The abdominal muscles are a relatively small group of muscles. For this reason, it can be trained almost anywhere: At home, on the sports ground, or in the gym. There are a lot of exercises for this, from simple hanging leg raises, which everyone remembers from physical education lessons at school, to technically complex isolated movements like twisting from the upper cables. Each exercise is slightly different in biomechanics and has its own specifics of performance. It is possible to carry out both strength and more multi-repetitive work aimed at increased blood circulation in the abdominal muscles. All load options take place in your training process.
In our article today, we will look at the best abdominal exercises in the gym that are most relevant for CrossFit athletes and tell you how to do them correctly.
Anatomy of Abdominal Muscles
Contrary to popular belief, the press does not consist of separate “cubes” that can be pumped up separately at any time. The abdominal muscles are usually understood as the rectus, oblique and transverse abdominal muscles.
Rectus Abdominis Muscle
The rectus abdominis muscle is quite large and makes up about 80% of the abdominal volume. Tendons are crossed across it, due to which “cubes” are visually created. As we perform the press, the rectus abdominis muscle hypertrophies and the tendons are “pressed” inward. Due to this, the prominent cubes appear. Of course, all this is permissible only with a small percentage of adipose fatty tissue in the body. The rectus abdominis muscle performs a number of important anatomical functions, such as; supporting the back in an upright position, bending forward and supporting internal organs. In a fitness environment, it is customary to conventionally divide the rectus abdominis muscle into two parts: the upper and lower. This is not entirely medically correct, but it works. The upper part is loaded with various options for twisting and lifting the body, as the lower part, is built up from lifting the legs. Together, this provides a good impetus for progress.
External Oblique Muscle
The external oblique muscles of the abdomen are located on the sides, in the lower part of the waist. These are two small, symmetrically located muscles that you shouldn’t forget about when training the press. They are very important for maintaining abdominal control, as they take some of the load when doing basic exercises like deadlifts or squats. In these movements, the oblique muscles act as stabilizers. Their anatomical function is to turn and turn the body. They train with side bends with additional weights. However, be careful not to overdo it with this exercise. There are two reasons for this: A large axial load on the lumbar spine and an increase in the waist. Too hypertrophied oblique abdominal muscles visually make the waist wider, this is especially the case for females.
Transverse Abdominal Muscle
The transverse abdominis muscle lies under the rectus abdominis muscle. Visually, it is not visible in any way, but it is imperative to train it. There is only one exercise for this muscle, which is the vacuum (retraction and retention of the abdomen). With its help, in the long term, you will make the volume of the abdomen and waist narrower, the abdomen will stop “falling out” forward. In addition, the transverse abdominal muscles are needed to regulate intra-abdominal pressure. Also, training the transverse abdominal muscle has a positive effect on the work of the entire gastrointestinal tract.
The largest of these muscles is straight. This muscle needs to be given special attention when training. The oblique muscles can be finished off after the main volume of work has been completed, but the load must be strictly dosed. In training the transverse abdominal muscle, there is no clear schedule. Someone trains it after strength training or at home, someone makes a vacuum, sitting in a car or public transport, at work or school, pretty much anywhere. To achieve optimal results, regular training is essential.
It’s worth noting that if your goal is terrain, abdominal training isn’t all that important. It is enough just to give a moderate load from different angles. More importantly, what percentage of body fat you have. This is the main condition for creating a beautiful and embossed press.
Without it, all of your countless workouts and time spent in the gym does not make sense. The press will become stronger, but there will be practically no visually noticeable result. No wonder many professional athletes say that the relief is created not in the gym, but in the kitchen.
7 Best Abdominal Exercises at Gym
We all know very well how to do basic ab exercises, such as hanging leg raises or lying curls on the floor. Everyone or almost everyone does them, as they are truly effective. They can be done both on the sports ground in the yard and in your gym, there is no fundamental difference. But the equipment in a good fitness club gives us the opportunity to go beyond free weight exercises and work out the abdominal muscles from different angles using exercise equipment. Almost every gym nowadays is equipped with equipment in which you can do the following exercises:
1. Rope Crunch
Twisting from the upper cable with a rope handle (because of the specific posture, the exercise is also called “prayer”) allow you to effectively work out the upper abs. The main thing is not to overdo it with the working weight and correctly round the spine, so that it “curls” rather than bends, then the contraction of the abdominal muscles will be maximal.
2. Swiss Ball Leg Lifts
This exercise for the lower abs in the gym is especially popular among women. Squeezing the fitball between your legs, you emphasize the load on the lower abdomen more. You need to raise your legs to approximately a right angle with the floor, but in no case should you round your tailbone. Make sure that your back is evenly pressed to the floor when lifting your legs.
3. Abdominal Crunch Machine
Anatomically, this exercise is similar to the first on our list, but here the back is in a fixed position. This minimizes the chance of cheating, but still allows you to use more working weight, which leads to more stress on the target muscles.
4. Bench Reverse Crunch
Each gym has an incline bench for abs workouts. Body lifts in different variations are great ab exercises in the gym that are suitable for both beginners and experienced athletes. You can add a load to the abdominal muscles with a dumbbell. Taking a dumbbell in your hands and holding it at chest level will make the exercise even more productive. The abs will get stronger. A more advanced option is to hold the dumbbell overhead with straight arms. Also on this bench you can do any kind of twisting or leg raises, if you sit upside down.
5. Hanging Leg Raise
The corner is a static exercise that is great for developing abdominal strength. To complete it, you only need a horizontal bar. You need to raise your legs to a right angle and lock in this position for the longest possible period. If you want to kill two birds with one stone and at the same time load the lats of the back, perform pull-ups in this position.
6. Cable Oblique Twist – “Wood Chopper”
To complete this exercise, you will need a cable trainer. Place the handle at the very top of the simulator and start “chopping” left and right alternately. The work falls on the rectus and oblique abdominal muscles. The burning sensation in the muscles will be incomparable with anything. With this exercise, you will not only be able to build abs, but also increase endurance, as well as strengthen your shoulders, arms and back. A similar exercise can be done from the bottom cable, but the movement will more resemble swinging an ax than blows, to target the obliques, setting the cable at chest height will help to target this desired muscle.
7. Stability Ball Knee Tucks
Pulling the knees to the chest on a fitball is not the most common exercise for the press in the gym among fitness club visitors, but it is damn effective for the lower abdominal muscles. In terms of biomechanics, it resembles running in a lying position, but due to the fact that we need to constantly fix the fitball with our feet, the lower part of the press works much more. You can also do this exercise in TRX-loops, where the load on the stabilizing muscles will be even stronger and you will have to spend more energy on maintaining balance. If your gym does not have either one or the other, replace this exercise with jumping back and forth or running in a lying position.
Ab Workout Tips for Women
For most women, a flat stomach and embossed cubes on it are almost the ultimate dream. In their attempts to achieve their goal, they literally start to go crazy, training the press every day (sometimes several times), performing a huge number of exercises. There is no need to do this, as there should be rationality in everything. The press is the same muscle group as any other in our body. The principle “the more often the better” is not applicable to this, it will not lead to progress. After a load, the muscle needs time to recover. If you give a load every day, there can be no time for any recovery. Overtraining will occur and you can forget about further progress.
The optimal frequency of abdominal workouts for women is no more than twice a week. In most cases, once is enough.
You can perform as a separate workout, or combine it with strength, cardio or functional exercise. Most women will do better isolated exercises in the middle rep range. You don’t need to strive to conquer huge working weights, as you just don’t need it.
Workouts should be intense enough. Remember that you need a low percentage of subcutaneous fat for your sculpted abs to become visible. During a press workout, a fairly high calorie consumption occurs, comparable to medium-intensity cardio load. The logical chain is simple:
- Spend more calories than you consume;
- Exercise abs regularly and burn subcutaneous fat;
- You get the relief press you’ve been dreaming of for a long time.