Ab Training?

KIWI5

Level 3 Valued Member
How many of you train your 'core' as a dedicated drill, crunches/planks etc. I realised, with some shock, that I have no dedicated ab training in my program. Are the swings, rack pulls, loaded carries, TGU's, Zercher squats and incline bench press enough?? I certainly feel like what I'm doing is 'enough', but.....
 

ShawnM

Level 8 Valued Member
To be honest I train my core daily. I do the ab roller in a GTG type format if I don’t do it in my actual training session. I will usually watch a show on ESPN and knock out 10-15 rolls every commercial break. I do the same with push ups and band pull aparts.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
Core Strength

The core is the bridge between the upper body and lower body. Increasing core strength amount to building support beams between one end of the bridge and the other end.

The longer the bridge (such as individual with a long torso) the more support beams (more strength) needed to insure the bridge doesn't collapse under a heavy load.

Thus, increasing core strength amount to building more support beams from between the two end of the bridge.

Doing so provides...

Core Stiffness

The core job is to is to stiffen and prevent motion. This core stiffness allows the hips and lower body to generate more force (Strength and Power) in a movement.

Often when a lifter is attempts to Squat a 1 Repetition Max, you'll here someone screaming to them, "Stay tight"; a reference to stiffening, locking the core down.

Powerlifter are taught to push against the belt in a heavy Squat and Deadlift. Research has demonstrated that doing so provides greater lumbar support.

That is one of the reason that a Powerlifter belt is 10 cm (about 4 inches) all the way around the waist. The larger width allows the lifter a larger surface for the abs to (brace) push against.

Before "Powerlifting Belts", Powerlifter would often turn their "Olympic Lifting Belt", around 4 inches in the back and 2 inches in the front) around. The 4 inch part of the belt in the front abdominal area allowed lifter a larger area to push against with the abs.

"Leakage"

Dr Stuart McGill, one of the leading researchers in core strength, coin "Leakage" as one of the main issues of a weak core; meaning less force (Strength and Power) are generated in let say a Squat with a weak core compared to a strong one.

With that said, the majority of individual should dedicate some time to core training, especially ab training.

Are the swings, rack pulls, loaded carries, TGU's, Zercher squats and incline bench press enough??
Core Exercises

Swings, Rack Pulls, Loaded Carries, and Zercher Squat engage the core (abs) to some extent. These are more effective for increasing low back Strength.

The Incline Press doesn't engage the core that much.

Effective Core/Ab Exercises

Most individual who Squat and prefom Deadlifts, Rack Deadlifts get a lot of lower back "Core Training"; those exercise work the ab but not to the same extent.

Thus, some dedicated Ab Training should be included in a well written program.

Here are some of the most effective Ab Training Exercises...

Inside the Muscles: Best Ab Exercises | T Nation

Rectus Abdominis
Mean: Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Ab Wheel
Peak:  Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Swiss Ball Crunch

Internal Oblique
Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Ab Wheel from Knees, Bodysaw
Peak:  Ab Wheel from Feet, Bodysaw, Tornado Ball Slam

External Oblique
Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw
Peak:  Turkish Get Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw

Erector Spinae
Mean: Kneeling Cable Lift, Landmine, Reverse Hyper
Peak:  Kneeling Cable Lift, Tornado Ball Slam, Lumbar Extension

Final Suggestion

Strength Training for the Abdominal Muscles is no different than training any other muscle group. For strength, the abs need to be trained with heavy load and low repetitions.

There a place for High Rep Ab Training (as with other muscle groups). However, a steady diet of High Rep Ab Training for Strength Athletes isn't going to get job done.

Kenny Croxdale
 
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North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Of late I've preferred to get my core work largely by incorporating some lifts that place the load outside my center of gravity.

Eg, pick up a 20 or 24kg kettlebell like you're going to goblet squat. Now slowly extend it out in front of you. At first no biggie, but as it gets about 12-18" away you'll find everything tightens up all on its own.

This isn't an actual exercise I do, but it illustrates the principle. Applied to several points around your compass it seems to do a great job without needing to do detail ab work. Also instead of indirectly training tension in the abs to be used later in a full body context, I get to train it as part of a unit and get some other upper body work done at the same time.
 

Ryan T

Level 5 Valued Member
Core Strength

The core is the bridge between the upper body and lower body. Increasing core strength amount to building support beams between one end of the bridge and the other end.

The longer the bridge (such as individual with a long torso) the more support beams (more strength) needed to insure the bridge doesn't collapse under a heavy load.

Thus, increasing core strength amount to building more support beams from between the two end of the bridge.

Doing so provides...

Core Stiffness

The core job is to is to stiffen and prevent motion. This core stiffness allows the hips and lower body to generate more force (Strength and Power) in a movement.

Often when a lifter is attempts to Squat a 1 Repetition Max, you'll here someone screaming to them, "Stay tight"; a reference to stiffening, locking the core down.

Powerlifter are taught to push against the belt in a heavy Squat and Deadlift. Research has demonstrated that doing so provides greater lumbar support.

That is one of the reason that a Powerlifter belt is 10 cm (about 4 inches) all the way around the waist. The larger width allows the lifter a larger surface for the abs to (brace) push against.

Before "Powerlifting Belts", Powerlifter would often turn their "Olympic Lifting Belt", around 4 inches in the back and 2 inches in the front) around. The 4 inch part of the belt in the front abdominal area allowed lifter a larger area to push against with the abs.

"Leakage"

Dr Stuart McGill, one of the leading researchers in core strength, coin "Leakage" as one of the main issues of a weak core; meaning less force (Strength and Power) are generated in let say a Squat with a weak core compared to a strong one.

With that said, the majority of individual should dedicate some time to core training, especially ab training.



Core Exercises

Swings, Rack Pulls, Loaded Carries, and Zercher Squat engage the core (abs) to some extent. These are more effective for increasing low back Strength.

The Incline Press doesn't engage the core that much.

Effective Core/Ab Exercises

Most individual who Squat and prefom Deadlifts, Rack Deadlifts get a lot of lower back "Core Training"; those exercise work the ab but not to the same extent.

Thus, some dedicated Ab Training should be included in a well written program.

Here are some of the most effective Ab Training Exercises...

Inside the Muscles: Best Ab Exercises | T Nation

Rectus Abdominis
Mean: Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Ab Wheel
Peak:  Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Swiss Ball Crunch

Internal Oblique
Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Ab Wheel from Knees, Bodysaw
Peak:  Ab Wheel from Feet, Bodysaw, Tornado Ball Slam

External Oblique
Mean: Ab Wheel from Feet, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw
Peak:  Turkish Get Up, Hanging Leg Raise, Bodysaw

Erector Spinae
Mean: Kneeling Cable Lift, Landmine, Reverse Hyper
Peak:  Kneeling Cable Lift, Tornado Ball Slam, Lumbar Extension

Final Suggestion

Strength Training for the Abdominal Muscles is no different than training any other muscle group. For strength, the abs need to be trained with heavy load and low repetitions.

There a place for High Rep Ab Training (as with other muscle groups). However, a steady diet of High Rep Ab Training for Strength Athletes isn't going to get job done.

Kenny Croxdale
Hey Kenny, this is a great explanation and post! I especially love the inclusion of exercises for mean and peak. That makes it a lot easier to do some actual programming. Would dead bug variations have a place in there as well?

I believe @Pavel Macek has identified before that heavy goblet squats work the abs quite a bit (I'm not sure which ones specifically). So far when I attempt anything +24kg, it puts some stress on the lower back which tells me my form is lacking at heavier loads.
 

KIWI5

Level 3 Valued Member
The legendary ab wheel! Some time last year I dragged mine out and performed 10 reps where I was able to roll out to an almost flat position. I thought I was an amazing physical specimen with that one set. The next day my upper body (lats, triceps, abs) were consumed by some of the worst DOMS I have ever experienced. I have not touched the ab wheel since.....time to bring back out the 'wheel of death. I do the odd sets of 'dead bugs' however- so there is not total neglect to the core- just no consistency.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
It is a good question and this is a good thread.

I don't do any ab work specifically. I've done some leg raises and such in the past but not for a while.

I'm not sure why I don't do the ab work. In part it must come down to preferences. And I don't want to compromise my main exercises. I also think the exercises I do, the big barbell lifts, really work the abs as stabilizers already. I'm not sure how much extra training would help, especially if the extra training would hit the abs in a different manner.

There are some merited professionals who don't see a lot of value in separate ab work. Marty Gallagher has said the main lifts work the abs enough. Franco Columbu had great abs, and won prizes with them, and didn't train the abs directly. But of course, I'm sure there are professionals who say the opposite. But it does make me undecided on the issue.
 

KIWI5

Level 3 Valued Member
Whew! Delighted to see that the TGU and chin ups make the list (seeing as I do those on a regular basis). I'm not sure if training the abs as part of the 'finisher' movements is the best programming- but this seems like a good place to add the ab wheel in my program?
 

thegoldengod

Level 3 Valued Member
I believe @Pavel Macek has identified before that heavy goblet squats work the abs quite a bit (I'm not sure which ones specifically). So far when I attempt anything +24kg, it puts some stress on the lower back which tells me my form is lacking at heavier loads.
Another way to more core activation is to do a curl at the bottom of the goblet squat. It forces you to engage your glutes keeping them tense and tight, and you'll find that naturally you will want to extend your spine by keeping your chest up as if you were elongating.

This should get you more mileage out of your working bell!
 

vegpedlr

Level 6 Valued Member
I use the ab wheel at the end of Easy Strength per DJ's instructions I was new to it at first and had an experience similar to @KIWI5 . With practice, it gets easier. Funny how that works. I think that a big part of the soreness is the stretch. I also do a stormthe pot once in awhile and it's pretty brutal. Pull ups are great as are push ups. And loaded carries are brilliant for the corenas a whole.

I keep experimenting, trying to find the best way to train my core outside the basic lifts to help my position on the bike and transfer power to clear trail obstacles. Kenny's comments on torso length and bridge support resonate with me. While short, my torso is quite long. So far, I like a plank circuit that combines front, side and PUPP planks with bear crawling andncrab walking in place. I got the crawling in place from MTB strength coach James Wilson. I like leg raise variations too. Occasionally I do set of crunches just for old time's sake.

ETA:
Not doing them now, but I like the mountain climbers that are in the Slurpees variation of the DMPM. Also, for the last year I have had a daily practice of vinyasa yoga. I practice yoga for the sake of Patanjali's yoga, not training, but it does have a noticeable effect.
 
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kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
Would dead bug variations have a place in there as well?
Dead Bug

It appears that it would work.

However, I've never preformed the Dead Bug, so I am not the guy to ask.

I believe @Pavel Macek has identified before that heavy goblet squats work the abs quite a bit.
Squat and Abs

The Abs essentially perform a "Vertical Plank" so that you can maintain an upright position.

Some of Dr Tom McLaughlin's research revolved around working with Bill Kazmaier, who Squatting near 1,000 lbs. As per McLaughlin, Kazmaier did not direct Ab Training; only indirect ab work with Squats and Deadlifts.

McLaughlin stated that it worked for Kazmaier but recommended that other should include some direct Ab Training in a Strength Training Program.

Another consideration is...

Torso Length

Individual with a Long Torso are like Long Bridges, they traditionally need more support beams (Stronger Abs) due to the longer bridge, longer torso.

I have a Long Torso. I have found the stronger my abs (more Ab Training I perform), the better my Squat and Deadlift.

So far when I attempt anything +24kg, it puts some stress on the lower back which tells me my form is lacking at heavier loads.
Lower Back

The Lower Back is the weak link in Squatting; the Lower Back give out before the legs are completely overload.

The Lower Back is a much smaller muscle group. As McLaughlin's research noted, the Lower Back fatigues quickly and is easily overtrained. That is one of the reason most Deadlift only once a week; it takes the Lower Back longer to recover.

"When The Legs Say Go and The Back Says NO." Strength Training Article
Hollie Evette/Strength Coach, National Champion Powerlifter

Evette is a former National Powerlifting Champion and great Strength Coach.

Evette's article addressed the issue about how the Lower Back gave out in the Squat before the Legs were completely overloaded. Evette then prescribed exercises that allows you to overload the legs and minimize the back involvement.

The Take Home Message

The limiting factor in a Squat is the Lower Back. Thus, when it comes to exercise that maximally overloading the Legs, limiting the Lower Back involvement place the workload on the legs.

Leg Exercises

Two of the most effective Leg Exercises are...

1) Step Ups: Performing Single Leg Step Ups on a Solid Bench minimize the Lower Back involvement, placing the workload on the Legs. The Russian performed Step Ups as a means of working their Legs while allowing their Lower Back to recovery.

2) Belt Squats:
Video Demonstration:

This demonstrates it. However, there is an easier more effective method. I can provide that, if you are interested.

Belt Squat closely replicate Squat; taking the Lower Back out of the equation, enabling you to overload the legs.

Belt Squat are and effective method that I have used since 1998.

Good Morning Squats

The reasons most individual end up performing a Good Morning Squat, with excessive forward lean are...

1) Weak Abs: Their Ab aren't strong enough to keep them in a more Upright Position. They fold forward like a card table.

2) Weak Quads: Their Quad are not strong enough to propel them to the top, lock the weight out.

3) Very Strong Back: During a max 1 Repetition Squat, the body is in a survival state.

When Quad drive stops, the body automatically shift the load from the weaker to the stronger muscle groups to ensure you get the weight up.

Think of it like Basketball, in the final seconds when you need two point, give the ball to your best shooter.

Another example is a...

Bench Pressing For Reps Contest

In helping at a Bench Press for Reps Contest, someone commented to me that it was ironic that right handed people were had a stronger left arm and weaker right arm.

He based it on the fact that as fatigue set in, the left arm went up first followed by the right arm.

I informed him, the right arm was stronger. By allowing the left arm to go up first, the load was decreased for the left arm; the right up then picking up the additional load.

Kenny Croxdale
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I don't do any ab work specifically. I've done some leg raises and such in the past but not for a while.

I'm not sure why I don't do the ab work. In part it must come down to preferences. And I don't want to compromise my main exercises. I also think the exercises I do, the big barbell lifts, really work the abs as stabilizers already. I'm not sure how much extra training would help, especially if the extra training would hit the abs in a different manner.
This is my current perspective, too. Not doing any ab training. Just lifting heavy. Bracing the abs for every "big 4" lift (low bar back squat, deadlift, press, and bench press) gives them plenty of work. Focusing on technique every single session helps make sure everything else gets stronger together as the working weight gets heavier.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Squat and Abs

The Abs essentially perform a "Vertical Plank" so that you can maintain an upright position.

Some of Dr Tom McLaughlin's research revolved around working with Bill Kazmaier, who Squatting near 1,000 lbs. As per McLaughlin, Kazmaier did not direct Ab Training; only indirect ab work with Squats and Deadlifts.

McLaughlin stated that it worked for Kazmaier but recommended that other should include some direct Ab Training in a Strength Training Program.

Another consideration is...

Torso Length

Individual with a Long Torso are like Long Bridges, they traditionally need more support beams (Stronger Abs) due to the longer bridge, longer torso.

I have a Long Torso. I have found the stronger my abs (more Ab Training I perform), the better my Squat and Deadlift.



Kenny Croxdale
Stronger abs help support the lower back tremendously. When my arthritis is acting up I have to consciously generate big ab contraction when bending over or otherwise taxing the erectors, makes a huge difference in reducing discomfort and generating power.
 

KIWI5

Level 3 Valued Member
Hey Kenny- I would love to hear about the more effective belt squat technique....and huge thanks for the highly valuable information you are providing- as are the other folks. Lots of data to process- but I have to say, my current training has given me a pretty tight midsection without dedicated ab training. Adding in dead bugs, ab wheel and I really want to try the OS crawling- arghhh! Data overload!
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 7 Valued Member
Adding in dead bugs, ab wheel and I really want to try the OS crawling
Dead bugs can be done for 3sets of 1min after your usual workout. For crawling 5min as a finisher are also plenty. Both are more strength-endurance than strength, but still help a lot (at least in my case).
For pure strength I have to recommend Hardstyle Abs again.

my current training has given me a pretty tight midsection without dedicated ab training
No surprise IMO. Zerchers heavily smoked my abs when I first did them.

@kennycro@@aol.com I'm also interested in the other belt squat technique.
Btw how would you do the step-ups? With a barbell or KBs/DBs held in the hands?
I have safety concerns doing heavy step-ups with a barbell on my back.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
This is my current perspective, too. Not doing any ab training. Just lifting heavy
This is a solid approach. I and many others have found that cycling ab work in and out of one's training can be effective - out when you need all the abs you've got for your heavy lifting, in when you can. Probably ideal is being able to keep them in all the time and doing them as finishers, but in practice, I've found this just makes my abs too tired - they get overtrained.

-S-
 

jef

I am a student of strength.
Certified Instructor
As mentioned above, the first way is to get tight when doing other big compound lifts. It probably is enough ab training for most.
Heavy KB front squat is more abs training than legs...

I only recently added some direct abs training.
The hanging leg raise progression is one of the best, to my opinion. You have so many regressions and progressions that it can keep you busy for a long time.
The ab wheel is good also, but it is too easy to do it wrong and hyper-extend the back.

If anything, it is always an option to simply practice the hard style plank.
 

KIWI5

Level 3 Valued Member
What happened to the "ab paveliser"? I remember seeing that advertised awhile back.....the fact that I didn't buy one might answer my question!
 
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