The Best Ab Exercises to Avoid a Bulky Waistline

In last day’s Abs Q & A excerpt I revealed a nifty little trick to activate your abs more during a workout. It might seem like no big deal, but this simple little technique will make sure you’re actually working your abs and other muscles.  I hope you read it, but if not, head back to part 4.

For today, however, I want to share some ways in which you can train your abs that will not only strengthen your core and prevent back injuries, but also ways in which women can train their abs without getting a big bulky waistline.

So, let’s get into it…


My number one question is whether it’s better to do specific ab workouts or best to incorporate them into other training? Can I get the same results if I do ab sets in between my sets of lifting, squatting, pull ups, etcetera?

That’s actually a great question.

It goes on and says he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time in the gym, he wants to be very efficient, but would doing it that way yield the same results as doing the ab exercises. The answer is probably yes.

The ONLY thing to consider here is…

…if you are doing barbell squats or dead lifts and you’re training at under 10 repetitions, you certainly don’t want to be fatiguing your abs. So, you don’t want to go and do stability ball roll outs, followed by a plank, and then go and try to do dead lifts, because that’s going to be very fatiguing.

You’re going to be very fatigued, and any time you do something in a state of fatigue your form breaks down. Obviously, you don’t want to be dead lifting with bad form and weak abs.

So, the only thing I’m going to say there is that be conservative and maybe WAIT until your second superset if you have squats and dead lifts in the first.

You certainly could do it for bench press, but again if you’re doing heavy bench press it’s a total body exercise. My hamstrings contract when I do bench press, because everything is being contracted there and so I would not do abs before I did bench press.

Again, into the second superset then I might go from bench press and something else first and then into dumbbell press and dumbbell row, then throw the abs in there to speed things up.

So, you can make it into a THREE exercise tri-set or a FOUR exercise circuit if you want to move those abs up and cut down some of the rest of the time. But, I wouldn’t go and be too ambitious if I want to focus on squat strength.

Next question.

Should I be targeting my abs with exercises at all if I want to shrink my waist, or should I just stick to training other parts of my body with weights so my abs get trained along with them? If I try to target my abs am I just going to end up building my obliques and upper and lower abs, defeating the purpose?

I will guess that this is a woman who asked this question, because most guys aren’t going to be too concerned with their upper and lower abs getting bigger, because really it’s easier to see your abs when they’re bigger.

One thing I’ve found over the years is that a guy with a lot of muscle and 12 percent body fat can see his abs just as well or better than a guy who is 10 percent body fat with smaller abs with less muscle.

So, that’s just like wearing a shirt, the guy with more muscle is going to look better wearing a shirt than the guy with less muscle, even though the guy with less muscle has less body fat. It’s just another layer that the abs can poke through.

So to answer “her” question, with the Turbulence Training for Abs workouts we are using bodyweight as resistance, so we know that in general, bodyweight leads to LESS GROWTH because there’s only a certain amount of load you can use.

Whereas if you were doing cable ab crunches and heavy dumbbell side bends you’re going to get hypotrophy in those muscles.

We’re ignoring the risks of the exercise and we’re just talking about doing those exercises. Those are weighted exercises and you’re going to get hypertrophy in those muscles as much as they can hypertrophy.

Obviously, you can’t build your abs up as much as you can build your biceps, they’re a very thin muscle band. Technically, if she was doing those types of exercises she could get thicker abs and possibly bigger obliques.

Now, having said that, it’s going to depend on the individual…

…I certainly do a lot of heavy lifting and I certainly know that I have BUILT UP my obliques over time, and I’ve obviously built up my abs over time, but it’s also not at a point where I consider it a problem.

So, for a guy, if this is a guy asking this question, it’s up to you really if you want to continue to add those types of traditional ab exercises.

We’re NOT thinking crunches, but we’re thinking stability ball roll outs, jack knives, those do have the chance to hypertrophy your abs so that they will (good) get bigger. In most women it’s not going to blow up your abs and you’re not going to look like a monster, you’re going to look actually really great.

Let’s say she doesn’t want to do those. She still must do the abdominal static stabilization exercises we talked about, the plank and side plank. Those are not going to make your abs bigger, obviously, because you’re just isometrically contracting them. She needs to do those, or he needs to do those to help PROTECT his back.

We want to make sure we have endurance in those muscles. So, if you can do a plank right now and you can only get 20 seconds, you really need to build that endurance up. In fact, in Doctor Magill’s book, Doctor Stewart Magill is the main researcher on this type of information, and what he’s found is that if you can’t do a plank for two minutes, which is a long time and not really the most enjoyable two minutes of your life….

… it will be kind of boring, so I would put on your favorite song if you’re going to do that.

But, if you can’t do that or if you don’t get in the range, then you’re probably either cruising for a bruising with some type of back problem in the future or you may have one now. If you have one now you may not want to do that test. Certainly talk to your therapist.

Doctor Magill recommends that we all get in that range. Of course, if you’re 30, 50, 70 pounds overweight it’s going to be very difficult for you to do that and it’s obviously NOT A FAIR TEST for you.

But, if you’re in that 10 or 16 percent body fat, or even five percent higher of either of those numbers and you can only do a plank for 45 seconds, again you really need to work on your plank and side plank and build up your static abdominal endurance.

Again, each one of these questions about ab training is going to have TWO DIFFERENT ANSWERS, because we’re going to talk about the dynamic ab sculpting exercises, for lack of a better term, like the stability ball roll outs, the jack knives, even mountain climbers and cross body mountain climber, hang me ups, hanging leg raises, that type of stuff, cable ab exercises if you do that type of stuff.

I don’t recommend these cable exercises, but also in that category would be stability ball crunches, crunches, sit ups, that type of stuff, there’s an answer for those.

So, there are really three types of ab exercises:

1.    The type I don’t recommend.
2.    The type I do recommend – more traditional exercises.
3.    The type that everyone should be doing – static exercises.

So, really you’re going to get 3 ANSWERS to all these ab questions.

Going back, just to summarize what I’m trying to say here. Should she try to target her abs at all?

The answer is YES….

She still needs to do ab exercises, but at the very least they have to be those stability type ab exercises where she’s doing plan, side planks, planks with elbows on the ball, etcetera.

So now that you know which ab exercises I recommend for that sexy, flat stomach look, find out in part 5 which ones you MUST avoid to keep your doctor at bay.