Normally. I’m not a big fan of this kind of catch-phrases and especially not the ones that are used for fitness.
“Abs in 28 days”, “3 minutes a day abs”, “Abs shortcut,” “Secret about abs,” etc.
The honest truth is that there are no secrets, no magic, and no shortcuts. There are smarter ways to achieve a six-pack and strong abs, but it will require a good amount of dedication and hard work from you – it’s as simple as that and if someone is trying to convince you of something else you are getting tricked.
Nevertheless. I have chosen a rather catchy phrase for this article. “Abs of Steel workout for all fitness levels.” The reason why I have compromised on my standards is that I think the phrase gives a very good picture of what we want to achieve and especially what we want to avoid.
So we want abs of steel. Not a soft and round belly that is built up of a lot of dangerous stomach fat. But a flat and strong belly that not just looks good, but also makes us able to keep a good posture.
Ok, I think we made the picture clear, but let me just touch upon why a strong and flat stomach is not just a question about aesthetics but even more about health.
A big round belly often means a lot of belly fat.
We know that huge amount of body fat is not healthy for us. However, when it comes to belly fat, it’s especially dangerous. The main reason is that there seems to be a clear link between belly fat and chronicle inflammation which again increases your risk of:
•Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
•Premature death from any cause
•High blood pressure
The most efficient way to attack the belly fat is with a good combination of healthy dieting and workouts – however, the diet should be the main focus. So if you came here to lose belly fat, I would like you to go to my article, “The six-pack diet,” instead.
So, left we have the strong abs or abs of steel as we have chosen to call them in this article 🙂
As already mentioned the abs helps us to keep a good posture and they do that together with the rest of the muscles, which we normally identify as core muscles.
Today a lot of people spend the majority of their wake time in positions that are not healthy for their body. Massive time of sitting and working at desks give us stiff and weak muscles. Back pain and stiff shoulders is normal for a lot of people.
When we have strong abs, a lot of these issues will disappear, as we can keep a good and healthy posture. So weak abs might not be as dangerous as the belly fat but it can certainly give us conditions that make our life less enjoyable.
Ok, now back to the abs of steel workout.
As mentioned, this workout is supposed to be doable for all fitness levels, which means that we will have to have some sort of progression build in as well.
The exercises I have chosen are exercises that I consider the most efficient abs exercises at all. But please bear in mind, that as we want everybody to be able to do this workout I have left the most challenging ones out of the workout. If you want more abs exercises, you can have a look at my calisthenics abs workout article here.
Now for the exercises.
Hollow holds is without a doubt, one of the most efficient abs exercises and therefore also a standard gymnastic exercise. Even better is that it’s easy to adapt to your level. Here is how we do it:
1: Lay on the back with legs bend
• Tighten your core by pushing your belly button towards your spine
• Lower back is flat against the ground
2: Lift your upper body off the ground and tuck your chin
3: Raise your legs
• Continue to keep core tight and lower back glued to the ground
4: Straighten your legs
5: Lower your legs to the lowest point where you still can keep the back in the ground
6: Straighten your arms overhead.
Get the feet closer and closer to the ground without arching the lower back.
Hold the exercise for longer and longer time.
Plank have become very popular and with good reason. It’s a great exercise, but again we need to do it correctly.
The traditional plank is performed by holding your body in a “straight” line from heels to head and supporting the upper body on your elbows, which are placed just below the shoulders. The lower body is resting on the toes.
The most common mistake that people make and which also makes it less efficient are:
Not keeping the body in a straight line and arching either up or down is the most common issue. When this happens, we are either losing the muscles on the front or the back.
Not tilting the pelvis to contract the abs. This issue will be seen by an arch in the lower back. When tilting the pelvis by contracting the abs, the lower back will flatten out.
Hanging in the shoulders. This is seen when the space between scapulars becomes very small. Scapulars should be kept as far as possible from each other.
Simply keep the position for longer and longer time. Above 3min is outstanding.
Select a more difficult version – please see the plank progression article here.
Knee raises is the only dynamic exercise that I have chosen – I will get back to that shortly. This one will really kill your abs, but again we need to focus on proper form to get all the benefits.
As the name says, we simply hang on the bar and raise our knees as high as possible. However, it’s extremely important to tilt our pelvis either in the beginning or in the end. This to engage the abs and not just the hip-flexors. See more here on how to do that.
We can do more of them of course. But even better, apply a pause when the abs are working most. This means when the knees are closest to your chest.
If you can’t hang from your arms or don’t have a place to hang, you can do sitting v-ups instead. But they are not as good as knee raises.
These are the three best abs exercises I know. They will definitely give you Abs of steel if done frequently and with good form.
I mentioned that the knee raises is the only dynamic exercises that I have included, and I actually asked you to do them more isometric when progressing. So why is that?
You see the core muscles which the abs are part of are naturally built for having an isometric contraction. Working the core muscles in the same way, is beneficial, as this is the nature of how our core muscles work. Basically, they are meant to keep our body vertical and protect vital parts such as the spine, etc. A natural isometric contraction of these muscles is seen all the time, where other parts such as legs and arms are more designed for eccentric and concentric contraction.