External Load for Core Training
Weighted crunches... do you know how and when you should do them? Can you get your abs bigger and stronger if you train them with weights?
Should you incorporate weighted core exercises into your workouts?
The answer is maybe.
First, before we have any discussion about abs, we have to understand that in order to get them, you must first start with solid nutrition. If you’re idea of good protein is an ice cream milkshake, then you have a lot of work to do. You have to make sure your nutrition is in check first before you start considering the abs. The abs are always going to be covered by body fat when your nutrition is poor. The only way you are going to reveal your abs is with good nutrition.
If you’re lean enough and you’re finding that even when you’re lean, you really aren’t seeing your abs, they’re not really popping, you might have a situation where tendon/muscles that make up the linea alba are not as good as they should be.
The linea alba is the deep ridge running down the center of the stomach.
Unfortunately, you really can’t do much about this. You can however, make the muscles hypertrophy and pop out by training them with traditional resistance training.
The trick is to make the depth of the linea alba deeper by visually popping the muscle out further with hypertrophy. We aren’t talking about steroids. We are talking about working the rectus abdominus muscle more to allow for that 3-dimensional look.
When Weight Crunches Are Appropriate
If you are someone that has trained the abs really well and who also eats really well, then you might be a good candidate for some weighted ab work.
Weight Ab Exercises...
1) Standing Weighted Crunches.
2) Single Arm Crunches.
3) Balance Ball Weighted Crunches.
The point of these exercises isn’t to do very high reps. This is more about focusing on 10-12 high quality reps with quality tension to overload the rectus abdominus. You are trying to create that popping out against the suturing of that linea alba and linea transverse.
4) Weighted Vest Ab Wheel Rollout.
Remember, if your diet sucks then you won’t have any visibility of your abs. If your diet is in check, you may have visibility of your abs and you may not need to do any type of weighted ab workouts. If you are one of those guys, then that’s great and you can continue to do your non-weighted ab workouts. However, if your diet is in check and you still can’t see your abs, you likely need to start doing some weighted ab workouts because this will likely help you get through this barrier and get your abs showing.
Why Weighted Crunches Are Important
Often people approach ab training much differently than how they approach training muscles of the chest, legs, and back. Often people just mix in some ab work at the end of the workout. Exercises like flutter kicks and crunches for high reps is what many people do. Don’t get me wrong, these exercises have their place, but often if you are doing everything right and still aren’t getting the results you're looking for, you likely need exercises that will provide the necessary overload needed to make your abs “pop” more.
It’s not always best to just judge your effectiveness of a workout by the burn sensation you get from training your core. You want to progressively overload your abs and the best and easiest way to do this is with weights.
4 Best Weight Ab Exercises
1) Hanging Leg Raises. This is a great exercise for targeting your transverse abdominus. This puts emphasis on the lower abs. If this exercise is too difficult, first start with the Captains Chair.
2) Ab Pull Downs. This exercise targets the whole transverse abdominus while targeting the upper abs. These can also be done with a twist to the side to hit the obliques.
3) Cable Wood Choppers. This works the obliques. Be sure to not turn your hips. You want to be sure to use your abs/obliques.
4) Weighted Oblique Twists. This targets the obliques. If this is too difficult, do the movement with the feet on the ground or use less resistance.
For weighted crunches (ab exercises), aim for 6 to 15 reps per set. For bodyweight ab exercises, aim for 15 reps to failure.
Sample Ab Training Circuit
- Weighted Hanging Leg Raises (6 – 15 Reps)
- Ab Pulldowns (6 – 15 Reps)
- Cable Wood Chops (6 – 15 Reps)
- Flutterkicks (Until Failure)
Repeat this circuit 4 Times. Do this workout 2 to 3 times a week.
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