Routinely doing the same workout routine for your abs can prevent you from increasing abdominal strength and progressing towards achieving your personal fitness goals. A progressive workout for abs that involves periodically changing exercises, targeting abs from different angles, and increasing intensity levels can continuously keep muscles working harder than you’re accustomed to so you can avoid hitting progress plateaus. Before starting a new workout program, consider health concerns, injuries and consulting with a health-care provider to determine which exercises are most compatible with your current fitness level.
A progressive workout is a system of training that helps prevent muscle adaptation, explains American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer Chris Goulet. Goals to firm, tone and strengthen your abs can be undermined if you never change exercises, increase repetitions, sets, or weight increments when an exercise starts feeling easy. Placing new and different demands on upper-and-lower abs can help you get stronger faster and progress from being able to do easy, beginner-level exercises to more challenging intermediate and advanced-level exercises. Consistently changing abs exercises can also help keep your workout fresh and motivating.
How to Be Progressive
Frequently changing exercises for abs and ramping up the difficulty-level of your workouts can help you keep achieving progressive results. For example, if it was hard for you to do one set of 25 crunches when you first started working out, but a few weeks later it feels easy, your abs may have adapted to the exercise. To continue getting stronger, you can increase intensity by aiming to do 50 crunches, performing crunches while holding a weight plate, or adding side-twists to target obliques. You could also do crunches followed by one or two other isolation exercises for abs, or maximize the efficiency of your workout by focusing on compound, core-strengthening exercises that recruit torso and lower back muscles simultaneously.
To get started with a progressive abs workout, Dr. Jeffrey Tucker, rehabilitation, exercise and nutrition specialist, suggests performing beginner-level exercises first, such as crunches and scissor kicks to help strengthen your upper-and-lower abs. Then, you can progress to intermediate-level, body-weight exercises such as the plank and pelvic thrusts to increase overall core strength. Once you’re strong enough to complete beginner and intermediate exercises, you can move on to advanced-level exercises using forms of resistance including weights, gym cables, medicine balls or stability balls.
To get the most out of progressive workout sessions for abs, personal trainer and weight management coach Jennipher Walters recommends changing exercises every four to six weeks, and including functional twisting and rotating movements that can help make every day activities easier to perform. She also suggests training abs two or three times per week, but never on consecutive days to allow for adequate rest and muscle repair.
Only performing exercises for abs, and not training other body parts can impede your progress and ability to improve your overall fitness level. Combining exercises for abs with strength-training and cardiovascular exercise can help you burn more body fat, and increase the strength and endurance needed to maximize the effectiveness of abs exercises. Following a healthy diet plan to help reduce body fat can also help reveal flatter abs with more muscular definition.
Bari Auerbach writes a fitness column and has won trophies in fitness shows. Since graduating from Florida International University in 1984 with a degree in communications, she has written for national clients; interviewed dignitaries and celebrities for magazines; and has covered topics including business, politics, fashion and food.