• The most hardcore ABS isolation exercises ever!

    author Puma

    Ever wondered why you crunch all day long without any result? Why your neck only gets stiffer and your spine is on fire? Learn the brutal truth.

    Let me be straight with you. I do not believe in isolation exercises for abs. I will write more – I do not believe that anyone needs to perform any kind of direct abs work except “show monsters” aka professional bodybuilders. It is as much waste of time as a waste of health.

    The brutal truth is – any exercise that forces you to perform spinal flexion or spinal rotation seriously damages your spine through spinal disc herniation. No “but”, no “maybe”, no “sometimes”. Crunching will mess you up. That is the actual stand of latest science research, and also the result of my twenty years “in-da-tranches” real life observations.

    The recipe for magnificent eight-pack [not six-pack!]

    As a reader of MNBBC.COM you know the drill.
    1. Contact your doc
    2. Do your postural evaluation
    3. Consult therapist
    4. Do your rehab routine
    5. Do your heavy compounds [squat, deadlift, press, dips, chins etc.]
    6. Do your isometric abs exercises [anti-flexion, anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion]
    7. Achieve the best abs in the hood/city/country

    There is no other way. The road to the “best-abs-ever” starts at your doc’s door, and ends with brutal but technical and healthy training in the gym. Omit points 1-5 and you will end as nearly everyone who asks on the net about “missing lower abs”, “no symmetry”, “no progress”.

    Do not get yourself fooled. We all know that there are thousands of “enlighted crap-teachers” that promote crunching all day long. We all know that there is no benefit in doing those. Be wise – learn from others mistakes.

    Great abs vs. competition

    This part is only for big boys and girls which actively perform on bodybuilding stages. So dear beginners and intermediates – thank you very much for reading – the rest of the article is not for you.
    Rectus abdominis and obliqes got the space for potential big hypertrophy. That’s a fact that you already know. They are no different than other muscles. No special rules, no need for training them uber-frequently or doing any kind of ultra-repping-madness.

    The biggest growth comes from doing “anti” moves – isometric exercises that force you to fight the force of flexion, lateral flexion and rotation. It is the best band for your bucks. Pure meat packing. At the same time they do correct your posture. As a result you are properly “rebuild” and now can start some serious heavy squatting which will force constant abdominal growth. In every other case compound movements will not cause abs growth because your body will not be able to actively use them as abdominal wall of support.

    The point is – judging criteria during competition might be tricky. If both competitors are at equal level – the detail might decide who will win. As a natural competitor, your abs are more important than for a “drug-aided” competitor. We all know why, let’s not waste time for it. There is a lot of work that can be done for waist area. Your abdominal muscles might need “extra touch” and “extra love” during your workouts. But again – that part is tricky. You know it is harmful, so you must do everything to minimalize risks.

    The best what you can do for your visual aspect is to train all year around via compounds ‘n isometrics exercises, and add abs-direct work for one intensive cycle 6-weeks prior to competition.
    That is the golden rule promoted by all-wise-mighty Guru – Vincent Gironda. It was true decades ago, it is the true now.

    If you are doing everything properly year around – your abs needs only polishing, not rebuilding or serious mass-adding. You do not need anything crazy. Just proper, precise and efficient exercises.
    In this article I will show you the best isolation exercises for abs ever invented. They are hard, complicated and not so easy as they might look. But they are very efficient. In fact, only the best of you will be able to perform 10 reps in the row. The secret is – 2-3-10 reps – does not matter! As long as you feel them, as long as you do them with proper technique, as long as you will technically max out on them – they will do their job. And trust me, they will do it damn good!
    The recipe for polishing lies in 100% mind muscle, constant tension and doing as minimal reps as possible while getting the job done. Quite contrary to popular myths, huh?

    Rules of Engagement

    Further in the article I will present a list of best exercises ever. But first you must learn by heart, what to do and how to do it correctly.

    1. All exercises are constant tension. Whichever you do, the start of a rep and its end all lies in the zone of constant tension. Any loosening and you might as well end working out, it is the same effect
    2. All exercises got their own various setups. Learning the proper setup is a must. Trust me, the difference between best setup and not proper one is as great as Pacific Ocean.
    3. Everything what you do must be done symmetrically for both pairs of limbs. Remember – you are adding to your visual value, not subtracting by destroying symmetry.
    4. Breath is the single most important key player in a crunch. Inhale on eccentric phase, greatly fully exhale during concentric phase. Your movement and breathing must be coordinated. Anything else is a waste of time.
    5. Every rep is finished with great abs squeeze. Not medium, not light – great 2 second mighty squeeze bind to great exhaling. No squeeze – no rep. No rep – end set.
    6. If you lose the tension – immediately stop the set – no matter if it is first, third or eighth repetition.
    7. Do not add weight to these exercises except for those mentioned by me. You got a whole year to go “add-weight-happy-mode”, now it’s a pure mind muscle time.
    8. Do not be ashamed, they are hard and got long learning curve.
    9. Crunch can always be deeper.
    10. You should work only with you abs, and feel only your abs. If you feel any other muscles – your performance is tragically wrong and will not produce results!
    11. Every crunch is the move shortening the distance between sternum and hips. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Those rules are plain and simple so do not neglect them.
    Your key enemies in your short fight for ultimate abs are: psoas, rectus femoris, neck muscles and… performing isometric work.

    If those muscles play active role in a movement – you can be assured that your abs are not being worked out optimally. Stick to specific exercise instructions which will prevent above mentioned to engage.

    Exercise list

    Frog Crunch / Frog Sit-Up

    This one is rather tricky. Learning the proper starting setup is a hell of adventure – I guarantee that! The target for this exercise is direct abs work with eliminating psoas involvement as much as possible.

    Performance details:

    1. Lay on the back. If done on the floor, put a small pillow under lower back, because otherwise it might by painful.
    2. Bent your legs one under another like a frog.
    3. Lay calves on the ground, thighs on calves, feet touching glutes.
    4. Legs should be spread as wide as possible through the whole exercise
    5. Whole glutes should lay flat on the bench. Not only a portion! Whole glutes!
    6. Lower back must be rounded [aka improper roundness]
    7. Lower back and whole glutes are your center of gravity. These are the only parts touching a bench [legs too OFC, but as a balance tool]
    8. Crunch slightly upper body. Upper back cannot touch bench through whole exercise
    9. Neck rounded
    10. Chin near chest [do not touch]
    11. Hands touching abs [one finger per head]. Elbows up all the time.
    12. This is a basic setup. By acquiring it you MUST feel forcible tension in abs. You will be getting to this position after every rep.
    13. Begin the crunch by starting to slowly exhale
    14. Crunch as much as possible. Contrary to popular believe crunch got medium range of movement, not short.
    15. When you reach plateu in movement, exhale completely while forcibly squeezing abs for two seconds.
    16. Start inhaling, while slowly returning to point 12. Do not loose the tension!
    17. Do 1-10 reps, no more.

    Remember no to move your legs, do not rest elbows and upperback on the floor, don’t loose tension, crunch using abs mind muscle, feel the abs using fingers, do not swing using your head, legs wide!
    Do not use additional weight in frog crunches. It is a “sniper” mind-muscle tool.

    Barbell Roll Up

    This exercise is exceptional. You can progress with weights in it but you must remember to do it only by the rules. If the weight is too big it will hammer whole exercise performance and range of motion, thus rendering exercise useless.

    Performance details:

    1. Lay on the back.
    2. Feet firmly and flat on the floor
    3. Angle between feet and calves = 90 degrees
    4. Angle between calves and thighs = 90 degrees
    5. If you can’t achieve proper angles, put something under your feet
    6. Do not block your feet against anything. It will render exercise useless, focusing more on rectus femoris then abs.
    7. Upper gluteus on the bench
    8. Lower back on the back as the main support
    9. Upper back of the table, neck rounded, chin near chest
    10. Barbell lying on the clavicle, false grip, elbows in front and up
    11. That is a basic setup. If performed correctly, you should feel strong contraction in abs.
    12. Start normal crunch with exhale
    13. Perform as long ROM as in frog crunch. If ROM is shorter – lower the weight!
    14. On the top squeeze abs for two seconds as hard as you can
    15. Return to point 11 with inhaling.

    Do not let the weight interfere with the range of motion.

    Low Abs Sit-Up over the bench

    That is one sure firecracker in the lower abs heads area.

    Performance details:

    1. Lay on the floor
    2. Lower back is the only base. No other body part is touching the floor
    3. Calves on the bench
    4. Feet extended
    5. Attach Achilles to the bench
    6. Angle between calves and thighs = 90 degrees
    7. Whole glutes OFF the ground
    8. Upper back off the ground, chin over chest, hands on abs, elbows high
    9. That is the basic setup. You should feel strong tension in the lower heads of rectus abdominis.
    10. Perform long crunch bind with exhaling
    11. Squeeze abs hard for two seconds on the top
    12. Return to point 9 while inhaling

    Do not let upper back and glutes touch the ground!

    Weighted crunches

    This is the simplest exercise, so you can add a little bit weight to make contractions harder.

    Performance details:

    1. Lay down on the bench
    2. Lower back on the bench as stable platform
    3. Top glutes on the bench
    4. Knees bent
    5. Feet extended, Achilles attached to the bench
    6. Upper back off the table
    7. Weight under the neck
    8. The less the knees are bent, the harder the exercise
    9. This is the basic setup. You should feel strong contraction.
    10. Crunch to the max ROM while exhaling
    11. Squeeze abs for two seconds
    12. Return to point 9 while inhaling

    The greater the leverage, the harder and more efficient is the exercise. First work out to the level where knees are short to being locked. Then add weight.

    Hip Roll aka Lower Abs Hell

    This is the king of all abs builders. It is very hard to perform and easy to destroy. Remember you are performing abs rolling [spinal flexion] not hip flexion! Spinal flexion reduce the distance between sternum and hips [this is rectus abdominis function], hip flexion does not! Do not get yourself fooled. Pay attention to the technique!

    Performance details:

    1. Lay on the bench
    2. Lower back flat
    3. Arms on the bench [at the beginning you might grab the bench]
    4. Legs in the frog position
    5. Legs must me angled to the floor at 60 degrees, everything less [more parallel] will engage rectus femoris
    6. Upper back off the bench, chin over chest
    7. Suck the abs
    8. This is the basic setup of this killer. You should feel very strong contraction
    9. Roll the hips as far as you can to the sternum while exhaling, legs will follow, glutes must go completely off the bench
    10. Squeeze abs at the top for two seconds
    11. Return to position 8 while inhaling. Do not let legs to go further than 60 degrees.

    Be patient, this exercise is very hard. It is easy to do it wrong. After you will feel comfy, stop grabbing the bench and put hands flat.
    Remember – upper body is not moving!

    Concentric double up

    This exercise is a compound one. It is like classic crunch plus hip roll. The goal of the exercise is to touch knees with elbows, while both sides are moving! Keep in mind – shorten the distance between hips and sternum.

    Performance details:

    1. Lay on the bench
    2. Lower back as the main base support on the bench
    3. Upper back off the bench, chin over chest, hand behind head
    4. DO NOT PULL WITH HANDS. Arms are only the support for the head
    5. Legs in frog position [60 degree angle]
    6. This is the basic setup. You should feel very strong contraction
    7. Perform double side crunch while exhaling
    8. Do net lower body or upper body dominate the movement. Both sides move simultaneously! Do not get ROM shortened! Glutes must go off the bench!
    9. Squeeze abs for two seconds
    10. Return to point 6 while inhaling. Don’t get legs past 60 degree.

    Be patient and perform carefully. Coordinate the movement of both sides. Knees must touch elbows. At first it will be very tricky!

    Bent Knee Leg Raise with wall support

    That is one of the easiest isolation leg raises. It is good to start learning from here. Keep in mind that it is still very efficient.

    Performance details:

    1. Put hands on the floor
    2. Sit on the hands [hands below hips, not center of the glutes]
    3. Hands are the base support, no other body part is touching the floor
    4. Back supported on the wall
    5. Upper back crunched, chin over chest
    6. Hips area crunched
    7. Lower back low
    8. Legs unlocked in front of the body, always 10 cm above the floor
    9. This is the basic setup. Never allow legs to touch the flor
    10. By flexing the abs [not a hip flexion!] rise the legs to the sternum
    11. Squeeze abs hard at the top of the rom for two seconds.
    12. Slowly return to point 9 while inhaling

    Avoid at all cost the hip flexion. Your body start crunched, hips are supported by sitting on hands. Legs never touch the floor. This exercise is the easiest abdominal leg rise but still one of the hardest isolation exercise.

    Hanging leg raise

    This is the ultimate isolation killer. It is the most ugly performed exercise around the world. Learn once and for all:

    Hanging leg raise using hip flexion = rectus femoris exercise = abs isometric exercise = not this one
    Hanging leg raise using spinal flexion = abs isolation exercise = this one

    Performance details:

    1. Put your arms on the bars and hang
    2. Crunch your upper body, chin over chest, head forward, back rounded
    3. Hips rounded, legs at 60 degrees to the body [never more perpendicular to the floor]
    4. Lower back rounded, it is the most backward oriented body part
    5. This is the basic setup. You will feel the strongest contraction ever.
    6. Flex your spine by using abs. Remember that you are shortening the distance between hips and sternum. Legs will follow. Do not flex hips!
    7. Squeeze abs at the top for two seconds. You will feel the strongest contraction among the others exercises.
    8. Return to point five while exhaling.

    Keep in mind that you must be rounded all the time. If you will fall to upright position – set is lost. Never allow legs to go upright.


    And that’s all folks. You have learned the most brutal isolation exercises for abs. These where Gironda favorites. I’ve done some minor adjustments to them, let’s call it XXI century adaptation.
    The most important learning point is to understand what given exercise should look like. Analyze motor changes. Think “abs wise” not “strength wise”.

    Simply saying, while performing your 6 weeks to abs-glory marathon, avoid things that you do during the whole year. No isometric – only isolation. No hips flexion – only spinal flexion.
    Keep in mind that I have warned you about the risk. I believe that 99% people do not need any direct abdominal isolation.

    If you are a competitor, it is better to perform few sets of those above, than to do thousands of stupid and a-technical crunches which will give you nothing.
    Six week schedule for abs polishing should look like attack for any other muscle. 1-2 times a week.
    If performed twice a week, pick six exercises. Three upper crunches, and three hip dominant crunches. Do first three at Monday using 4 x 10 scheme, then the last three on Thursday using the same 4 x 10 scheme. If you are training abs once a week, pick four exercises with the same scheme.
    Never ever do anything stupid as crunching per hour. Respect your body!
    And one last note. If you can perform any exercise above from the very beginning for 10 reps – you are doing it plain wrong! If you don’t feel the great burn – relearn the move.

    Model - Martin Prostacki

    Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Brandan's Avatar
      Here are Some
      You must join the hobby that will be belly dance which is helpful for ab.
      Basic and easy exercises for abs are leg lifts, and the crunch. These exercises can be performed on the floor with an exercise mat.