Everything you need to know about abs

Working on your abs to get a flat stomach is all very well provided that there's some method behind it! We tell you why in this article.

Why do ab exercises?

Before we get into the aesthetics of abs, let's take a quick look at the underlying anatomy:

The anterolateral abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, external abdominal oblique, internal abdominal oblique, transversus abdominis) play a key role in keeping the hips, posture and spine in alignment. They support all your everyday movements and are involved in rotating and leaning.

They are undeniably important!

How to get strong abs fast

Many are ready and willing to do anything for rock-hard abs, including set after set of ab exercises thinking that it's the only way to get a washboard stomach. But they're wrong - getting visible ab muscles mostly depends on the following:

For a slim and trim figure, it's important to work your abs and lower back in a balanced way. Just like when doing general strength training, you should:

• vary your exercises (equipment, variations etc.),

• allow yourself enough recovery time,

• change up your workout (stationary, circuit training etc.),

• increase the level of difficulty, ie either your workout time or equipment,

To ward off back troubles (lower back pain, herniated discs, etc.), your core should be strong and balanced. You need to have equal strength at the front (abs) and sides (obliques) and be stronger in your lower back (lumbar, spinal erectors).

If you want to be able to see your abs, they'll obviously need to be strong and have a certain mass. But that's not enough - you also have to lower your body fat to have a flat stomach (less than 10% body fat for men and 16% for women).

To do this, remember two things:

• eat a balanced diet all the time (healthy eating habits)

• do cardio on a regular basis (at least twice a week). There's nothing better than an exercise bike or treadmill to keep fit, improve your cardiovascular and respiratory health, and blast calories!

How to work your abs

To see your abs, you have to work in different ways (stability and instability work) and at different difficulty levels. If you want to see progress, increase the number of reps you do or the weight you use.

• Basic level: ab exercises on the floor (crunches, planks etc.).

• Difficult level - unstable: instability ab work with a gym ball, DST suspension trainer or push-up wheel

• Difficult level - stable: ab work with a high pulley, pull-up bar etc.


Equipment for ab exercises

Ab machines
To ease into ab exercises, especially dynamic movements (eg crunches), you can try using an ab machine, which guides the movement and helps you maintain good form. These machines often have a head rest to keep your neck more comfortable. The ab machine is placed on the ground and your feet remain free. You then use your arms to bring yourself up. 

Ab benches
To increase the range of movement compared to basic exercises and work more deeply into the abs, advanced users can try an ab bench. With this type of equipment, the crunch movement is done without support at the back. The feet are held in place with foam pads to keep you stable and secure during the exercise. You can adjust the angle (foam pad height and incline) to make the exercises more intense.
Accessories for instability work
Other workout accessories can help you strengthen your deep ab muscles via proprioception, such as a Gym Ball or the DST suspension strap. These very effective fitness tools create instability that forces you to engage your stabilising muscles in addition to the muscles you're directly targeting. They work your muscles deeply and add tension to several muscles:
• the muscles you're targeting (eg pecs, triceps etc.)
• the core muscles that are engaged to keep you stable and upright. You have to keep your ab muscles contracted to stay balanced and protect your back.
• the postural muscles, which help support and protect your spine (paravertebral muscles, rhomboids, scapular muscles, posterior deltoids etc.).

As you can see, exercises alone won't give you abs of steel. A healthy lifestyle and balanced ab and back exercises are key if you want a flat stomach and sculpted abs.



Decathlon writer  (weight training communication team)

I was a long-time fitness enthusiast (group classes such as step, Aeroboxing, BodySculpt, circuit training, stretching etc.), before shifting towards weight training while I was studying to become a personal trainer.  At first, I was uncomfortable in the very masculine environment, but over time, I really fell in love with the discipline!

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