Strange to say, but often the most effective ab workouts are those which contain little or no specific ab work at all. Now, many people, men and women, who've been struggling to get a really lean flat stomach are understandably reluctant to consider this idea, or accept that their ab routine may not be helping them. No one wants to think that a lot of hard work and sweat may have been in vain. But where progress has slowed or stopped it's only sensible to look for an alternative.
The fact is that standard sit-ups, crunches and leg raises are of course very useful for beginners. But these are low intensity exercises to which the body quickly becomes accustomed and, once a certain level of basic ab strength is attained, simply adding more and more reps will have very little effect either in building muscle or reducing fat.
So although it sounds counter-intuitive, a much more effective abs workout can be achieved by performing high intensity, whole-body exercises. Using the huge muscles of the legs and back means that heavy weights can be used, which in turn means that the smaller muscles of the abdominal and core area are heavily engaged simply in stabilising and balancing the body, getting a tremendous "invisible" workout in the process. By way of a bonus, these kind of exercises are also far more effective fat-burners than conventional ab exercises, quickly revealing that coveted six pack.
A typical "no abs" abs workout might include these exercises
• Dumbbell rows
• Barbell squats
• Mountain climbers
If you're at all familiar with the gym the first two of these will likely be very familiar, but for best results try doing the dumbbell rows from a push up position with your weight supported on two dumbbells. The stabilising and balancing effort required from your mid-section as one-arm rows a dumbbell will stimulate your abs tremendously.
Some experts maintain that front barbell squats (with the bar supported on the hands and shoulders under the chin) have a particularly powerful effect on the abs because of the balancing work required of the core, but if you're not comfortable with these then don't neglect conventional squats. These are often referred to as the king of all exercises, and with good reason. The muscles in your thighs and butt are by far the biggest and strongest in your body and developing them will enormously stimulate your whole metabolism and have a tremendous fat burning effect.
Mountain climbers are a deceptively simple exercise which will really get you breathing as well as working the abs hard. All you do is get into the conventional push up position and then alternately step each knee into touch the corresponding elbow. Right knee, right elbow; left knee, left elbow; and so on. Sound easy? You haven't tried it yet!
Do from 3 - 5 sets of each exercise for a really great ab workout. If you prefer you could do mountain climbers for a fixed time period rather than reps and sets. You may find 30 seconds plenty to start with!
Include these three exercises in your workouts for a month or two and you should see a marked improvement in your abs. Although unconventional, it really is one of the most effective ab workouts you can do. To avoid hitting a plateau again, however, you should think of making regular variations in your workouts.