Abs Workouts of the Past 15 Years
When I first started lifting weights and doing ab workouts, I really didn’t know what I was doing. So let me tell you about some of the crazy ab exercises and training sessions I did back in the day involving ab crunches, sit-ups, and so many other ineffective and potentially dangerous exercises.
You see, I had started working out for the typical teenage boy reasons. I wanted to get big muscles to impress girls, and I wanted to get bigger, stronger, and faster for soccer and hockey.
My first ab workouts were done at the local YMCA after a few of my friends and I snuck in one night. We were those kids who went from machine to machine, not knowing what we were doing, and annoying – and probably intimidating – all of the regular customers.
And for that, I apologize, and to make it up to you, I’m going to share some really great ab workouts after I tell you about the abdominal exercises to avoid.
After causing havoc at the YMCA, I started lifting weights in my parent’s basement after purchasing a traditional York barbell machine weight set. Every other night, when I was 16 years old, I would go downstairs and do a full body workout routine followed by 100 crunches.
I did that because that is what the workout booklet told me to do.
Eventually, after buying a few fitness magazines and reading about the ab workouts of pro bodybuilders and fitness models, I started adding sets and reps of different ab exercises to the list. Soon I was doing hundreds of crunches, bicycle crunches, side crunches, and even sit-ups.
And while these exercises made my abs burn, nothing changed in the mirror. Well, at least not in terms of my abs. The weight machine exercises were helping pack on some muscle – in addition to the manual labor done at my after school job, and because of my teenage hormones.
Eventually I came to the decision that ab crunches and sit-ups were not helping me achieve my goals. By that time, I was in college and had access to a fully equipped, state-of-the-art gym. Plus, the Stability Ball had made its entrance into the fitness world.
So at this time, I was doing ab workouts that used stability ball crunches, Russian twists, and decline situps, and while my abs were sore, sometimes my back was sore too.
Some Abs Exercises Can Be Dangerous
The problem with this approach and these ab exercises is that they are all potentially dangerous for your low back. Each of these abs exercises puts your spine in flexion or rotation, and research has shown that rotation and flexion are the exact movements that cause herniated discs in your low back. Ouch.
I was shocked to find this out, but as soon as I did, I removed these from your workouts. They should be used rarely, if ever, and the great news is that you don’t need these exercises if you want to build six pack abs or have great ab workouts.
So if you find your back stiff and sore, you need to stop those exercises immediately. As mentioned, one day I stopped doing all of these ab exercises in my workouts.
They weren’t helping or making a difference for my six pack abs, but they were hurting my back. So they had to go. In reality, as long as you are keeping the fat off with interval training, metabolic resistance workouts, and diet, you’re going to have sexy abs. You don’t need to do 30 minute ab workouts.
However, you do need to do certain ab exercises to protect your back and improve your performance in sports, lifting, and every day tasks. (Great abs even help in the bedroom.)
So here’s what you need to do now. If you’re a beginner, you MUST throw away all of the crunches and sit-ups that you are doing, and you’re going to switch over to stabilization exercises like planks, side planks, and this cool little exercise called “The Bird Dog”.
These movements will help you build up abdominal endurance – and a nice flat stomach – so that you are ready for advanced ab exercises.
When you are at that point, you’ll want to use “anti-extension” and “anti-rotation” exercises like stability ball rollouts, TRX fallouts, stability ball “stir the pot” movements, and many more that I’m going to share with you in an advanced ab workouts article.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Certified Turbulence Trainer