I love training abs! I do so every morning, using three exercises from a range of over 60 that I use for abs. The three I select are always: one primarily for upper abs (above the navel in most people), one mainly for lower abs (below) and one for obliques, or the side abs.

I vary the equipment on a weekly basis – one week I will do floor exercises for abs, the next week I use a Swiss Ball, the next I use a bench, the following week  using fixed equipment such as a Roman Chair, and then a week using dumbbells – then back to the floor exercises for the following week.

In this article, I’ll describe three of the exercises I use and recommend. These all utilise dumbbells.

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Dumbbell-assisted sit-up

This is a dumbbell assisted exercise for the upper abs. In general, upper abs exercises involve moving the chest towards the knees. Holding the dumbbell out in front of you is the easiest variant of this exercise, it is more difficult without assistance from the dumbbell.

The dumbbell here assists in the exercise; the heavier the dumbbell and the further forward it is held, the more assistance is provided – and the better for newcomers to the exercise. It is more challenging in turn to perform the exercise without the dumbbell, to cross the arms on your chest, and beyond that, to have your finger-tips at your temples.

How to perform:

Sit on the floor with the upper torso at an angle of about 45 degrees up from the floor, holding a dumbbell in your hands over your mid-torso, with a slight bend at the elbows. Legs should be slightly bent with heels and hips on the floor, knees pointing upwards. From here, lower the torso until the mid back is just above the floor, hold and tense the abs for a second, the return upwards to the starting position – using the assistance of the dumbbell in pulling the torso up to reach that 45 degree position.

Exhale as the head goes up, inhale during the lowering phase.  Resist the temptation to come up too far, not more than 45 degrees – and don’t let the upper back touch or rest on the floor between repetitions.

Dumbbell Overhead V-Crunch

This exercise works the full rectus abdominis, the upper and lower abs, but I focus the effort on the lower part by making this the larger of the two body-part movements involved. The work for the lower abs is primarily in lifting the legs from the floor – keeping them straight and, at the same time, involving upper abs as you bring the dumbbell overhead to touch the knees.

The percentage of effort for the lower and upper abs is set by the amount of leg raise. The further the legs are raised towards the vertical in each rep, the higher proportion of effort is from the lower abs.

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How to perform:

Lie flat on the floor, holding a single dumbbell in your hands on the floor behind your head with arms extended. From here, raise the legs slowly, and at the same time, bring the arms overhead and raise the upper torso, so that the dumbbell meets the legs in the area of the knees. Hold for a second, concentrating on the tension and further contracting the abs.

Return more slowly towards the starting position, but don’t let either the dumbbell or your heels touch the ground – instead, hold them both off the ground a little and hold for another second before commencing the next rep. Exhale as you bring the arms and legs together, inhale as they descend. The slower you perform all aspects of this exercise, the better.

Dumbbell Side Bend

Obliques are worked by two movements – twisting and sideways-leaning. This is one of the leaning rather than twisting exercises. It focuses on the obliques and serratus anterior, with much more of an assisting role from the six-pack, the rectus abdominis.

When you bend to the right side, it is the left obliques that are being worked.  It’s tempting to do this with two dumbbells, one per hand, and also maybe alternate in pendulum fashion; this is to be avoided, the use of a second dumbbell assists in the return to vertical – it effectively counteracts the value of the first dumbbell.

How to Perform:

Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand down by your side. The other hand should be behind the head to negate the counterbalance effect which would be increased with it by your side. From here, slowly lean to one side towards the maximum point of the dumbbell being alongside the knee. Then slowly return to the vertical.

Don’t rest at the vertical position, but start the next rep immediately, keeping the tension in the obliques on the side being worked. Do all the reps on one side before switching. It’s easy to do this incorrectly – any form of movement backward or forward takes some of the emphasis away from the obliques, as does any movement in the lower body – everything from the hips south should remain fixed.  To check this, ideally position yourself in front of a mirror for the exercise.

Chris’s Ab routine:

Chris spends 10 minutes on abs every morning (Mon-Fri) straight after 40 minutes cardio and before breakfast. He does his ‘Abs:100’ routine every day – this is a set of 30 repetitions of an exercise for upper abs, then a set of 30 reps of a lower abs exercise, then a set of 20 for side abs (obliques) each side – making 100 reps in total. He rotates through different equipment on a weekly basis – as described in the article above. He then finishes with a two-minute front plank, then a one-minute side plank each side.

 

Read more from Expert Chris Zaremba.

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