The focal point for many when looking at another’s physique generally falls upon the midsection of the body at first glance. A clearly defined abdominal structure is always impressive even if the rest of the musculature the person possesses isn’t all that great. While genetics certainly play an integral role in the design of your abdominal make up and carrying a lower body fat percentage is the only way you’ll be able to actually see them, we all have abs; the only difference is just how well we develop what we have through direct and indirect training stimuli. To make your abs a standout body part, you have to work at developing them just the same as you would any other body part and that means with resistance. Here are a few of my favorite exercises that will help you carve out nice and deep, clearly delineated abs that everyone wished they had.
Weighted Rope Crunches
Of all of the added resistance exercises for the abs, this one is probably my favorite. To perform a weighted rope crunch, you have to set yourself up facing the weight stack at a cable station. From there, you’re going to want to grasp the rope attachment with both hands and then kneel down so that you are resting on your knees with elbows flexed keeping your hands roughly in a position around your ears or side of your head. Once in this position, you’re going to want to move yourself back and away from the stack so that when you tilt your body forward, you can balance yourself on your knees while still maintain that forward tilt. You’ll have to play around with the amount of weight you use here until you get the balance right but once you do, all you have to do to complete the movement is crunch your upper body down and towards the floor leading with your chin. Tilt your hips back slightly as you do this to elongate the abdominal columns for a better stretch and subsequent contraction and then raise yourself back up and repeat. The resistance from the weight stack is just enough to trigger muscle break down in the abs for eventual hypertrophy.
Banded Roman Chair Leg Raises
The Roman Chair has been a fixture for ab training forever. It is a fantastic apparatus for isolating the entire abdominal region but I really like using it to target the lower abs. And to emphasize and directly target the lower abs so that they fire first, you use a resistance band in the movement. To begin, all you have to do is attach a resistance band (you decide the tension) either to the backside of the Roman Chair at its base or to something else directly behind it that is stationary. Once you’ve done that, step into the loop of the other end of the resistance band with both feet, walk forward and up into the position you need to be in feeling the pull from the band on your lower legs. You may have to either shorten the resistance band or move the Roman Chair forward, depending on how much pull from the band you want. Once you have the desired resistance, perform a straight leg raise stopping just before your legs are parallel with the ground so that the band doesn’t slide up your legs and come whipping back at you. This very simple yet highly effective twist on Roman Chair leg lifts is a great way to increase resistance and overload the lower abs.
Most people will say that they are typically happy with their upper abs and that part of the structure is usually the first to become visible when body fat levels start to drop. However, when you are training abs I think it’s important to focus on all areas just because there’s really no need not to. In this case, to hit the upper abs with added resistance I like using a machine crunch. The key is to find a machine that allows you to adjust the height of the chest pad high enough for you so that when you push your chest into it, it’s just below your neck. This position will give you the best resistance at the top so that you can really stretch out and elongate your abs. My personal preference is to actually rest my arms up on top of the pad as I find that increases the range of motion. You can usually go fairly heavy with this movement so do so and crunch really hard while exhaling at the bottom of the movement.
Now here’s the thing, with so much being made about distended guts in bodybuilding and expanding midsections being a controversial topic of conversation, you should be doing all that you can to avoid it because it is a bad look after all. That doesn’t mean though that using resistance for training abs will make things bigger and increase the volume of you midsection; it just means you’ll have deeper and more pronounced abs. So after you’ve done your morning cardio in your Super Freak Cardio Sneakers, get your ab training in using the exercises mentioned above and work your way towards the possessing the abs you’ve always wanted.
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.