Everyone wants washboard abs, but knowing which workouts to use in order to achieve your desired goals can be problematic. Choosing several different workouts to engage all of your abdominal muscles is key. You’ll want to work your upper and lower abdominal muscles, your oblique muscles and your core muscles for an all-encompassing workout.
The upper abdominal muscles are the top part of the rectus abdominis. The lower abdominal muscles make up the lower portion of the rectus abdominis. Both upper and lower abs are engaged during any exercise, but certain exercises can target one portion more than the other. A regular crunch will target the upper abs for the primary contraction. To perform a crunch, lie on the floor on your back. Put your hands behind your head and bring your knees up while keeping your feet on the ground. Lift your head off the ground and move toward your knees until your shoulders are off the ground. Lower your head to the starting position. Do two to three sets with 15 reps per set.
The lower abdominal muscles are engaged with most abdominal exercises; however, you can target them specifically for a better workout. To isolate the lower abs as the primary contraction you can perform a reverse crunch. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your hands down at your sides. Tuck your tailbone underneath. Exhale as you lift your legs upward and bend your knees at the same time. Bring your thighs to your stomach and lift your butt off the ground. Bring your knees to the sides of your head and push the legs backward as far as you can go. Slowly bring your legs back to the starting position. Do two to three sets and 15 reps per set.
The body is made up of four oblique muscles, two on each side. Both sides of the body have an external and internal oblique muscle. Oblique muscles aid the body in twisting and turning. Any exercise that requires twisting and turning the abs is a great oblique workout. A popular oblique workout is the bicycle. To perform, lie on your back with your hands behind your head and knees up. Lift your shoulders off the floor and pedal your legs as if you were pedaling a bicycle. As your left knee comes toward the chest during the bicycle pedal, twist the right elbow toward the left knee to meet and release. As your right knee comes toward the chest during the pedal, twist the left elbow toward the right knee to meet and release. This is one rep. Complete 15 reps for two to three sets.
The transversus abdominis is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles. The transversus abdominis muscles wrap around the front and back of the torso and also from the ribs down to the pelvic bone. Transversus abdominis workouts are great for strengthening the body’s trunk, improving posture and improving the synergy between the upper and lower body’s muscles. A simple yet effective transversus abdominis exercise is the plank. Position yourself in a pushup position. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and modify your upper body to have your forearms on the ground with your hands by your head. Hold the position for 30 seconds then release. Do two to three sets.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.