Ab, Core work… change it up!

I love working out abs!  It’s not just because it makes someone look good, it is the core (thus the name) of your body and helps support you in everything that you do.

Throughout this post I will feature some of the different ab exercises I perform. They are not all inclusive, I have more than a dozen different types that I am always changing up.

Strong abs (core) supports your back and alleviates back problems. It helps posture and gives one a look of confidence.

Now just working out abs doesn’t mean you will be able to display a six pack.  Ab work is all about making your core muscles stronger. Displaying abs is best done in the kitchen with what you eat and in cardio to help shed those last few pounds of fat.  One can have a very strong core and never really show it only because of their diet.

When I used to Olympic lift my training buddy was a heavyweight lifter. At around six feet tall and weighing anywhere between 250-270, he was never much for showing abs. In fact he used to joke that while most people strived for six pack abs,  he strived for wash tub abs!  But I will tell you this, he had some of the strongest ab muscles around. What he could do in terms of core exercises were hardly matched by anyone.

The purpose of this post is to talk about how I work abs, not how to display them since that is an entirely different subject.


Ways of training abs…

There are all kinds of ways to train abs. They are a muscle just like any other body part. As such, most people say to never train them every day. I kind of agree with that but not completely.  In my opinion, abs are like calf muscles. They are used daily and can take a lot of work. As such, they can also take a lot of punishment in the gym. They are unlike other body parts in that way where once or twice a week is more than enough.


As such, I hit a happy medium of training abs four times a week.  Since I work out six days a week, one body part a week except for legs which I train twice a week, I will do ab work on the days I DO NOT work legs.  So a typical week goes like this:

Day 1 Chest, abs

Day 2 Back, abs

Day 3 Legs

Day 4 Shoulders, abs

Day 5 Arms, abs

Day 6 Legs

Difference in training abs…

Now how I train abs is a little different than most people.  Many people will do abs at the beginning or end of their work out.  They also will do a gazillion sets and/or gazillion reps. I DO NONE OF THIS.

Having been working out for 42 years, I am constantly experimenting with what works best for my body. What works for me may not work for you. And there is no such thing as a ‘silver bullet’ that this is the exercise or routine one must follow in order to be successful. 

What I am going to describe may or may not work for you. But I definitely recommend you try it for four weeks and make changes to it along the way to fit your style of training.

First let’s talk about number of sets and number of reps. Remember, abs are muscles, nothing special about them requires a gazillion reps.  There are four things that I feel are important for good ab development and work:

  1. Limit the number of sets that you do

  2. Limit the number of reps you do, it’s resistance and contraction that’s the key

  3. Change the sequence of how you perform the ab exercises

  4. Abs involved every twisting motion of your core, as such, incorporate a variety of exercises

Let’s look at the details of training abs…

Sets and Exercises, I keep my total set count at 10. Nothing more, nothing less.  This consists of five different exercises, two sets each. That’s it. What kills your abs is the variety. I don’t sit there and do five sets of crunches and call it a day. You did nothing to hit all the possible angles of your core.

Reps, the maximum number I ever hit is 20 reps in a set. Most sets I perform only 10. Trust me, when done properly, when performed in a slow and methodical method, when you completely contract the muscle on each and every rep until it hurts, 10-20 is all you will ever need. 

I see so many people knock out 50-100 reps and think they really hit their abs. They did nothing. They were swinging their weight or in a poor position just for the ability to knock out those 50-100 reps. In other words, they were using other parts of their body to assist in the reps, the abs WERE NOT doing the work. It would be like saying you did 50 reps on the bench.  Other than maybe get a burn, you really are not hitting the muscles as you should.

Sequence, ok this is probably the most important part because it serves two very important purposes.  Most everyone does their entire ab exercises one after the other. They also do it at the beginning or the end of their work out.

I prefer to space mine out throughout my work out routine. So for example if I am doing chest, a typical work out would look like this:

Abs – Incline Bench – Abs – Flat Bench – Abs – Decline Bench – Abs – Flyes – Abs

Five different ab exercises, two sets each. Perform them in between the exercises for the body part you are training that day.

This accomplishes two things. First, it gives a quick five minute rest to the body part you are training to recover in order to hit the next exercise as hard as the previous one. Secondly, it gives your abs a break before you go on to the next exercise because you are training a body part in between your ab exercises.

Trust me, the five minute break you are giving your body part is HUGE in terms of recuperation. The 10 – 15 minute break you are giving your abs between the body part you are training is also HUGE because it allows you to perform perfect, as strict as possible, as slow as possible, as much contraction as possible reps during your ab exercise.

Variety, Core muscles work in every twist and fashion possible. This is why I do five different exercises. Each one has its uniqueness. I like to use twisting or rotation movements in my reps because this is how abs actually functions in real life.  I also like to use machines that are not meant for abs but are quite effective. From the videos I have posted of some of my favorite ab exercises you can tell how something as simple as a pec dec machine or lat pulldown machine can be used to target your core.

Try it out and change it up if need be to suit your body.

Core work outs is one way to be Fit Forlife!

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