Wanting well-defined and developed abdominal muscles is a goal for most. However, while it may seem a 6-pack can only be attained through hours and hours of ab work every day, is it actually necessary to train abs that often?
No, you shouldn’t do abs every day for bodybuilding. Your abs are a muscle group that requires rest (just like any other muscle group) and training abs every day won’t allow them adequate recovery. If you want to maximize the results from your ab workouts, then you need to ensure that you’re giving them at least one full day of rest in between.
In this article, I’ll discuss how the abs can best be developed, including providing a sample ab routine.
Need a workout program? Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now.
Anatomy Of The Abdominal Muscle
First, let’s talk about abs. What exactly are they?
Well, the abs are made up of four major muscles: the rectus abdominis, external abdominis oblique, internal abdominal oblique, and transverse abdominis.
These are the surface muscles that people think when they hear “six-pack.”
Our abdominal muscles are composed of slow twitch muscle fibers (as opposed to fast twitch muscle fibers). This means that they are better conditioned for longer or endurance workouts.
These four major muscles are the ones that we are going to focus on in this article.
Related Article: How Often Should You Train Abs For Max Results
Why Can’t You Train Your Abs Every Day For Bodybuilding
Abs are just like any other muscle in the body. They require a stimulus to break down the existing muscle tissue for it to grow back stronger and bigger. Now, by doing an ab workout, you’re executing the first requirement of building muscle properly; you’re breaking down the muscle fibers. You’re giving them the stimuli needed to begin the bodybuilding process.
However, this is where the second condition of bodybuilding comes in—and one that you’ll be disregarding if you train abs every day. We’re referring to the need of allowing the muscle the chance to repair and fix itself. It is a necessary part of building muscle and one that you cannot skip.
Your muscles don’t grow in the gym, rather they grow when you’re not in the gym and giving your body a break. If you don’t have regular rest and recovery days, then you’re actually hindering your bodybuilding process. You’re neglecting your body, particularly your abs, of the chance to repair and recover and get you the results you want.
Treat your abs just like you’d do your back or your legs. Allow them at least a day off in between workouts so that they can do what they need to do. In this case, more isn’t always better.
Related Article: What Is The Best Cardio For Abs? (13 Examples)
How You Should Approach Your Ab Workout
So, how should you train your abs?
Contrary to popular belief, a full workout session dedicated entirely to abs is actually not necessary.
In fact, your abs will be worked by doing other compound movements that you’re probably already including in your training such as the squat and deadlift. To properly execute these exercises, you need to brace and engage that core for stability so your abs will be getting a workout without directly focusing on them.
As such, it’s still a good idea to incorporate direct core training into your sessions just not an entire whole hour. Even just dedicating 15-minutes for 2 to 3 ab exercises at the end of a workout is more than enough to see results. This will complement your indirect ab training well while still giving them specific exercises to optimize your session.
Also, keep this dedicated ab time to the end of your session. If you train your abdominal muscle at the start, it may make it more challenging to execute your compound lifts without fatiguing as fast. End your workout with a good ab pump instead so you can get the most out of your training across all muscle groups.
Related Article: How Long Does It Take To Get Abs + Tips To Make It Quicker
Abs Are Made In The Gym And Revealed In The Kitchen
Abs are not just about muscle building, it’s also about fat burning. This means that while you may be doing everything to help shape them in the gym, if you’re not following this up with your nutrition and diet, then they will remain invisible to the naked eye, hidden under a layer of body fat.
To be able to see your abs, you need to lower your overall body fat percentage until you can see your abdominal definition. Have you ever heard of the saying, “Abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen?” There is truth to that.
While working out will assist in defining and developing your abs, your nutrition and diet will play a significant role in how visible they are. It really comes down to your body fat percentage as well. Those with a higher body fat percentage may not be able to see their hard work paying off so in that case, lowering this number will help.
In terms of what body fat percentage you need to sit at in order to make your abs visible, this varies greatly from person to person. It also depends on a variety of factors such as sex and age. However, a ballpark number to aim for is around 10 to 14 percent for males. For females, the number is around the 15 to 19 percent mark.
The lower your body fat percentage, the more defined your stomach area will be. Though, bear in mind that the lower the body fat percentage and the more visible the abs, the more sacrifice will be required in your day to day life.
Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod.
Ab Exercises For Bodybuilding
As we talked about in the beginning of this article, there are four major muscle groups that make up your abdominal region. Hence, it’s important to target each of these areas in your ab session so that you get a balanced and even workout; you don’t want to over or under develop a particular section compared to the others.
We are going to run you through exercises for each section. However, if you would like more ideas, then download the FitBod app here. You can get 3 free workouts now.
Related Article: Ab Day At The Gym: How To Do It Properly + Sample Program
Hang onto a pull up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip. Your body should hang down in a straight line.
Keep your legs as straight as possible as you raise them up until they are at hip height. Keep your upper body still to ensure that your core is doing the work. If you can’t keep your legs straight, then you can do these leg raises with your knees bent and slowly work your way, over time, to straight legs.
Hold the position at the top for a moment.
Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position and repeat.
Related Article: 3 Best Ab Workouts On Pull Up Bar (Complete List of Exercises)
Lie flat on a mat or on the floor.
Tuck your pelvis in so that your lower back is supported. You can also place your hands underneath your back with your index and thumbs of each hand touching to form a triangle.
Engage your ab muscles and lift your legs off the floor. Keep them straight.
Lower one leg so that it’s close to the ground (but not touching it) while kicking the other higher in the air.
Then, switch mid-air so that the leg closest to the ground is now the higher one and vice versa.
Alternate legs again and repeat.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL OBLIQUES
Grab a weight plate (if you’re using weights) and sit on the floor. You also have the option of executing this exercise using just your bodyweight.
Your legs are bent in front of you, feet off the ground. Slightly lean your torso back, while maintaining a straight line with your back, and hold the plate to your chest. You should be balancing on your glutes by squeezing your core tight.
Twist your torso to one side, taking cre to just move your upper body. Bring the plate with you, tapping it on the ground. Be careful not to rest it on the floor; you just want a gentle tap to ensure you’re getting full range of motion with your obliques.
Inhale as you rotate back to center before twisting to the other side in one smooth motion.
Again, tap the weight to the floor before repeating on the other side, and so forth.
Side Medicine Ball Toss
Stand beside a wall so that one side of your body is closest to it.
Hold the medicine ball to your chest.
Rotate your body to the side that’s furthest away from the wall. Knees are slightly bent, light on your feet.
In an explosive motion, twist back towards the wall, slamming the ball into the wall.
As it rebounds, catch it.
Then, repeat your reps. You’ll do this on one side first before switching to the other.
Dynamic Toe Tap
Begin this exercise lying on your back on the floor.
Bend your knees and lift your legs up until they are at a 90-degree angle.
Brace and engage your core muscle. Lower one leg to the floor, keeping the other one where it is. Tap the floor with your lowered leg.
Start to return the leg to the starting position at the 90-degree angle. Simultaneously, lower the other leg to tap it on the ground so you’re switching mid-air.
Elbow To Knee Plank
Assume the standard plank position. This means supporting yourself on your forearms and toes. Maintain a straight line with your body. Be careful not to let your hips sag to the floor or push your hips up in the air.
Breathe in deeply, engaging your abdominal muscles as you lift one leg off the floor. Bend at the knee and bring it as far up to your elbow as possible. Try to keep the leg as close to your body as possible, while still ensuring that your back is straight.
Return the leg to the starting position.
Change to the other leg, bringing it to your elbow or as close as possible.
Related Article: How To Get Better at Planks (7 Tips That Actually Work)
Whether you’re a bodybuilder, gym-goer, or just someone who wants to spend more time on their abs, it’s important to remember that they are just like any other muscle group in your body—your abs need recovery time otherwise it cannot repair and grow. It’s not necessary to do abs every day for bodybuilding, in fact, doing so will actually hinder your progress. Try keeping ab work to the end of your session for a short period at a time, ensuring that you get at least one day off in between. This will help maximize your efforts so you can see all your hard work pay off sooner rather than later.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.