Abs Workout: Circuits for Upper Abs, Lower Abs, and Obliques and Core

Your abs get a good workout even when you’re not training them directly. That’s because they support your torso and transfer power output between your legs and upper body when doing the big compound lifts – squats, deadlifts and overhead presses – that should make up the bulk of your gym sessions.

But to sculpt an impressive six-pack you must also work your abs directly – and that’s exactly what these four-move mini-circuits will do.

Below, you’ll find three six-pack sessions: one that targets your upper abs, one that hits your lower abs, and one for your obliques – or side abs – and deep-lying core muscles. Simply tag one of them on to the end of your main session to give your abs the extra workload they need to get the definition you want.

For example, if you work out three times a week training your chest and back one day, your legs on another and your arms and shoulders another, just bolt on the upper abs moves on chest day, the lower abs moves on legs day, and the obliques and core moves on arms and shoulders day. Alternatively, you can do them as standalone sessions for a quick and effective abs workout.


How it Works

Each of these abs workouts is a mini-circuit you can do at the end of your main workout. The circuits are designed to work the maximum number of muscle fibres as quickly and effectively as possible, so you’ll do all four moves in order, sticking to the reps and rest periods detailed. The first move of each circuit is the hardest, then they get progressively easier as the number of reps per move increases. This works your abs harder and places them under greater tension for longer, which is ultimately what stimulates muscle growth. After the final move, rest for the allotted time, then repeat the circuit. Do three circuits in total.

Upper abs workout

1. Dumbbell crunch

Upper abs workout: Dumbbell crunch

Reps 10 Rest 10sec

Hold a dumbbell or weight plate across your chest with both hands. Maintain tension in your upper abs as you lift, then lower, your torso.

2. Tuck and crunch

Upper abs workout: Modified V-sit

Reps 15 Rest 10sec

Keep your fingers to your temples and initiate each rep smoothly without jerking your torso up. Don’t let your feet touch the floor between reps.

3. Modified V-sit

Upper abs workout: Tuck and crunch

Reps 12 Rest 10sec

Keep your arms straight as you raise your torso so that your chest meets your knees at the top of the move. Then lower under control.

4. Crunch

Upper abs workout: Crunch

Reps 20 Rest 90sec

Your upper abs will already be close to fatigue but try to hold the top position of each rep for at least one second to make them work as hard as possible.

Lower abs workout

1. Hanging leg raise

Lower abs workout: Hanging leg raise

Reps 10 Rest 10sec

Start in a dead hang with your legs straight with knees and ankles touching. Keep them together as your use your lower abs to raise them, then lower back to the start under control.

2. Hanging knee raise twist

Lower abs workout: Hanging knee raise twist

Reps 12 each side Rest 10sec

Start with your legs straight and knees together. Twist your body and raise your knees up and to one side, then return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.

3. Hanging knee raise

Lower abs workout: Hanging knee raise

Reps 15 Rest 10sec

Raise your knees powerfully to activate more of the muscle fibres in the lower abs. Lower back to the start under control to prevent swinging.

4. Garhammer raise

Lower abs workout: Garhammer raise

Reps 20 Rest 90sec

Start with your knees already raised, then lift them as high as you can. Lower back to the start under control, keeping your abs engaged throughout.

Obliques and core workout

1. Decline plank with foot touch

Obliques and core workout: Decline plank with foot touch

Reps 10 each side Rest 10sec

Start with your hips raised and core engaged, then lift one foot off the bench and move it to the side to touch the floor. Return it to the bench. Continue, alternating sides.

2. Seated Russian twist

Obliques and core workout: Seated Russian twist

Reps 12 each side Rest 10sec

Start at the top of the crunch position so your abs are fully engaged. Turn from side to side smoothly and under control.

3. Bicycle

Obliques and core workout: Bicycle

Reps 15 each side Rest 10sec

Lie on your back and bring your opposite elbow and knee together, alternating sides. Keep your shoulders and feet off the ground to force your abs to work to stabilise your torso.

4. Plank

Obliques and core workout: Plank

Time Max Rest 90sec

Keep your hips up, glutes and core braced, and head and neck relaxed. Breathe slowly and deeply to hold the position for as long as possible.

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