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Training Abs 101

Last Updated: Jan 08, 2012 03:18PM MST
In this article we will explore quite a few ways to train the abdominals, serratus and oblique muscles. These are all muscles needed to have that great looking beach body, and also very important muscles to develop because they help with almost every other exercise. A strong core will help you stay stable when lifting heavy, especially in compound movements such as squats. The more control you have over your core, the more you can concentrate on the muscle you are working.
The abdominals are contained within the abdominal wall, and can be stimulated by exercises such as crunches and leg raises. These are the muscles you want to stimulate for that sought after six-pack.
The serratus muscles are those muscles that run diagonally across your ribs and cover your intercostals. Any exercise that works your abdominals will stimulate the serratus as well. These exercises also strengthen your core by working the intercostals which are located posterior to the serratus and run between the ribs.
The obliques are those muscles that form the V on the insides of your hips, at the botton of the abdominals. These are also stimulated by doing normal abdominal work, but can also be worked harder by doing any type of side crunch or leg raise motion.
Abdominals can be trained very often, but I personally prefer treating them like any other muscle group. Doing 9-12 sets once or twice a week should be sufficient for the average person. Athletes tend to train abdominals with more of an endurance mind set, as they need a strong and endurance ready core for their specific sport. 
Below is a simple but effective abdominal routine. Perform it twice per week with at least 2 days rest between each.
Ab Routine 1
Crunches from the floor: keep your lower back on the floor at all times, feet crossed or parallel and raised to a 90 degree angle. Keep your upper body straight as you raise it off the ground, and keep your eyes looking upwards. Each rep should be performed slowly, squeezing at the top.
3 sets to failure
Leg Raises: from the floor or bench is fine. Keep your head looking forward at all times, looking at your feet. Keep your lower back firmly down. Raise your legs about 2 feet from the floor and slowly lower back down.
3 sets to failure
Abdominal crunch machine: Abdominal crunch machines are very useful for building thick abdominal muscles. I prefer the machines where you are seated straight up, performing a crunch downwards towards the knees. Raise the weight to challenge the muscles more each week.
3 sets to failure (aim for 12-20 reps)
Partial V Ups: These are to be performed on a bench. Starting position is a very obtuse angled V and finishing point is an acute V shape. This motion is made by keeping knees slightly bent and raising legs and upper body towards each other. At the top of the movement you can turn your upperbody to the right or left to work the obliques and serratus more directly.
3 sets to failure

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