1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Your Best Abs


Updated June 18, 2014

Your Best Abs

Working Your Abs

The abdominals are made up of different muscles on the front, side and middle of the abdominal area. When we think of the abs, most of us are focused on the flat muscle that travels down the front of the belly, from just below the chest to the pelvic area. This muscle, called the "rectus abdominis," is often called the "six-pack," because there are three tendinous creases there that separate the muscle, giving it that washboard look. The rectus abdominis is responsible for spine flexion, which involves bringing the shoulders toward the hips, as in a crunch, and is involved in most abdominal exercises.

There are other muscles beside the six-pack, though. The internal and external obliques are located on either side of the body, attaching on to the ribs, and are responsible for spine flexion and rotation. Whenever you turn or rotate the torso, the obliques are involved. The external obliques run diagonally (in the same direction as if you were putting your hand in a pocket), and the internal obliques lie under and almost at a right angle to the external obliques.

The transverse abdominis is actually an internal muscle forming the innermost layer of the abdominal wall. This muscle wraps around the spine and is involved in abdomen compression, rather than movements of the torso.

Why Should You Work Your Abs?

While many people think ab exercises will lead to a flatter belly, the idea of spot reducing fat from the abs is a myth. In reality, you have to lose overall body fat to reduce fat over the abs. That doesn't mean, though, that you shouldn't strengthen the abs. Your abs are responsible for a variety of important duties, including rotation and stabilization of the spine. Strong abs will help protect you from injury, improve your posture and make daily activities easier.

How Often Should You Train Your Abs?

Many people think you have to work the abs every day, but you should treat them like any other muscle group, working them 2 to 3 times a week, with at least one rest day in between. It isn't necessary to do hundreds of reps in order to work your abs efficiently. The ab muscles are just like the other muscles in your body, so high-volume training isn't going to give you better results. Choose exercises challenging enough that you can't do more than 15 or 20 reps.

What Exercises Should You Do?

Some of the most common ab exercises include crunches, bicycles and planks, but there are a variety of exercises that will challenge every part of your abs. These ab exercises offer a variety of options for working your abs.

Next page: Ab Exercises


American Council on Exercise. (2003). ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 3rd Edition. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise.

Related Video
Strengthen and Tone with this Fast Ab Workout

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.