Ab Exercises for Bodybuilding: How to Get Abs at the Gym?

Dr. Susan Evans
bodybuilding ab exercises

The abdominals are stabilizing muscles that support the core and help maintain a healthy, beautiful posture. Even if you want to pump up your abs so that your belly becomes flat, strengthening your abdominal wall will improve digestion and help you achieve the desired effect.

Contrary to popular belief, abdominal exercises do not burn belly fat, fat can only be reduced throughout the body.

Strength training in the presence of excess weight should be alternated with aerobic exercise, otherwise the press will not become prominent, although the muscles will still strengthen.

Benefits of Ab Exercises for Bodybuilding

The task of the abdominal muscles is to keep the spine, pelvis and hips in a stable position. Any movement of the body, any twist or tilt involves either the rectus abdominis or the obliques, so it is important that they are strong enough to take some of the load on themselves, otherwise the load will fall on the spine.

Strong and durable abs are especially important for athletes, for example, runners and boxers.

As with training any other muscle, you need to exercise regularly to build abs and achieve visible results. You should not put a load on the same muscles every day, as to gain muscle mass after each intense workout, you need at least a day off. In addition, heavy abdominal exercises are dangerous for the lumbar spine.

An ideal set of abs with a distinctive relief will be visible from the side only if the layer of adipose tissue becomes no thicker than 1.5 cm.

The rectus abdominis muscle, even with an inflated press, can remain invisible due to subcutaneous and visceral (located between the muscles and internal organs) fat. Even if fat is unevenly distributed when gaining excess weight, it will not work to remove it from the abdomen with exercise alone, as ​​you need aerobic training and optimization of the diet to achieve this. If you consume more calories than you expend, you won’t be able to burn off excess fat.

best ab exercises for bodybuilding

The 6 Best Ab Exercises for Bodybuilding

1. Sit-Ups on the Bench

This exercise is performed on a special simulator, where the athlete can lie down with the upper body below the pelvis, and fix the legs bent at the knees using rollers to stabilize the body.

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The starting position is to sit on a bench, fix your feet under the bolsters, put your hands behind your head (without interlocking your fingers), cross over your chest or place on your hips. While inhaling, raise the body by about 20 degrees, then slowly lower yourself onto the bench, bending your back.

Movements should be slow and controlled, no need to use the force of inertia or help yourself with your hands.

The main load falls on the rectus abdominis muscle. The torso should be parallel to the floor, as lying on the bench is undesirable, because in this case the muscles of the thighs will be involved. In addition, too much bending of the spine is already dangerous – at least, you can not keep your torso in weight and unpleasantly hit the bench.

It is not recommended for beginners to use weights in the form of a pancake pressed to the chest, as this will increase the load not on the abs, but on the muscles of the thighs and the spine. There is a safer twisting option that allows you to diversify the exercise. When lifting, turn the body in one direction or the other.

2. Cable Crunch

They are made using a rope handle or a straight pull handle. The exercise can be done while standing or on your knees. There is also an option when the athlete stands with his back to the machine.

Holding the handle with both hands, pull it toward your head and lean forward, bending your back and trying to bring your head closer to your stomach. At the same time, the pelvis goes back a little.

Hold in the lower position, almost touching the floor with your elbows, and feel how the rectus abdominis muscle strains. It is important to round the back when performing this exercise, since otherwise the load will be minimal and it will not be possible to pump up the effectiveness of the abdominal press. It is important to make sure that the muscles of the abdomen and not the arms work for this, as you can press them against the head.

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For maximum effect, try to lean as deep as possible. The chin should not touch the chest.

3. Abdominal Crunch Machine

The simulator allows you to accurately select the level of load, but not everyone is comfortable, as it requires a certain arm length. The seat height can be adjusted to suit your height, but the elbow supports are not adjustable. Sit on the machine, secure your legs within the bolsters, select the desired weight and grasp the handles above your head with both hands. At the same time, the elbows should touch the supports, otherwise the load will fall on the arms and not on the abdominal muscles. From the starting position, lean forward, pulling the handles down, and smoothly straighten your back.

4. Russian Twist

This exercise is aimed at working out the oblique abdominal muscles. It is performed with various weights and without. If you use a barbell weight plate or a kettlebell, they must be held in front of the chest in bent arms.

Sit on the mat with your knees bent, and slightly tilt your body back, while slightly rounding your back in the lower back. Tighten your abs, stretch your arms forward (you can join your palms for convenience).

Lift your legs off the floor, then do twisting of the body and arms to the right and left. The legs remain stationary and the knees tilt slightly in the opposite direction to help you maintain balance. Feet can be lowered to the floor and locked by placing them under a bench or asking a partner to hold them, so you will be able to perform torso turns more energetically.

There is also a variant of exercise using a fitball, this is performed in the same way, only instead of a mat, the athlete lies down on a fitball, which is a safer option for the spine.

5. Captain’s Chair Knee Raise

To perform this exercise, hang on the uneven bars, leaning on your arms bent at the elbows. Relax the abdomen, bring the shoulder blades together, do not slouch. From the starting position, lift your legs while inhaling, bending your knees until your hips are parallel to the floor. Hold for a few seconds, focus on your abs. Movements should be slow, controlled and no need to use the force of inertia.

6. Incline Bench Reverse Crunch

Lie on your back on a bench inclined at an angle of 45 degrees, with your hands grasping the upper support. The legs are half bent in the starting position. Slowly raise your knees to your chest and let the pelvis lift slightly from the bench at the end point of the movement. Do the exercise slowly and smoothly.

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To increase the load on the press, you can connect the feet together and spread the heels to the sides, while the knees are pressed together.


Exercises on the press are strictly prohibited when:

  • Prolapse of internal organs;
  • Bend of the uterus;
  • Postoperative period;
  • Hernia;
  • Malignant tumors;
  • Pregnancy.

It is also dangerous for women to train the abdominal muscles for three months after giving birth, no matter how much they want to pump them up and return to their former shape as soon as possible. After a cesarean section, doctors recommend avoiding such loads for at least six months – during the recovery period, it is better to focus on how to lose those extra pounds.

It is worth refraining from exercise during critical days, as tension in the abdominal muscles during this period can increase discharge and harm the pelvic organs. Don’t do abdominal exercises right after eating, wait at least an hour before pumping your abdominal muscles.

Listen to how you feel and stop exercising immediately if you experience any discomfort or back pain. Remember that twisting is safest for the spine using an overhead pulley. If you feel discomfort in your back, especially in the lumbar region, try not to include abdominal exercises that require lifting your legs with the lower back pressed or the body with the legs fixed in your training program. They can hurt the spine and lateral bending with weights.

contraindications to ab exercises

The training program for pumping the press should include exercises that affect not only the rectus abdominis muscle, but also the oblique. It is important to remember that in order to get a relief abs, you need not only to exercise regularly, but also to lose weight, otherwise the muscles will not be visible under the fat layer.

When doing abdominal exercises, it is important to listen to your feelings and protect your spine at all costs. Be sure to stop exercising and consult a sports club doctor if you feel discomfort or pain.

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