Abs Exercises – 7 Powerful Ways to Build a Six Pack and Strong Core

These abs exercises will all help you to build a stronger, more powerful and injury resistant midline. A strong core will also stabilise and coordinate your movement patterns more effectively and make you into a better athlete. 

Core and Abs Muscles

Rectus Abdominis

When people generally think of a ‘six-pack’, this is the muscle that they are talking about…The rectus abdominis is positioned between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis, and is actually made up of 8 distinct muscle bellies.

When the muscle contracts, these muscle bellies are visible, assuming low enough levels of body fat, creating that ‘six-pack’ look.

The rectus abdominis is absolutely essential for maintaining good posture, and is primarily responsible for flexing the lumber spine (the movement of a sit-up or a crunch).

This muscle can be worked out in 2 different ways: by either bringing the chest towards the pelvis (as with a crunch), or by bringing the pelvis towards the chest (as with a leg raise).

This is what people mean when they say they’re working their ‘upper’ or ‘lower’ abs.

Finally, the rectus abdominis also helps to regulate breathing, and protects your internal organs by creating intra-abdominal pressure.

External Obliques

After the rectus abdominis, the obliques are probably the one other abdominal muscle that many guys focus on. However, what you may not know is that there are actually 2 distinct sets of oblique muscles: your external obliques and your internal obliques (which I’ll discuss in a second).

Your external obliques sit on either side of your rectus abdominis, and are actually the largest of your abdominal muscles.

This is the muscle that allows the trunk of your body to twist – this is controlled by the external oblique muscle on the opposite side of the direction that you’re twisting.

For instance, if you are twisting to the left, you are using your right external oblique.

The external obliques also help with your overall posture, pulling your chest downwards, and protecting your organs by creating intra-abdominal pressure (just as with the rectus abdominis).

abs exercisesSource: Photos courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Internal Obliques

Now you can think of this muscle as kind of being the opposite of the external oblique.
They are located directly below the rectus abdominis, and sit just inside your hip bones.

The internal obliques are also responsible for twisting and turning, but they control the other side of the movement.

For example, when you twist to the right, you are contracting both your right internal oblique and your left external oblique at the same time.

Since they control the movement on the same side of your body, internal obliques are sometimes referred to as “same side rotators”.

Transverse Abdominis

In my experience, the vast majority of guys have never heard of this muscle. I mean, you’ve probably never heard anyone at the gym saying that they are working out their transverse abdominis today…

Still, it is a very important muscle, which is integral to holding your entire abdominal structure together.

The transverse abdominis is the ‘deepest’ of your ab muscles, located underneath your rectus abdominis and obliques.

However, even though you’ll never see this muscle visually, it is incredibly important to maintaining a functionally strong core and for creating large amounts of stabilizing internal abdominal pressure.

Star Plank

From a press-up position, walk your palms and toes out and away from your body until they form an x-shape. Brace your core to keep a flat line from your head to your hips and toes. Hold for the required time then walk back to a normal press-up position.

Why? This tricky variation on your average plank engages your entire body as your core works to centre yourself. Your whole body needs to be held in place by your core for the duration of the exercise. Brutal.

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