You don’t have to go to the gym to train your abs. You can do that at home with these exercises.
The crunch is the mother of all abs exercises. It differs from sit-ups in that you only come up a little bit during the crunch. At the top of the crunch, use your entire core (you’ll feel it burn!), while sit-ups use your hip flexors to lift up. Therefore, the crunch is a much more effective abdominal exercise than the sit-up. You can make the crunch harder by holding a dumbbell or weight plate against you or in the air.
With the reverse crunch you emphasize the lower abs (lower abs). In this exercise you lie on the floor, your hands next to you or under your buttocks. Lift your legs in the air, tighten your abs, roll your hips up and lift them off the floor with your legs up in a straight line. Lower in a controlled manner and repeat. Don’t bring your legs back too much.
With bicycle crunches you do not sit on a bicycle, but you lie on the ground with your torso and legs raised; only your behind makes contact with the ground. In this position, alternately move your left and right knees toward your shoulders. At the same time, twisting your torso toward the raised leg, try—for example—to hit your right knee with your left elbow, just like in twisting sit-ups.
This all-round exercise actually combines several exercises and simultaneously targets your straight (both upper and lower) and obliques.
The Russian Twist puts your entire core and flexibility to the test. If desired, use a weight plate, dumbbell or other heavy object. Sit up straight with your knees bent and feet in front of you. Lift your feet about a foot off the floor and engage your core. Rotate your entire torso to the side and keep your legs in front of you. Repeat on the other side. Your head and neck remain in a neutral position.
With the RKC plank, you adjust the traditional plank in two ways: you place your arms a little further forward so that your elbows are just about directly under your eyes, and you raise your body by tilting your pelvis back (the posterior pelvic tilt position – see picture). That means you have to squeeze your glutes, quadriceps and abs at the same time.
A good RKC plank puts your entire body under tension for just 8-10 seconds. The RKC plank is therefore not only more effective, but also more efficient (and less boring) than the often endless traditional plank.
In the side plank, you emphasize the oblique abdominal muscles. Place one elbow directly under your body and push yourself up. Tighten your core and hold this position for as long as you can. Make sure to keep your back straight and your body in a straight line. Keep your chest and hips high. Repeat for the other side.
In jackknives you bring your feet and hands together, just like closing a knife. This exercise combines sit-ups with leg raises.
Mountain climbers are a great way to work on your fitness while strengthening your waist. If you’re sick of sit-ups and crunches and are looking for a dynamic way to tone your abs as well as your lower back, this is the exercise for you.
You start the exercise from a push-up position with one leg forward and the knee of that leg under your chest. Like a sprinter ready for the start. Now continuously alternate the position of your left and right leg. In other words, bring your front leg back while simultaneously bringing your back leg forward. As if – we are referring again to the sprinter – you are constantly changing your starting position.
Treat your abs just like all your other muscle groups. So you do between 10 and 20 sets per week (15 sets for an average bodybuilder) and a maximum of 10-12 sets per training. For an average bodybuilder, this means that you train your abs two to three times a week with plenty of rest in between, so normally at least 48 hours.
Training your abs every day has no added value, but if you do it, only do one or two exercises per workout.
There is no magic number of reps you have to do. Basically you do as many repetitions per exercise until you almost reach muscle failure. That can be quite a lot of reps if you only use your body weight. That is why it is recommended to increase exercises with a dumbbell or weight plate, if you have one at home.