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Abs - Beyond The Basics

Posted by Rob Riches on

Master the art of sculpting six pack abs with this easy-to-follow routine, which can even be performed at home! 

Clearly defined abdominals are for many, the ultimate sign of a strong and athletic physique. They proudly display your level of commitment and discipline to your sport, and show everyone that you’ve mastered the art of achieving ripped six pack abs! 

I’m not simply talking about being lean with low levels of body fat (although that is certainly a requirement here), but rather a clearly visible and defined set of abdominal muscles that diet and cardio alone can’t develop.

Within this article, I will break down the truth about Ab training, and which exercises when performed correctly will help you achieve that cover-model look.

Beyond simply describing to you the basics of how many reps to perform on each exercise, I want to go deeper into how to perform each of these exercises the same way I do, focusing on your breathing and how to really engage all the right muscles effectively and correctly. You’ll soon discover that there is a big difference between doing an exercise, and really feeling the exercise.


Don’t be alarmed, this is nothing to do with any heavy objects being thrown into your gut like in the movies. Instead, this is more to do with contracting the abdominal muscles “as though” you were about to receive a blow to the gut.

If you’ve ever been fooling around fighting (as kids, we’ve all done it), then you’ll know if your friend pretends to punch you in the stomach, your reaction is to tense the abdominal muscles so as to resist the impact better. It’s this same action of engaging the abdominal muscles, paired with a deep exhale of air, that will set you up for every rep you’ll be performing of the exercises below.

Try it right now – brace your abs (as if you were going to receive a punch to the gut), and as you do, exhale deeply (which is more than a blow of air from your lungs, and more like a sort of wheeze as you force air out from your lungs). By doing this, your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward, and the intercostal muscles between each of your ribs, relax, helping you to perform each repetition of a particular abdominal muscle more effectively. You should feel your abs tighten up. Now imagine doing this and performing an abdominal crunch – you can be sure you’ll be feeling your abdominal muscles working like never before.

Now that you’ve perfected the contracting and breathing, which need to be in sync on every repetition, lets move on and take a look at each of the exercises, which I prefer to perform as a circuit, with little to no rest between each one. 

For the purpose of this article, I have included two circuits. Circuit [A], and Circuit [B], with the latter being a little more challenging than the first.

If you’re not too familiar with the following exercises, I would suggest sticking to performing Circuit [A] for the first few weeks, before then trying Circuit [B]. Once you’re feeling confident about all of the exercises, you can try alternating them each workout, or even performing Circuit [A], followed by Circuit [B] right after. I usually perform the circuits 3 times after my morning cardio, and will train abs 5-6 times a week.


Abdominal Circuit [A]

Aim to perform each exercise for 15-20 repetitions. Focus on engaging the abdominal muscles, and deeply breathing for each rep. If you are yet able to complete the full amount of reps, don't force them but rather perform as many as you can manage. You will soon see an improvement in your endurance, along with greater definition around your midsection. Just stay focused and committed. Now, lets take a closer look at each movement.  

Swiss Ball Crunches

Why use a Swiss Ball when you can perform crunches just as effectively on the floor, right? Actually, the Swiss Ball [SB] is a fantastic tool for allowing you to engage and develop deep and tight abs. As you soon as you sit on a SB you are engaging your abs to help maintain balance and stabilize yourself. 

To really work the abdominals on the SB effectively, sit upright on the ball, and walk yourself forwards until the ball is supporting your lower back (you may need to position your feet against the wall, or at least against something firm and stable, like a weighted plated). Keeping your back straight, start to lean back until you feel your abdominals stretch out. This is your starting position. Your upper back and shoulders are not touching on the ball (see the top left-side image for example). 

From here, keeping your hands up by your temple, or arms crossed over your chest, contract the abdominals and deeply exhale as your start to squeeze the abdominals while drawing your shoulders inwards to your hips. (Think of a half-moon trajectory as opposed to trying to lift your shoulders upwards to the sky). You can see from the top right-side image that you really don't have to come too far up to fully engage the abdominals. 

Pause briefly at the top of the movement whilst squeezing the abs hard, then begin to take a breath in as you reverse the movement - feeling the abdominals lengthen as your return back to the starting position. Still, the upper back and shoulders should not touch the top of the ball, and keeping tension in the abdominals at all time.

Seated Bench Double Crunch

This exercise is one of the most under-estimated exercises for really working the abdominals, especially more the lower section. It's also a great movement that can be supersetted with many bench-type exercises, such as dumbbell chest movements, so now you have no excuses as to why you can't be getting in a few abdominal exercises at least several times a week.
Sit across the width of the bench, and grip the underside of the bench right next to where your sitting. Raise your feet off the ground, keeping your knees slightly bent, and lean backwards until you feel somewhat balanced. No doubt you'll be feeling your abdominals already working. Your back should be straight, and not curved forwards, and your feet should be raised to the same height as you are sitting at. This is your starting position.
Using the same abdominal bracing and exhaling techniques as with the first exercise, complete the movement my drawing your shoulders and knees inwards. You can see from the images above that it's not that big of a movement, but it's sure enough of one to feel a deep muscular contraction within the abs.
Return back to the start position, and aim to complete upwards of 20 to 30 repetitions. Remember - control and muscle engagement is far more important than total reps, so even if you only manage around 10 reps, thats perfectly fine, so long as your feeling the muscles working. Your endurance for higher reps will soon come.

Side Plank Dips


The Plank is actually a great exercise that targets the deeper muscles of the core, and should definitely be considered a key abdominal exercise. I've found that by performing the plank on your side (resting on one elbow, feet stacked on top of each other, and your hips in alignment with your heels and shoulders. See upper, right image for example), it becomes a great exercise to target the obliques. 

The obliques are often the 'forgotten ab muscles', with many favoring crunches and knee lefts to develop the classic 'six pack abs' look, but with a little attention given to the obliques, you can soon achieve that 'wrap around' effect, with clearly defined side muscles (that actually assist more in rotating the trunk).

One in position, and still employing the bracing and breathing techniques as with the first 2 movements, lower your hips down towards the floor, allowing them to touch but not rest on the floor, and then return your hips back to the top position - keeping them inline with your heels and shoulders. Remember to perform the same number of repetitions on both sides. 




Abdominal Circuit [B]

These following exercises can be a little more tricky to master than those shown in Circuit A. If you feel as though you've mastered them, by all means give this circuit a try. Just keep in mind the same abdominal bracing and deep exhaling techniques as mentioned throughout the previous exercises.

These exercises can be performed as a circuit, aiming for 20-30 repetitions per exercise, repeating the same circuit a further 2 times, or rotating some of the exercises shown throughout circuit A so that you're always challenging yourself differently in each abdominal session.


Swiss Ball Double Crunch


Laying on your back, clasp you feet and calves around the top of a swiss ball (don't use one too big), so that the ball is firmly locked in between your feet and against your legs. With your hands up by the side of your head, and elbows open wide, exhale and contract the abdominals allowing your shoulders and hips to raise off the floor.

Your knees and elbows should almost meet in the the middle, when your abdominals are contracted the hardest. Slowly reverse the movement, but don't allow the ball or your shoulders to be supported back on the floor. As soon as they reach the start of the exercise, exhale and contract the abs as you return back to the top of the movement.

Your legs should remain at a fixed angle, and are only keeping the ball in place. Doing this ensures that it is your abdominals - the lower region in particular, are being engaged to curl the hips up off the ground, and forwards. Remember the visual of a half moon semicircle. That is the shape you should be aiming to follow with your hips and shoulders.



Swiss Ball Plank Knee Tuck

Perhaps one of the more challenging exercises to get into position (use your legs to move the ball under your feet - shoelaces flat on the ball, when you're already in a push-up position), yet also one of the most effective movements to target all the major abdominal muscles in one movement.

Start with you arms fully extended, and your hips aligned with your shoulders and feet. As you begin to exhale deeply, start to contract the abdominals to pull your knees in towards you. Your back should remain as straight as possible, allowing the hips to lift up just enough for the knees to tuck in beneath you.

Concentrate on keeping the abs contracted and give them one last squeeze before extending the legs back out and returning back to the start of the movement.

Extended Side Plank (with Rotational Reach Through)

Now here's an exercise that you probably don't see see performed all that often, but once you've mastered the balancing (which also gets the abs working right from the start), I find this a great movement that really focuses on the obliques. Plus, you don't need any equipment to perform this movement - so now there's no excuses as to why you can't get a simple but effective abdominal workout in wherever you are!
Similarly to the side plank dips in circuit A, start on one side but with your arm fully extended, and your legs scissored to provide greater stability (I prefer placing my top leg behind my lower leg, as shown in the upper left image of this exercise). Extend the other arm upwards towards the sky, closing your hand up into a fist.
With your abdominals already contracted, and as your exhaling all the air from your lungs, start to move that top fist down in front of you - following that half-moon semi circle (so that your arm never bends), and keep it going underneath you as far as you can rotate under. Reverse the movement back to the start and repeat for at least 10-15+ times before changing sides, so that your top arm is now the one supporting you.


Bonus Movement [C]

Feeling pretty confident with performing either of the circuits from start to finish without so much as a rest period? If so, then you're ready to add in this bonus movement that will ensure every abdominal muscle fiber is left untouched, and no doubt take your sic pack session up a few notches on the intensity scale.


Spiderman Plank

Starting the in the plank position as shown at the end of circuit A, pull one knee up towards your side in a crawl-like manner, being sure to keep your back and hips straight, and your lower leg (shin) parallel to the floor. 

Exhale and contract your abdominals on every movement, alternating from left to right, and the whole time, keeping your upper body from moving. Try to keep the movement going for 30 up to even 60 seconds, as this will no doubt leave your midsection burning from fatigue. Lucky for you the abdominals re-oxygenate quickly, and don't require long before they're ready for rounds two and three.


Final Word

Training your abdominals may not be as rewarding when you're first setting out to sculpt our dream physique, but so long as you make use of these simple bracing and breathing techniques, and remain consistent with your ab routine, it will help you transform your physique more than simply cardio and diet could do alone. 

I'd love to hear from any of you who try this workout, either on the comments section below, or by using the hashtag #BserkTraining on any of the Bserk social media.

I'll be posting weekly workouts and routines on the Bserk website as part of an ongoing campaign for our new product launch - Core. A thermogenic fat-burner/pre-workout that I've actually been a key player in it's formulation, development, and testing

I've been using the same formula in Core for years now, and also find it a great addition to my weight training, thanks to the mental clarity and drive I get from it.

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  • Thanks for the info i hope to see result in the near future.

    THierry on
  • Omg guys, just watch his videos if you dont know what to do. And if you ve read the article, you noticed that he said he trains abs 5-6 days/week after cardio. Wondering why this silly questions. Just follow him and watch his videos on social media and a lot on you tube. Cheers Rob! Good work, as always :D

    Razvan on
  • I love your advice. I am following you all the time. But legs is skinne. I don’t now what to do. ..

    Azhar Ali on
  • How many times a week would you do abdo circuits?

    Kay on
  • How many times a week would you do abdo circuits?

    Kay on

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