For an all-over defined torso, you need to think of more than just targeting the immediate rectus abdominus (your six pack) when it comes to working the abs. To name a few, you should also be on the lookout for exercises that target the obliques, which run alongside your six pack, as well as the transverse abdominus, which is layered below your internal oblique muscle.
There is more to an abs workout than your average sit-ups. Twisting, rotating, extending and flexing movements all target the abs, and so exercises that hone in on these are sure to bring you the results you’re after.
A well-toned lower belly has that Action Man look about it, with a V-taper line where your rectus abdominis and obliques meet.
Stop Focusing On The Upper Abs
For gym-goers and athletes who regularly do their sit-ups, without targeting other muscles you may find that you’ve a solid board just below the chest – a two pack, if you will – but are suppler below the belly button. If your upper abs are stronger from targeting them more regularly, then you will likely channel them when pulling and lifting.
Remember: focus on technique in the first instance. Whereas tens of reps may look and seem like they’ll achieve the best result, fewer, slower, better executed movements will ultimately activate the muscles most effectively. From there, maybe consider adding weights to your movements, where possible, before you go upping the reps. Why? You do the same when building your arms and legs, so why not the abs?
The answer is to emphasize the lower abs by targeting them; this is a case of feeling that part of the belly contract by using it to crunch when performing a sit-up style exercise. As with any muscle that you’d like to emphasise in your workout, it’s a good idea to begin with those exercises – and also to end with them. When ending a workout it’s often sufficient to do a lower intensity set, or a lower-weighted set depending on what it is you’re trying to achieve.
These are a good way to make sure you’re channelling the lower abs as your arms are taken out of the equation by hanging from a pull-up bar, or supporting you from dipping handles. Make sure you don’t let the swinging motion of your legs do all the work by taking it slow. You can also do these without equipment by laying on your back.
Start with three sets of 12 reps. When you’re ready to move on, hold a ball between your feet and gradually increase with a weighted medicine ball.
As mentioned before, mentally focus on the lower belly until you feel the effects there. With your back and legs straight, support yourself on your elbows for three 60 second sets. When you are ready to move on, rest on a medicine ball, increasing the inclination.
Lay flat on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent, with a weight in your hands held out in front of you, keep your lower back on the floor and crunch. Depending on the weight, aim for three sets and high reps.
Don’t Skip Leg Day
Particularly compound lifting like dead lifts, squats and use of the Smith machine will channel the core. By getting into the habit of isolating the muscles you want to develop, you will quickly see how one exercise can benefit another. When it comes to squats, try it with a lower weight and slower motions while mentally focussing on the lower abs. When comfortable, attempt your usual weight and aim for strength and high reps at first with 3 reps of ten. Adjust accordingly.
Working overtime on your lower abs and still not seeing what you want to see? There may be more than one reason for that – including body fat, the cardio you do, and the weights you’re lifting. For more information on this see Reasons You Don’t Have a Six Pack, in which we explain how a few lifestyle and workout tweaks could make all the difference to getting abs of steel.