Have you ever wondered what part of the body women find the most attractive? According to Muscle and Fitness, a recent study from Western Illinois University found that abs were ranked No. 1 in attraction.
But abs are about more than looks. They help boost performance in many aspects of your workout, “from heavier squats and deadlifts, to greater functional stability and faster 5k times. Developing strength within your abs will transition to improved performance across other exercises, activities, and daily life,” per GymShark.
What are abs?
The abdominal muscles are a group of muscles located in the abdomen. These muscles play a crucial role in the movement and stability of your core.
These are the five primary muscles that make up the abs, according to Cleveland Clinic:
- External obliques.
- Internal obliques.
- Rectus abdominis.
- Transversus abdominis.
How quickly can you get abs?
It’s important to note that you always have abs; they just don’t always look like the washboard type you see on most celebrities.
To get the kind of abs that appear on magazine covers, you have to put in several months of work, according to fitness experts. Ads that brag about some workout being able to give you a six-pack in less than 10 days promote unrealistic expectations.
The key to more defined abs is burning abdominal fat, which can take anywhere from six months to two years depending on “current body weight, genetics and approaches to nutrition and exercise,” as well as gender, MedicineNet says.
- 20-26 months is the time required for the average female, according to MedicineNet.
- 15-21 months is required for the average male.
How often do you need to work out your abs?
Studies indicate that increased frequency of workouts does not always lead to better results when it comes to abs.
“People should (typically) train their abs directly two to three times per week,” David Higgins, a personal trainer, physical therapist and sports nutritionist, told BarBend. “This allows for adequate stimulation as well as recovery, which is essential for muscle growth and strength gains.”
Higgins added that he usually tells his clients to work out their abs no more than three times a week.
What workouts are most effective?
To work toward a six-pack, choosing exercises that target all areas of the abdominal muscles is essential.
Here are five effective ab exercises:
- Plank: The plank is a core stability exercise that targets the abdominal muscles and the back and shoulders. A plank position engages the entire core. “The Plank is an isometric exercise, meaning that the muscle does not lengthen, instead remaining static throughout and is one of the best core strengthening exercises,” per GymShark. “The Plank requires engagement from the entire body to ensure the correct position can be held for the set length of time.”
- Bicycle crunches: By simulating a cycling motion while alternating elbow to knee, you engage multiple abdominal muscles. “Considered as one of the most complete abs exercise(s), as they help you strengthen both your upper abs, as well as your lower abs and obliques. If you do this drill in the right way, you are practically performing a full core movement and they are great fitness workouts,” according to Marca.
- Hanging leg raises: Using a pull-up bar, this exercise intensely targets the lower abs. For best results, you have to keep the movement controlled. This workout “is one of the best ways to target not just your abdominal muscles, but also your obliques and hip flexors, depending on the angle you use,” per Athlean-X.
- Russian twists: This exercise involves twisting the torso while holding a weight or using your body weight. It’s effective for working the obliques and the entire core. American Sport and Fitness emphasized that the benefits of Russian twists are broad: “They work your obliques and transverse abdominus, important muscles that help you maintain good posture. They also help burn fat and tone your waistline while strengthening your spine muscles and improving balance and flexibility.”
- Mountain climbers: This exercise is a form of cardio that also intensely works the core. You quickly bring your knees toward your chest in a plank position, alternating legs, and the movement engages the abs and helps burn fat. “The mountain climber is a calorie-burning workout that really gets your heart rate going. It also targets your core, making it the perfect exercise to lose that stubborn belly fat and reveal your abs,” per McClure Fitness. “Your core is working hard to keep its balance as you alternate knee kicks, which makes it such a powerful move for those abs!”