As far as aesthetic appeal, the abdominals (or commonly referred to as ‘abs’ for short) are probably the most popularised and talked about muscle group in the human body. When people refer to the abs, they are often talking about the abdominal wall and the visual muscles and aspects of the trunk that can be seen directly both anteriorly and laterally – mainly comprising of the rectus abdominis and obliques. For a number of years I have heard countless discussions about the abs generated by the media, trainers, avid gym goers, and the general public alike. For this fact, I find it alarming that the amount of emphasis and thought people place on training this muscle group is often nowhere near commensurate to the attention given. This lack of emphasis is not just in the form of the due diligence to training this muscle group frequently enough, but also the misguided understanding of how the abdominals can be and should be trained. This month’s featured workout is an excerpt from The Abs Program – A comprehensive program I designed that emphasises the development of the strength, motion and stability that the abdominals are capable of possessing whilst making them more appealing in the process.
The abdominals have many different functions and a very integrated set of movement patterns. Therefore the scope of exercises and training methods which may be applied to this section of the body is vast. It is worth noting that the human body knows only of movements not muscles. Your primary task should be to focus on the movement pattern instead of a single muscle. This program will seek to address the following movement patterns and functions of the abs:
- Trunk Twisting + horizontal stability
- Trunk + Hip Flexion
- Trunk Lateral Flexion + sagittal stability
- Frontal stability
The program below is an excerpt from ‘The Abs Program’ and is designed for someone at the advanced level. How do you know what level you are? Different people will have different ability levels and different rates of progression. For this reason, you may be unsure about which difficulty level is best for you. To determine which difficulty level is best for you, experiment with the below program. If you find that you cannot perform the allocated exercises and sets/reps with good consistent technique, you will need to request an easier version of the program (see the end of this post for details).
You can use this program in isolation or integrate it with your current training day routines. Different people will have different recovery ability and different adaptation responses to this program, so the frequency of training sessions over a given time period will differ from person to person and should be individualised based on one’s recovery ability. For this reason, you will notice that there are no set ‘days’ in the programs. In general, I have found that most will benefit from training the abdominals in the fashion outlined within this program at least every 2-3 days. Therefore, one’s training split could be as follows:
Mon, Wed, Fri, Mon, Wed, Fri …
Mon, Thurs, Sun, Wed, Sat, Tues …
Give the following phase a go:
A downloadable version of the routine is below:
Cable Woodchop – midline
Horizontal Paloff Press
Position cable attachment at sternum height. Stand tall with feet shoulder with apart. Grip the cable handle with the outside arm first then the inside hand clasped over the top. Ensure the weight is off the stack throughout the entire movement to maintain muscular tension. With straight arms, drive the handle in an arc-like motion from inside to outside – your eyes should follow your hands throughout the entire movement. Pivot on the inside foot as you rotate through the full range of the movement. Ensure the shoulders remain fixed and the weight is driven using the obliques and abdomen. Perform the rep allocation for the woodchop movement then perform the same rep allocation for horizontal Paloff Presses straight after. Keep the body still and press the arms out from chest until straight whilst performing the Paloff Press.
From a plank position with hands on the floor and feet elevated atop a Swissball, proceed to tuck the knees in towards chest. Ensure to contract the abdominals to bring the pelvis closer to the ribcage.
Side Extensions – from bench
Position oneself sideways atop a bench parallel to the floor by anchoring the feet underneath the bench. Lower the torso laterally towards the floor then extend it back to the starting position using the obliques.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Renegade Reverse Flies
Keep the hips steady and body straight from ankle through to head throughout the entire movement. Perform a reverse fly until the dumbbell is at shoulder height away from the midline of the body. Resist movement in the rest of the body.
Perform exercise A:1 (woodchops + Paloff Presses) for 10 reps each side. Rest 10 seconds.
Perform exercise A:2 for 10 reps. Rest 10 seconds
Perform exercise A:3 ) for 10 reps each side. Rest 10 seconds.
Perform exercise A:4 ) for 10 reps each side. Rest 120 seconds.
Repeat the circuit A:1 to A:4 an additional 2 times for a total of 3 sets of each exercise.
I hope you enjoy this phase of the program. Feel free to share your feedback and your experiences in the comments section at the end of this post. If you would like to share your feedback personally or purchase the complete program, send an email to – firstname.lastname@example.org
The complete Abs Program includes 48 exercises with video demos, 12 weeks of programming (with beginner, intermediate & Advanced levels of difficulty), other progression options and more.