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October 24, 2022 6 min read

The debate about how often to train your abs is one that will likely never end. Ab training frequency is not something set in stone because every person has unique preferences and personal goals, which are what the answer should be based upon. Fortunately, resistance training science has advanced enough to provide guidance that most people can confidently follow.

One thing that can’t be argued away is the fact that  any movement involving lifting objects or picking things up requires core strength,  regardless of whether you are in the gym or at home. Balancing, lunging, and squatting are movements frequently used in our day-to-day lives, and if those movements are done with weights, abdominal strength for body stability is vital.

What do we know about muscle growth?

Science has proved that muscles, regardless of where they are in our bodies, require a stimulus to break the muscle tissue down, before the necessary recovery period will ensure they grow back bigger and stronger. Without the necessary recovery time, you might end up with muscle damage instead of growth.

Therefore, it follows that, regardless of your personal preferences and goals, the first rule is to avoid overworking your abs. Instead, schedule ab workouts in the same way you schedule workout routines for other muscle groups.

Any type of muscle requires at least 48 hours to recover after focused exercising.

Some suggest that your abdominal muscles are activated when you do compound exercises like deadlifts and squats, and therefore, dedicated ab workouts are unnecessary. While that is true, the level of activation during compound exercises is insignificant when compared to exercises focused on the core.

Therefore, if your primary goal is to develop a head-turning six-pack, you will have to target your abs by doing leg raises, crunches, planks, and other core exercises.

Six-pack - Image from Shutterstock

There is another group that says the fiber type of the abdominal muscles is significantly different from other muscle groups, and they need daily workouts to strengthen them. Granted, the fibers of various muscle groups in your body may differ slightly, and genetics may also influence the distribution of fiber type.

However, in terms of physiology, muscle cell structure, and function, the abdominal muscles are very similar to other skeletal muscles. Yet, research suggests exercising can slightly influence our muscle fibers’ behavior and composition.

This article explains  the effects of endurance, strength, and power training on muscle fiber type.

The abdominal muscles

Knowing which muscles to target is essential for designing your workout program. Furthermore, it benefits your  mind-muscle connection,  which is all about the ability to feel the muscle working and visualize the contraction. Your core or abs comprise four primary muscle groups, as listed below.

Abdominal Muscles - Image from Shutterstock

1. Rectus Abdominis

The first muscle that comes to mind when you think of your much-desired six-pack abs is the rectus abdominis. It is a pair of muscle sheets that run from the ribs to the pelvis and covers the area between your sternum and pelvis.

The rectus abdominis contains a thin connective tissue band that gives you the proverbial washboard appearance. Its primary function is flexing the spinal column and stabilizing the torso in movements of your limbs and your head. They also stabilize your trunk and pelvis, allow you to bend sideways, and the rectus abdominus assists when you make trunk rotation exercises like Russian twists.

2. Transverse Abdominis

The transverse abdominis is located beneath all the other core muscles and makes up the deepest muscle layer in the abs. It wraps around your entire core, protecting, supporting, and stabilizing your waist, trunk, and spine, while also maintaining internal abdominal pressure. 

3. External Obliques

The external obliques run diagonally down both sides and the front of your abdomen. Contracting these long, thin muscles allow trunk rotation and lateral flexion, or side bends. Furthermore, the external obliques compress the abdominal wall and assist in the flexion of the spine. 

4. Internal Obliques

The internal obliques are located beneath the external obliques, running diagonally up your sides toward the rectus abdominis. The internal obliques play a role in flexing your spinal column, rotating your torso, compressing the abdomen, and bending sideways by pulling your rib cage and midline toward your lower back and hip.

Your abs are hard workers that certainly do loads more than make you look good. Just about every body movement you make involves the core. The core connects your upper body and lower body; therefore, upper and lower-body workouts provide core training whether intended or not.

The million-dollar question — Frequency of ab workouts?

As mentioned, how often you should work out your abs depends primarily on your goals, and based on that, you’ll have to decide how much time you have to dedicate to your ab workouts. Furthermore, your experience and fitness level will require consideration in planning your training program.

According to basic guidelines, you should treat your abs similarly to other muscle groups. 

Whether you do strength training, bodybuilding, or fitness workouts, this would likely mean training targeted muscle groups between one and three times per week. That way muscles have time to recover. The same could apply to core training.

Abs workout - Image from Shutterstock

For example, if you schedule exercises like bench presses and rows for shoulders, biceps, and triceps for Monday, and hamstrings, glutes, quads, and hips for Tuesday, why not focus on your abs on Wednesday? You may even choose to rest on Wednesday and do your ab muscles on Thursday and your lats and traps on Friday.

Newbies to ab training

Many beginners in the gym have nothing but abs on their minds. They believe that a six-pack is a way to show others that they’re working out. Now, don’t be mistaken,  there’s nothing wrong with wanting chiseled abs,  but there should be a realistic plan to achieve it, and seeking guidance from a personal trainer is a good place to start.

The best plan for newbies may be to do daily strength or cardio routines of moderate intensity and add another 5 or 10 minutes of ab exercises at the end. For example, 10 reps each of bodyweight exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, side planks, and mountain climbers. Alternatively, you can do a quick body workout as part of your morning routine.

Athletes, weightlifters, and strength trainers

As a participant in any type of sport, you may benefit from using ab workouts to  boost your performance in running, weightlifting, swimming, or another sport.  The best move would be to establish a routine of full-body exercises that also engage your core, then end your workout with a blast, dedicated to your abs. Your entire routine, including 5 to 8 minutes of ab-only exercises, need not be longer than about 30 minutes.

What if you have limited time for working out?

Our lifestyles have become so time driven that you might be pressed for time. However, that does not exclude you from working your abs. HIIT is your answer.

High-intensity interval training is a great way to squeeze in a  quick-but-effective HIIT ab workout in anything from 10 to 30 minutes

You might conclude that extending HIIT sessions would result in better and faster results, but this is simply not true. The best HIIT workouts last no longer than 20 to 30 minutes because the high-intensity nature of the workout encourages you to go as hard as you absolutely can the entire way through.

The benefits of HIIT include learning to focus on explosive power and endurance through longer sessions. To complement your endurance HIIT session, try the Enhanced Pre-Workout Stack.

Body fat can hide your abs

Everybody has abs, but not everybody’s abs are visible. Why? Because even the thinnest layer of body fat can hide your abs, regardless of the hours you put into core training. Muscle building is only one-half of the sought-after six-pack abs. The other half involves fat burning.

This means that all the blood, sweat, and tears you spent during the hours of exercising your abs will remain hidden under a layer of body fat if you don’t combine your workout program with nutrition and diet.

Ab training will only make a visual difference to your physique assuming that your body fat percentage is low enough for them to be visible.

Belly Fat Hides Abs - Image from Shutterstock

Isolated ab exercises build muscles, but they don’t burn fat off your midsection. You can’t target one area of your body for fat loss by working out specific muscle groups. There is only one way to lose belly fat, and that is to focus on fat loss across your entire body by having a properly balanced combination of cardio, weight training, and nutrition.

Once you achieve that winning combination, you'll be able to display your chiseled abs with pride.

A diet consisting of healthy, whole foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and good portions of fats, carbs, and proteins, is a basic and effective way of maintaining total body wellness. Add sufficient sleep to complete your recipe for the ultimate body.

You might further benefit from the  HYPERBOLIC STACK  to enhance strength, endurance, and your body’s ability to recover. If you need to kick-start fat loss, combining the Hyperbolic Stack with SHREDDED-AF  is a fantastic idea.