How to train abs without training abs

Brace yourself, this may be a long read.

Earlier this morning, one of my personal training clients had remarked that he felt his abs becoming more solid. Being one of the more recent people to sign up for my personal training program he is new to my philosophy and was surprised by the fact this phenomenon because we rarely do direct abdominal training in my personal training studio.

In fact, I often get questions about abs because it’s oftentimes a confusing area. Magazines, late-night infomercial products and Instagram influencers all seem to make the same promise of getting the much sought after six-pack.

The Before and After pics from the Amazing 12 body transformation program perfectly showcase the chiseled midsection it produces.

Their abs are well defined even though crunches, sit-ups and (insert popular ab exercise here) aren’t part of this program.

Just for the record I’m not currently accepting people into the Amazing12. I hope to be able to start January first, but my personal training clients get first priority.

So is there a need for direct ab work? Most of the time no. Sometimes yes.

If a person’s abs are getting left behind or it remains the weak link then sometimes yes. As an example mothers who have given birth via c-section sometimes have issues with this. Sometimes it’s just not kicking on at the right time (tested with FMS) and I’ll have to give some corrective exercises.

Sometimes it’s just been a long time since they were worked to any significant degree. In that case it just might need some extra attention.

So what exercises do we do for abs? Well here’s a quick list of “ab” exercises commonly seen in my personal training studio.

-Turkish Getups


-Overhead pressing

-dead lifting and farmers walks

-Chin ups and vertical pulls

What most people think the abs are meant for is forward flexion ie bending the torso forward (think like a crunch). And yes, this is one role of the abs but a big one is also resisting unwanted movement.

As an example, in the case of an overhead press done with one hand, as the weight goes up overhead it is attempting to topple you over. The abs assist the lower back by locking everything in place.

In the case of the chin-up (assuming you are able to do one) your abs seem to naturally light up when done correctly. This prevents you from going limp when you are hanging. Done correctly (by correct I mean safe and effective) you’ll be solid as you go up over the bar. If you aren’t yet strong enough for a chin-up (9 out of 10 adults aren’t able to do one) then train the vertical pull like it’s a chin-up by forcefully tensing your abs, attempting to shorten the distance between your sternum and your belt buckle and drive your elbows down. Progress that correctly and you’ll do chin-ups in no time.

In the case of deadlifts and farmers carries the abs build internal pressure to keep the spine safe via bracing.

“Ok so they get worked in other things, but wouldn’t focusing be better?”

Not necessarily. For one every minute spent in training abs could also be spent doing something else that is better.

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it
everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

The One Thing

Besides that many times working the abs integrating them into a movement can actually work them better. During movements, multiple muscles play roles in either moving, or stabilizing to enable movement. Assuming you have a low enough body fat percentage, this means you’ll not only have visible abs, but abs that are useful in preventing injury and making you strong over all.

If you need help with this, I offer a free trial membership of my personal training studio on Main Street in Boonton. Just send me a text at 973 476 5328.

Eric Moss is a world-record-holding modern-day professional performing strongman, author, motivational speaker, and personal trainer. In the tradition of the strongmen more common during the turn of the century, he performs feats of strength such as bending steel and breaking chains as part of a show and speaks on goal achievement for corporations, nonprofits, government as well as for schools and universities. His exclusive personal training studio is located on Main Street in Boonton New Jersey, is close to Mountain Lakes, Denville, Montville and Parsippany New Jersey.

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