The Comprehensive Ab Routine

By | April 7, 2011

ab workoutHere’s a great abdominal core strength routine that fits itself to almost everyone.

The reason this fits most people is due to various levels. You begin with the first level and work your way forward.

Most people will not get past the first few levels for several months. It can take a trained athlete months and possibly years to reach the final level, depending on their existing core strength.

The following table is a “key” to each level:

Level 1:
3 sets of crunches

Level 2:
2 sets of crunches
1 set of hanging knee raises (knees remain bent)

Level 3:
1 set of crunches
2 sets of hanging knee raises

Level 4:
1 set of crunches
2 sets of hanging knee raises
1 set of parallel leg raises (legs remain straight)

Level 5:
1 set of crunches
1 set of hanging knee raises
2 sets of parallel leg raises

Level 6:
1 set of crunches
1 set of hanging knee raises
2 sets of parallel leg raises
1 set of full leg raises (you are inverted at the end, legs over head)

Level 7:
1 set of crunches
1 set of hanging knee raises
1 set of parallel leg raises
1 set of full leg raises
1 set of inverted scissors

The instructions are simple. Begin with level 1. Attempt to perform 15 repetitions for each set. You rest exactly 1 minute between sets. For level 1, you attempt 3 sets of 15 floor crunches. If you succeed in completing the entire level, then you advance to the next level.

Only when you can successfully complete 15 continuous reps of each exercise prescribed do you advance to the next level. This may seem simple. In practice, however, it is very difficult.

Guidelines for Performing these Exercises

  • Practice pulling your stomach in and keeping it in. Imagine pulling your belly button through your lower back. This will be referred to as a “vacuum”. This is very important, because it engages the transversus muscle, a muscle underneath your abdominal muscle. Without engaging this muscle, which is responsible for pulling your stomach flat, your abs will begin to protrude!
  • Learn what a Kegel is. In simple terms, this is the contraction you make when squeezing your insides or stopping the flow or urine. While it is commonly known amongst women who have given birth to children, men can actually perform this exercise as well. When you clench your insides, you stabilize your pelvic girdle, which holds all of your organs. This will stabilize your center of balance.
  • Maintain the vacuum and Kegel throughout the duration of every set! If you cannot hold both for the entire time, make sure you “reset” or start a new vacuum and Kegel with every rep (i.e. if you lose one or the other during rep 5, reset them at the beginning of rep 6 and keep going).

You can easily perform these exercises hanging from a pull-up doorframe attachment instead of using the ab-straps – this will actually improve your grip strength. If you find that you have trouble holding on, i.e. your wrists fail before your abdominal muscles do, then you might consider investing in a pair of wrist-wraps to help you maintain your grip. These are very inexpensive.

Aim for Good Form

You may have seen individuals performing hanging abdominal work. They were swinging wildly and possibly had someone holding their back still. This is incorrect form and is mainly working the hip flexors. If you follow the simple steps outlined above, your torso will remain still and vertical; the only movement will be from your abdominal muscles. You will curl up, bringing your pelvis towards your sternum, and hold this. The tempo for all exercises is 211 (one second to contract upwards, 1 second pause, then 2 seconds to return to the start position.

When you have completed the entire workout, you should consider your lower back. The best exercise to perform for lower back is a “hyperextension”. This can be done with a hyperextension machine or a Swiss workout ball.

You lie on your stomach with your hips supported. Your torso hangs down, inverted, with your legs parallel to the ground. You then bend at the waist and raise your torso until your entire body is parallel. You can perform 3 sets of 15 reps of this exercise then begin adding weight as needed. To add weight, either use wrist weights or hold a plate behind your head.

That’s it for achieving your flat stomach!

Category: Abs