How to build a stronger core and develop better abs

It’s something most gym goers want, all strive for. But how do we actually build a stronger core, with a view to obtaining abs you can grate a block of cheese on? Well, in short, there is no secret formulae, no magic way to get a stronger core. Other than consistently eating well and exercising your core on a regular basis.

And here, we wanted to take you through some tips and simple exercises you can do to build strong abs.

The core muscles

Before we dive in and start discussing how to get yourself a washboard stomach, we thought it would be beneficial to break down the different areas of your core and the muscles it’s made up of:

External Obliques 

The external obliques make up the outer area on the side of our abs.

Internal Obliques 

Below the external obliques, these make up the inner area on the side of our abs

Rectus abdominis 

Probably the most recognisable muscle in our abs. Located at the front area of our core, these are otherwise known as the six pack.

Transversus Abdominis 

Found below the obliques, the transversus wraps around the spine for stability.

Tips for building abs 

1. Work your abs often

You might have heard the phrase, abs are made in the kitchen. And for the most part, there is some truth to this statement. But the exercises you do to build your abs play a big part too. By working on your abs 3-4 times a week, you’ll be surprised how quickly you notice results.

What’s important to note with ab muscles is that, unlike normal muscles (your chest or biceps) they’re high load bearing muscles. This means you should aim for a higher amount of reps than usual, something in the 15-20 range.

You should also not just focus on one area of your abs and try to work all areas of it for best results.

2. Reduce the amount of salt & sugar in your diet 

Whilst we should try to limit the amount of salt/sugar we have in our diets anyway. Reason 101 to do so is that it hinders our ability to build a strong core. When we eat excess sugar, it is stored in the body as fat which hides our abdominal muscles behind it.

In addition, excess levels of salt can lead to the body storing more water than usual which can also hide your abs.

3. Eat more protein

Whilst we’re on the subject of diets, to build a strong core, or any other muscle area for that matter, you need to eat a diet that’s rich in protein. This can help you lose weight and build muscle much more effectively.

And if you struggle to get protein into your diet, try things like nuts, greek yoghurt, oats or even look at protein supplements to increase your protein intake.

Our ambassador Josh Bryant recommends “that you have an intake of around 1g of protein per lb of lean weight. For example, an 80kg man (176lbs) would aim for 176g of protein.”

4. Cardio

By losing body fat around your core, your abs will become more prominent. And cardio doesn’t have to be a slog on the treadmill for an hour everyday. It can be anything you enjoy that fits your exercise routine, whether it’s walking, running, rowing, dancing or playing sport.

It is important to note that cardio should be done alongside ab exercises. On its own might not be sufficient enough to build your core.

3 Exercises to build a strong core

1. Plank

Aside from the situp, the plank has got to be the most famous ab exercises, and this is with good reason. By targeting a large portion of our ab muscles, the plank is one of the most effective methods to build your core. And the benefits of the plank go far beyond helping you look good on the beach. By strengthening your core with the plank, you are providing strength, balance & stability to other exercises or sports you do too.

Here’s instructions on how to do the plank effectively:

  • Preferably with a mat, find an area that can fit the whole of your body laid down within it. Face down with your elbows planted below your shoulders, arms facing forward and your toes lifting you off the floor.
  • Tense your abdominal muscles as you hold this position, keeping your body in a straight line without arching or dipping your back. You also need to ensure your shoulders are kept upright.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can and repeat 3 times for effective results. Trying to extend the period of time held each time you complete a full set.

2. Oblique Twists 

LIke the plank, oblique twists also work multiple areas of your abs, engaging the rectus abdominis and our internal and external obliques. You can do this one with or without a medicine ball or weight plate depending on your level of experience.

  • With your knees bent, sit on the floor at about a 45 degree angle either with your feet flat or raised off the ground.
  • Tense your abs and with a medicine ball or just your hands twist from side to side at a slow pace lightly touching the medicine ball to the floor at each side.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps and complete a set of 3.

3. Leg raises 

An incredibly simple, yet effective ab exercise that is in most fitness fanatics regular ab workout routine. Leg raises target the lower part of your ab muscles, as well as, help improve strength in your hips too. Which is great for those that sit at a desk all day. To do this one:

  • Lie on your back and with your legs together lift them upwards slowly until you’re at an almost 90 degree angle.
  • Slowly lower your legs back to the floor until they’re almost touching the floor and hold for a second.
  • Repeat for as many reps as possible for 3 sets.

Of course, there are many other ab exercises you can add to your workout. But the ones mentioned above represent three of the most effective in terms of targeting different areas of your core to help you build strong abdominal muscles.

If you’re interested in learning more about the role food can play in helping sculpt your abdominal muscles. Get in touch today. By aligning your workout schedule with a meal plan you can be sure you’re doing everything possible to help build a stronger core.