In the quest for a six-pack, many of us have been able to get two thirds of the way there in a fairly reasonable amount of time by eating healthy and exercising. They say that abs are made in the kitchen and that is true, but you will have to do a shitload of work in the gym to graduate from that four-pack and develop your lower abs once and for all.
Most of the isolation movements for abs concentrate on the upper and middle parts of your midsection. Crunches are an old favorite and will get something done, but only in your upper abdominals. Exercises with more range of motion – such as the ones on the various ab machines around the gym – will engage your middle abdominals. But you need to work extra hard and be creative to reach those all-important lower abs.
Although you need to shed fat to make your abs visible, we are going to go out on a limb and assume that you know that. With that said, here are some exercises that will work the lower abs:
HANGING LEG RAISES
You can beat the shit out of your lower abs with sets of 10 with this movement, but the key to it is not swinging or using any momentum. The starting point should look the same for each rep and allow your lower body to hang down completely before raising your legs again.
Here is where a lot of discrepancies come into play: should you go higher than 90 degrees (hamstrings and calves parallel to the floor)? The answer is…maybe. When you first start doing these (and we mean if you have never done them before or properly), then you should just worry about going up to a 90-degree angle.
The problem with going higher (and especially the ‘toes to bar’ variety) is that there is a tendency for your form to get sloppy just to get your legs higher. When you do so, your hip flexors take over and your abs become a secondary muscle. Totally counter productive if you are doing these to isolate your lower abs.
So unless you can control the rep from start to finish, stick with the 90-degree ones and work the shit out of those lower abs anyway.
Crunches…for lower abs? When done a certain way, they can work your entire abdominal wall and stretch it out completely, putting a lot of tension on the lower abs with the weighted reps.
This is a variation on your usual rope crunches, using a D-handle grip instead of the rope on a cable machine. Set up a few feet from the weight stack so that you will be going up and down on a 45-degree angle. Take an underhanded grip on the handle and hold it out just in front of your forehead (do not lean on it, though).
Use a weight that will put some extra resistance into it without having to swing and your range of motion should be a full one. When you hit the top of the rep, make sure that you feel the entire stretch in your abdominals and when done right, you will even feel it in your sphincter muscle. Yeah, that’s right – you’ll get a similar feeling like when you are doing keagel exercises.
Bang out sets of 20 or more and throw in a few reps to each side and work on those obliques that connect to the lower abs.
These can be done on a bench or the floor (bench is preferred) and will work your lower abs and core. If you’re on the floor, place your hands out to each side with palms down. On a bench, hold on to the top of the bench with your hands over your head.
Bend your knees in an angle between 45 and 90 degrees (this is a preference) and lift your butt off the bench while bringing your knees towards your chest. There is a more difficult variation, keep your knees stabilized and lift as much of your body off the bench and curl it up towards your chest.