Lots of people trying to get the six-pack look have mostly succeeded in getting there in a fairly reasonable amount of time by following a healthy diet and training regularly. Surely you’ve heard the saying that abs are made in the kitchen, and this is absolutely true, however you’re going to have to do a ton of work in the gym to get from a four-pack to the next level: the six-pack and the only way you can do that is by developing your lower abs.
The majority of the isolation exercises for abs engage the upper and middle parts of the abdominal muscles. A perfect example is the crunch which is a classic exercise and you will most certainly get benefits from it, but it will only target the upper part of the abs. Movements which have a greater range of motion, like the ones done on the various ab machines found in the gym, will target the middle abs.
But, you will need to do a lot of extra hard work and be more creative to fully engage those lower abs. However, anything you do will be in vain unless you shed the extra fat to make the abs visible. This is, of course, common sense, Having said that, here are some exercises that will really target that lower part:
Hanging leg raises
You can give your lower abs real hell with several sets of 15 reps with this exercise, however, it is key that you do not swing or use any momentum while doing them. The starting position should be the same for each repetition and the lower body should hang down completely before you start raising the legs again. Here’s where a lot of people start asking lots of questions: should you raise your legs higher than 90 degrees with your calves and hamstrings being parallel to the ground? The real answer is: it depends.
When you’re first starting out with hanging leg raises, which means you have never done them before or haven’t done them properly, then you shouldn’t worry about going over a 90-degree angle. The main problem with raising your legs higher, especially trying to reach the bar with your toes, is that usually, your form tends to get really sloppy when you’re trying to reach such a height. When you aim very high, the hip flexors become the main movers and the abs take a secondary movement role, which is totally counter-productive if you plan on doing this exercise to isolate the lower abs. That’s why, unless you are sure that you can fully control the rep from start to finish, you should stick to the 90-degree angle and completely obliterate your lower abs.
But, didn’t we already mention that crunches don’t really target your lower abs? Well, not unless they are done in a certain way, in which they can engage the entire abdominal wall and fully stretch it, thus putting a great deal of tension on the lower abs with weighted reps. This exercise is a variation on the standard rope crunches, this time using a D-handle instead of the rope on the cable machine. Position yourself several feet from the machine so that you’ll be crunching down and going up on a 45-degree angle.
Grab the handle with an underhand grip and hold it in front of the forehead, without leaning on it. Pick a load that will put a little extra resistance into the movement without having to swing your body and use momentum and the range of motion should be fully used. When you reach the top of each rep, make sure you feel the full stretch in your abs and if you do it right, you’ll even feel it in the sphincter muscle. Yup, you read that right, you should get a similar sensation like when you’re doing Kegel exercises. Do several sets of 20 reps or more and you can also add a few reps to each side and work the oblique muscles that smoothly connect to the lower abs.
This exercise can be done on the floor or preferably, on a bench and will target the lower abs and the whole core. If you do it on the floor, place the hands out on each side with your palms facing down. If you do it on a bench, hold on to the top of it with your hands placed over your head.
Bend the knees at a 45-90 degree angle, again this is the preferable choice and lift the butt off the bench while you bring the knees towards the chest. There’s a more challenging variation, by keeping the knees rigid and trying to lift as much of the body off the bench and curling it up towards the chest.
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