You might be wondering, what is the best workout for abs? I am going to explain to you the TWO main key factors to take into consideration when attempting to get ripped up, shredded and razor-sharp abs.
Fundamentally speaking, you must be at a low enough body fat percentage to actually see your abs and you must have somewhat decent abdominal muscle development to go along with the low body fat.
Why don’t we jump right in and take a look at this topic today. However, I will warn you right away:
You will not see anything here that has anything even remotely to do with crunches, sit ups, planks or any of that nonsense. We’re going to be focusing on strength to build muscle, not endurance. So keep reading.
Preface: A Low Body Fat Percentage is PARAMOUNT to be Able to See Your Abdominal Muscles
You see this guy on the right here? That’s me. Obviously. And can you see me flexing? I bet you would never have guessed I am flexing in this picture because you cannot see my abs.
The simple reason for this is that I have too much fat covering my abs. I can flex as hard as I want and you would never even notice.
That leads me right to the point: If you have too much body fat (like I did here), you will never be able to see your abdominal muscles no matter how developed they are.
You might be wondering, okay, Mike, I just want to know what the exercises are. I already know you need a low body fat percentage to see your abs.
If this is you, and you’re lean, skip this part and move on to the below section(s).
However, if you’re pretty overweight like I was, then please check out the article about how to lose weight before coming back to this article to learn about ab exercises.
You can kill yourself all day long doing crunches etc, but if you can’t see what you’ve done, what’s the point? Learn how to lose weight first and then come back here.
Now that We Have That Out of the Way, We Can Get Started.
EXERCISE #1: The L-Sit Hold
This is the L-Sit Hold. This is probably the number one exercise to do in order to just demolish your core and abdominal region.
What the l-sit hold focuses on is core stability, raw power and developing some of the best abdominal muscles known to man. This is because you are building strength, not endurance like you would with crunches or planks.
Think of gymnasts. They have some of the most impressive physiques and abs of all time and this is one movement they constantly focus on.
What the idea is here is to hold yourself up on two platforms, chairs, or parallel bars at your gym (or one chair like this) and stick your legs straight out and hold that as long as possible! Don’t bend your legs.
Don’t worry if you cannot do this yet, that’s ok. We’re going to go over some variations to get your core strength up to this level.
Perhaps you cannot do this yet which is totally fine. What you will want to focus on doing is one of the following two options:
- Either just stick your legs out straight and just hold them there as long as possible (even if it’s only 1, 2 or 5 seconds) and then gradually increase the time that you hold it over the course of a few months OR
- You can perform this movement with your knees tucked in at 90 degrees and just hold that until you can hold it for about 30-60 seconds – then switch to the straight-leg variation.
The other alternative you can do (which some find more challenging) is to do this movement but instead of propping yourself up on parallel bars you do this while hanging from a pull up bar. That movement is called the hanging l-sit hold. Very tough and a great core-killer.
IDEAL SETS AND HOLD TIMES:
You want to aim for about 2-3 sets, holding as long as possible, with about 2-4 minutes of rest in between sets. You’re welcome to do more sets if you want but I recommend 2-3 sets.
EXERCISE #2: Hanging Leg Raise
This one is simple to explain and is very similar to the l-sit hold. Think of the above exercise – the l-sit hold while hanging from a bar.
What you want to do is perform this movement but instead of holding your legs outward, you will be raising your legs from the hanging position as high as you can go (while keeping your legs dead straight) and then letting them back down.
So, starting off with your arms up on the pull-up bar you will let your legs hang down. With your legs straight as an arrow, begin lifting them up as high as they will go and slowly let them back down, and you want to make sure not to swing your body!
Instead of letting your legs drop quickly all the way to perpendicular to the floor, I recommend letting them down slowly and then only coming down to about 10 degrees before perpendicular.
Instead of doing these with your legs straight out you can do these with your knees tucked in, just like the l-sit hold above. Once you get good at that, you can then begin doing these with your legs straight out.
Alternatively, you can also perform leg raises on parallel bars (dip bars) if you cannot hang from a bar for whatever reason.
IDEAL SETS AND REPS:
Aim for about 2-4 sets of about 10-15 reps (or as many as you can do). Once you get to above 15 reps, either add weights or make the exercise more challenging by moving more slowly and controlled and really focus on form at that point.
EXERCISE #3: Cable Crunches
Ah, the cable crunch. Remember when I said you won’t see a crunch here? Well, I might have lied a bit but don’t despair – this is not your typical lie-down-and-crunch crunch.
The cable crunch is a direct workout for your abs aimed at getting them as strong and full as possible.
Once you have a very low body fat percentage of about 8-15 for men and 18-25 for women and your abs are strong believe me when I say they’ll be visible.
What you are basically doing here is grabbing a rope cable attachment and grabbing on to it facing the cable machine just about near the bottom rear end of your ears.
You want to begin at about a 45-55 degree angle from the ground, facing the machine and pull down until your elbows are at the sides of your thighs and hold for 1-2 seconds.
If you don’t have direct experience with a cable machine or need further explanation about how to do this exercise simply click on the image above to be taken to the YouTube tutorial.
IDEAL SETS AND REPS:
I would suggest aiming for 2-4 sets of about 8-10 reps. This would mean about medium weight (for you). You will have to play around and find a weight that you can barely do for 8-10 reps to know that what you’re doing is effective.
The image above is myself, circa August of 2016 (after my first cut). I am pretty skinny here, about 162lbs, and I have been doing these three movements for some time.
My abs are shredded up here and they got to this condition by doing the above three movements combined with a super-low body fat percentage of about 8-10 percent.
Don’t get too hung up on body fat percentages to be honest. Just look in the mirror and you will get all the feedback you could ask for.
Alright guys, get out there, do these movements about 1-2 times per week and watch your abs be as shredded as they ever have been!
Just don’t forget that without losing your belly fat you will never see your abs so head on over to my review of a great system to lose weight effectively and correctly.
What do you guys think of all this? Do you have any other ab movements to recommend to get shredded abs? Let me know your thoughts, questions or concerns in the comments below!