I believe weighted ab exercises are a must for visible six-pack abs.
The truth is that most guys don’t put much emphasis on training their abs with resistance, and struggle to get their abs to pop.
However, the fact is your abs are a muscle and you should train them with weights just like you would your biceps.
Traditionally, people believe you don’t really need to train your abs.
Presumably, the abs are a stabilizing muscle group that gets worked during many other exercises.
That is exactly why most people say that abs are made in the kitchen.
On the picture below I am around 12% body-fat and I still have visible abs.
How I developed my abs and made them show? Weighted Ab Training!
Now of course, I am not saying you can get ripped abs at 20% bodyfat. No.
What I’m saying is that if you are fairly lean but not disgustingly shredded (12-13% body fat), you can make your abs pop more by developing their muscle fibers.
This is exactly what I did and built my abs up a lot more because of it.
Weighted Ab Training Tip: Timing Is Everything
I like to incorporate something called “activation before overload” in my weighted ab training. This will help you get the most out of every set of your ab training.
This means that I will perform a few bodyweight ab exercises for high reps to fire up my abdominals and go into the weight ab movements with a great mind-muscle connection.
One of my favorite pre-fatigue ab exercises is the hanging knee raise (beginner) and hanging leg raise (advanced).
I’ll do this before performing 2-3 weighted ab exercises, which you will see the full list of below.
Try this exercise and go for 15 total reps or about 30 seconds time under tension.
Pre fatigue ab exercise: Hanging Leg Raise
Leg raises are without a doubt the single best pre-activation exercise.
Not only that but you can also use the leg raises as the core exercise of your abdominal training plan.
- Hang on a bar with shoulder-width grip
- Raise the legs slightly so they don’t touch the ground (slightly feel the tension in the abs area)
- Look up and raise the legs up (if you’re a beginner, raise the knees)
- Contract the abs strong up top and go back down slowly
Now that you know how to pre-activate your abs let’s dive into the best time to actually train them – Your bulking period.
Why I Train My Abs More When Bulking
The best time to build your abs is actually when you are lean bulking as the calorie surplus will help you grow your abs.
If you are preparing a lean bulk like myself soon I recommend that you train your abs with this complete weighted abs workout I’m about to show you 2-3 times per week.
The best surplus to maintain visible abs but give your body enough macros to actually build the muscle is around a 500 calorie surplus. If you need help setting up your diet head on over to our nutrition page next.
The Best Weighted Ab Workout
Exercise 1/6 – Barbell Floor Wipers
The barbell floor wiper is an exercise that I like to incorporate to hit my obliques as well as the main part of the six-pack muscle – the rectus abdominals.
This is a unique movement and involves a good deal of balancing your entire body with your core.
It’s really important to perform dynamic ab exercises as well as traditional static ones.
- Start off holding a barbell directly over your chest, while lying on the ground
- Lift your legs up in the air , keeping them together
- Bring the legs up to the left arm
- Contract the left side oblique
- Get the legs back to the initial position
- Bring the legs up to the right arm
- Contract the right side oblique
- Get the legs back to initial position
- Bring the legs up between the arms
- Repeat the movement pattern
Note: Don’t load the bar too heavily, you just need counter weight. I’d simply put a 25/45 lb plate on each side of the bar.
Exercise 2/6 – Russian Twist
The Russian twist is one of the best direct activators of the six-pack muscles and the obliques at the same time.
If you aren’t doing this move you are seriously missing out on aesthetics.
This is one of those exercises where you want to focus on time under tension and not so much on reps.
- Sit down on the ground and bring the heels closer to the butt
- Grab a medicine ball and hold it in front of your lower chest
- Lift the heels off of the ground
- Rotate the torso and place the ball to the right side of the body, contracting the obliques
- Simultaneously, lean the legs to the opposite side
- Repeat the movement on the opposite side
I like to set a timer and go for 30-40 seconds time under tension on this movement.
Note: Do not rest your feet on the ground or lift them too high. Have them off the ground just enough to feel good tension on the abs.
Exercise 3/6 – Rope Crunch (Side to Side)
The rope crunch is one of the most popular weighted ab exercises, and for good reason.
It’s one of those moves that will really nail away at those six-pack muscles.
This is a modifier of the rope crunch exercise that will also engage your obliques.
Aim to go high rep on this and get a full range of motion on every single rep.
This means on the eccentric portion of every single rep you should focus on going back to the starting position slow and controlled and getting a nice stretch at the top.
- Place a rope extension on the upper pulley of the cable machine
- Grab the rope with an overhand grip
- Take two steps back and kneel down
- Place the rope behind or over your head (whichever is more comfortable)
- Look down, then crunch down to the left side as if you were trying to touch the ground with your elbow
- Contract the abs and obliques , hold peak flexion briefly and go back up slowly
- Repeat the same on the right side, then do it in the middle, between both sides as a traditional crunch
Note: Avoid pulling with surrounding muscle groups. Initiate the movement with your abs and go for 10 reps per side with good time under tension.
Exercise 4/6 – Single Arm Decline Crunch
The single-arm decline crunch is a great move to put direct activation on the abdominals and obliques.
This is one of the hardest weighted ab exercises that will help you carve out fish gill obliques and rock-solid abs.
Aim to go for 12-15 reps on each side. It’s important to remember to hold the weight directly over your head and not to use momentum to lift the weight straight up.
- Lie down on the decline bench
- Grab a dumbbell with the right arm and raise it up and above the torso
- Place your opposite hand on the bench or on your abs
- Crunch up, as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with the dumbbell
- Contract the abs and obliques up top
- Do 12-15 reps then do the same on the opposite side
Note: Don’t ego lift on this movement. Focus on optimal contractions and using the entire abdominal area.
If you want to see the other 2 weighted ab exercises and 3 pre-activation exercises check out the YouTube video on the channel!
Exercise 5/6 – Full Extension Plate Crunch
When it comes to training, one of the best ideas is to include exercises that imitate natural human movement patterns.
This way, you are utilizing every function of the used muscle group.
- Lie down on the ground and bring the heels closer to the butt
- Grab a plate and raise it over your torso
- Keeping the feet on the ground, crunch up, as if you are touching the ceiling with the plate
- Contract the abs up top then go back down slowly
Note: Initiate the movement with the abs and focus on keeping the spine as straight as possible
Exercise 6/6 – Barbell Roll Outs
Ever felt like the ab wheel is a small, inferior piece of equipment?
Well, while it is one of the toughest things to use, you can try the bigger version of it – The barbell.
This final exercise will demolish the abs by demanding good levels of static and dynamic strength.
- Place a loaded barbell on the ground
- Kneel down and grab the bar at shoulder width
- Let the bar roll forward in a controlled manner
- Bend over, controlling the pace
- Return back up, initiating the movement with your abs
Note: Avoid going down too fast, aim for a slow, controlled movement all around.
Putting It All Together – The Ultimate Weighted Ab Workout
For the fastest results, I recommend that you do a Balloon Method weighted ab workout.
Here is an example of a complete ab workout using the pre-activation technique and a few of the best weighted ab exercises from this article.
Now you have all the tools you need to build visible six-pack abs.
3 Big Takeaways From The Article
- Always remember that you should prioritize training your abs when you are in a calorie surplus. Your abs are a muscle and this is when they will grow.
- If you have trouble feeling a strong abdominal contraction on weighted ab movements try doing a bodyweight movement before in a higher rep range to essentially get a pump in your abs.
- Train your abs 2-3x per week with a quick 5-10 minute workout similar to above for the fastest results.
If you enjoyed this article make sure you follow me on Instagram @TroyShred where I post other useful content and if you want more ab workouts head on over to this page next, which goes over more ab workouts for visible abs!
Research Studies used to compile this content:
I’m Troy and I’m the creator of SuperHuman You and Co-Founder of Alpha Lion.
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