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How to get strong and defined abs

March 1, 2022


One of the countless benefits of working out is getting an aesthetic body, and one of the most wanted goals is to get strong and defined abs. However, if you research on the Internet for how to get defined and strong abs, you will find outdated information, exercises that are not very useful, and supplements that are not effective.


First of all, I have good news for you, you have abs. We all have abs, but the typical recommendation to do a lot of abs exercises (such as the typical crunch) in order to define them is wrong and ineffective. In order for our abs to be visible, we need to fulfill the following:

  • Some muscular development in the area, in this case the core.
  • A relatively low fat percentage.


It is true that performing more exercises such as crunches and working the core directly can help increase muscle mass, but it becomes useless since to be able to mark the abdominals, it is also necessary to fulfill the second point, it is essential to have a low body fat percentage. 


Therefore, spending a lot of time performing thousands of repetitions with this type of exercise is counterproductive, since we can use it to perform other types of exercises that are much more effective and can help us improve our body composition by losing fat and gaining muscle. That without leaving aside, that this type of exercises such as crunches, present a certain risk of injury.


Discovering the abdominal muscles


When we refer to abdominal muscles, we are mainly talking about these muscles:

  • Rectus abdominis: This is the most well-known, the famous “six-pack” that we see on the beach, it is only a small part of the whole.
  • External Obliques: Better known as the “V”. Visible on the sides of the rectus abdominis.
  • Internal obliques: They cross below the rectus abdominis and the obliques (although they are deeper). They participate in spinal flexion, lateral flexion, trunk rotation, and abdominal compression.
  • Transversus abdominis: The deepest muscle, it offers support and stability to the rest of the muscles mentioned above to act together. It's like a lifting belt that we carry by default.


But all these muscles that make up what we know as "abdominals" are only a small part of the core.


Core: what it is and how to work on it effectively


The core is made up of different muscle groups from the torso, pelvis, spine and extremities. It is responsible for maintaining the stability of the pelvis and spine.

Mention that the core is not a concept addressed in classic anatomy classes or books, but rather a "functional" concept that is commonly used to refer jointly to the muscular and osteoarticular structures of the central part of the body, especially the lumbo-dorsal spine, pelvis and hips.


This concept has become increasingly popular, being more and more used in sports, since the referred structures jointly participate in maintaining the stability of the trunk and in the generation and transfer of forces. Therefore, many movements (both practicing sports and everyday activities) depend on the core, being a weak core an almost sure bet for a future injury.


As a result of this, different programs began to be created, in order to strengthen the core and thus improve performance. Core stability exercises are very common within core training programs designed to prevent injuries and, although a strong and well-worked core can improve performance and prevent injuries, these types of programs include ineffective exercises, since they are of low intensity and also do not imply a real application. So balancing on top of a ball is not going to make you have a strong core or more developed abs.


How to train core and abs efficiently


We have already talked about the importance of having a strong core, in order to increase performance and prevent injuries. 


I always recommend compound exercises (exercises that involve a large amount of muscle mass), and we know that the core is a set of muscles that work in a coordinated way and that it is not just the abdominals (thinking otherwise is a common mistake). Therefore, working the abdominals directly and in isolation is not the most efficient, the first thing is to work the core together and then, if necessary, we can try to stimulate the abdomen more directly.


Compound exercises are always going to be the pillar to improve your body and gain strength easily and safely. The same thing happens with the core, squats and deadlifts are better options when it comes to working the core than many other exercises aimed at said end, like the use of fitballs. In addition, exercises such as squats and deadlifts are very good options when it comes to working the back extensor muscles which are also part of the core.


For this reason, even if your goal or purpose is to have a strong core and developed abs, the base of your training should be multi-joint exercises with free weights (deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull-ups, military press, etc…). When we work on these exercises, the core becomes stronger, and many of them are superior when it comes to stimulating it compared to more classic exercises such as crunches or sit-ups.


Exercises to work the abs directly and efficiently


That the basis for having a strong core and developed abdominals are multi-joint exercises does not mean that we cannot take advantage of more specific work. These are some recommended exercises:

  • Ab wheel or power wheel: considered the king, one of the most effective when it comes to working the abs and core. It is a fairly advanced exercise.
  • Turkish get up: incredible exercise to improve not only the abdomen, but the entire core, stabilization of the spine and lower back, etc…
  • Dragon flag: a very intense exercise, named after its inventor, Bruce Lee, is not only a flashy exercise, it is also used as a preparation in high-level athletes (MMA) according to Joy Chaimberg.


Home exercises for abs and core


These are some of the best exercises to work the abdomen and core at home with body weight, you do not need any type of material, at most a pull-up bar to perform leg lifts:

  • Front plank: can be done anywhere, and you can add intensity with weights.
  • Glute bridge: Very effective exercise, it can also be done anywhere, and intensity can also be added.
  • Leg raises: Simple and effective, although I do not recommend abusing this exercise.




You won’t be able to have a six-pack by only increasing the amount of abs exercises, you will also need a low fat percentage. Also, it is better to focus on compound core exercises than specific abs exercises.


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