicely shaped.

Rectus Abdominal aka “Abs.”

The rectus abdominals are what people are talking about when they say “abs.” They’re the front section of your abdomen, the part that shows off your six pack. It helps to flex and bend your trunk.

The rectus abdominals are the muscle layer we try to uncover when we workout. Since a significant percentage of our body fat is stored in our middle section, your abs are usually covered by a layer of stored fat.

Even if you have strong abs, if you don’t remove the layer of fat you won’t be able actually to see them. More about that soon.

Now here’s an interesting fact: Not everyone’s abs have the same shape.

Your rectus abdominalsis divided into small sections (hello, six-pack) by two types of fibrous bands:

  • One vertical tendinous inscription called lineaalba: This is a vertical fiber that divides your rectus abdominals into two vertical sections.
  • Several horizontal tendinous inscriptions (ab “markers”): These are horizontal fibers that divide your abdominal muscle into horizontal sections.

The depth and width of these fibers that create your abs is determined by your genes; that’s why your abs can be different from someone else’s.

In his book Effective Strength Training, Douglas Brooks explains:

It should be noted that the depth and width of the tendinous inscriptions are genetically determined. No amount of “specialized” ab training or performing endless repetitions can deepen or increase their width.

This predetermined genetic factor- width and depth of the tendinous inscriptions- explains why some people who are very lean do not exhibit marked “separation” between the abdominal sections, and never will.

How do you get washboard abs? Lose subcutaneous body fat by expending more calories than you take in, hope the fat is used from the abdominal area, and choose your parents well.”

I told you abs were tricky!

This means that the shape of your abs depends on your genes, but don’t worry. You can still get toned, lean, and enjoy a sexy middle section regardless of how marked your abs are. Not all sexy tummies look the same, and that’s completely fine.

Congrats, we’re done with the crash course! Now you know there are three muscles you need to target for a slender waist: your abs, your obliques, and your core.

How To Actually Get Abs

Now I need to drop a truth bomb on you: You can’t get abs only by doing core exercises.

If this is news for you, hear me out.

Defined abs can only be achieved when you reduce the fat percentage in your body. Core exercises are important to build strength and to tone your tummy, but the exercises alone won’t reveal your abs.

Because core exercises have a small range of motion, they don’t burn many calories. Since they don’t burn many calories, they can’t effectively burn off the fat stored in your belly.

By doing ab exercises alone, you’ll have a rock hard core, but it may stay hidden under a layer of fat in your middle section.

So what are you to do?

Three words: Fat burning exercises.

The secret to chiseled abs and an extra toned tummy is to combine fat burning exercises with core exercises.

While the core exercises will build strength and tone, intense exercises will burn the fat off your body to reveal your core muscles.

Fat Burning Exercises

Intense exercises will help to burn the fat off your middle section, revealing your strong abs. There are three types of exercises you can do to start burning fat quickly:

1. Strength Training

Strength training is an excellent calorie burner and toning workout. You should do strength training at least three times per week.

The more weight you use, the faster you’re going to see results and shed pounds. Remember to use a weight that challenges you, but never sacrifice form! Don’t do your exercises with poor form for the sake of lifting heavy.

The ideal is always to do exercises with proper form while lifting a heavy weight that you can handle.

I recommend you keep adjustable dumbbells at home so you can change the weight depending on the exercises easily.

These are some exercises you can do at home:

Lower Body Strength Training Exercises

  • Lunges
  • Side cross lunges
  • Squats
  • Ski squats
  • Sumo squats
  • Single leg squat
  • Deadlifts
  • Single leg deadlifts

Upper Body Strength Training Exercises

  • Hammer curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Chest fly
  • Horizontal bicep curl
  • Overhead press

Upper & Lower Body Strength Training Exercises

  • Squat and OverheadPress
  • Clean and press
  • Lunge and Curl
  • Chest fly with leg bridge
  • Ski squat with curl

Here’s a great total body strength training routine that will workout all of your muscles and leaves you sweating from head to toe (I’m talking from experience here!):

2. HIIT

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. It’s a powerful fat burner that combines cardio, toning, and endurance all in one intense, relatively short routine.

You don’t need any weights to do the routine, just your bodyweight. After a couple of weeks, your body will be several pounds lighter,and your midsection will be smaller.

Aim to do HIIT routines at least two times per week.

Here’s a video for a beginner’s routine that will get you sweating:

HIIT Routine For Beginners

3. Cardio

Cardio is another way to burn fat quickly. You should aim to do cardio exercises at least 2-3 times per week.

A common mistake women make when they begin to exercise is to do a lot of cardio and less of other exercises. You’ll get leaner, fitter and stronger if you mix up cardio with strength training and core workouts.

You can do cardio however you want. Try kickboxing, cycling, running, or swimming.

Here’s a video of a home cardio routine:

Abs Exercises

Now it’s time to show you the core exercises you should be doing to build those abs quickly. Remember that half the job is doing fat burning workouts.

These exercises will target the three muscle groups I talked to you about before: abs, core, and obliques.

1. Core Exercises

These exercises target the transverse abdominals.

A. Planks

Beginner Version: Forearm Planks
Forearm Planks

Credit: PopSugar Fitness

How to:

  • Place your forearms on the floor. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
  • Lift your lower body into a plank position
  • Make sure your head is in line with your back. Look directly towards the floor.
  • Hold the position for 20 to 60 seconds.
Intermediate Version: High Planks
High Planks

Credit: PopSugar Fitness

How to:

  • Place your hands on the floor a little wider than shoulder width apart. Your wrists should be directly in line with  your shoulders.
  • Lift your lower body into a plank position
  • Make sure your head is in line with your back. Look directly towards the floor.
  • Hold the position for 20 to 60 seconds.
Advanced Version: Plank Row
Plank Row Jack

How to:

  • Holding onto dumbbells on the floor, get into a plank position with your legs wider than hip-width apart.
  • Lift your right elbow to row, keep your elbow close to your body.
  • Don’t let your hips rotate, remain as straight as possible.
  • Return the dumbbell to the ground and repeat on your left side.
  • Do eight reps per arm, and repeat for three or four sets.

B. Side Planks

Side Planks

How to:

  • Begin on a high plank position.
  • Rotate your hips toward your right side until the outer edge of your right foot is touching the floor.
  • Place your left foot over your right foot and lift your left arm toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for 20-60 seconds.
  • Go back to the initial plank position and repeat on the left side.

C. Vacuum

How to:

  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your hands on your hips.
  • Inhale as much air as you can and then exhale as much as possible while sucking your stomach in as much as possible. Hold this position. Visualize your navel touching your backbone.
  • Hold for 20 seconds. Try to breathe normally while in this position without releasing your stomach.
  • Inhale and release.
  • Repeat for 4-5 sets.

2. Upper Abs Exercises

These exercises target the upper section of your rectus abdominals.

A. Crunches

Ab Crunches

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows bent and interlacing your fingers.
  • Push your low back into the floor.
  • Lift your shoulders off the floor and reach your head toward your legs as far as you can without lifting your low back off the floor.
  • Come back down.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds and 3-4 sets.

B. Toe Touch Crunch

Toe Touch Crunch

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back on a mat.
  • Raise both legs straight up pointing toward the ceiling.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Lift your shoulders off the flour and reach to touch your toes
  • Go back down.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds and 3-4 sets.

C. Sprinter Sits Ups

Sprinter Sit Ups

Credit: AceFitness

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back over a mat with your legs extended.
  • Do a sit up while driving your left elbow forward and your right knee to your chest.
  • Release and go back down but don’t rest on the floor. Hover and immediately repeat the motion on the other side.
  • Repeat the motion non-stop without releasing your form or your abs.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds and 3-4 sets.

3. Lower Abs Exercises

These exercises target the lower section of your Rectus Abdominals.

A. Reverse Crunches

Reverse Crunches

Credit: Pop Sugar Fitness 

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back and keep your hands on the floor.
  • Lift your knees to a 90-degree angle.
  • Contract your abs.
  • Lift your hips off the floor with control and toward your chest.
  • Slowly lowerback down.
  • Repeat for 45 secs. Do three sets.

B. Straight Knee Hip Raises

Hip Raises

Credit: PopSugar Fitness

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back and keep your hands on the floor.
  • Lift your legs straight toward the ceiling.
  • Contract your abs.
  • Lift your hips off the floor with control.
  • Try to keep your legs straight.Lift up upward toward the ceiling instead of toward you.
  • Slowly lower toward the floor.
  • Repeat for 45 secs. Do three sets.

C. Frog Press

Frog Crunch

Credit: PopSugar Fitness 

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and turned outwards. Heels pressed together.
  • Lift your shoulders off the floor and do a crunch, reaching your arms outside of your hips off, palms facing down.
  • Extend your legs 45 degrees. Hold for a moment.
  • Bend your knees again.
  • Repeat for 45 secs. Do three sets.

4. Oblique Exercises

These exercises target your inner and outer obliques.

A. Russian Twists

Russian Twist

How to:

  • Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • With your back flat, lean backward as far as you can without rounding your back.
  • Lift your feet off the floor for the harder version or keep them on the ground.
  • Extend your arms in front of you.
  • Twist your tor so as far to the right as you can handle with your arms still in front of you.
  • Come back to center.
  • Twist to the left.
  • Repeat for 45 secs. Do threesets.

B. Single-Leg Side Plank

Single Leg Side Plank

Credit: Pop Sugar Fitness 

How to:

  • Begin on a high plank position.
  • Rotate your hips toward your right side until the outer edge of your right foot is touching the floor.
  • Place your left foot over your right foot and lift your left arm toward the ceiling.
  • Lift your left leg toward the ceiling.
  • Hold for 20-60 seconds.
  • Go back to the initial plank position and repeat on the left side.

A. Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle Crunch

Credit : PopSugar Fitness

How to:

  • Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed into the ground.
  • Place your hands behind your head.
  • Extend your left leg while you bend your right leg to a 90-degree angle.
  • Lift your shoulders off the ground and touch your left elbow to your right knee.
  • Switch and touch your left knee with your right elbow.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds. Do three sets.

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