Nothing says “fit AF” like a six-pack. Not only are abs a symbol of peak fitness, but they have also become the hallmark of discipline, dedication, and commitment.
Most people (especially the ones with a low body fat percentage) face the same abs problem – while their top two abs are visible (at least when the light hits their midsection at the right angle), their third to sixth abs are too shy to show up.
This usually leads these individuals to google “middle ab workouts“ or “how to build middle abs.” It could also be how you landed on this article in the first place.
The thing is, it breaks our heart saying this, but even the middle ab exercises alone cannot help you build a ripped midriff.
Ask a rookie about ways of building a shredded midriff, and he will probably tell you to do crunches every day. On the other hand, a pro with a cobblestone core might not even mention crunches while explaining how to build rock-solid abs.
If carving a chiseled abdomen was so easy, every person would be walking around with a cover photo-worthy six-pack.
Abs are much more than just for vanity purposes. A strong core can help improve your strength in compound lifts like the bench press, overhead press, squat, and deadlift.
Thinking that crunches alone (or any other single exercise, for that matter) is all you need for building abs is the same as saying that push-ups are the be-all-end-all for building a barrel chest.
You could build a solid chest with the bodyweight exercise, but you are never going to match the dude benching it out in a gym.
Before we get into how to build a peeled six-pack, here are some ab-building principles you should internalize:
1. Rectus Abdominis is Where The Magic Happens
The 2-12 pack abs in your midsection are a part of the rectus abdominis. Contrary to what most people think, the 2-12 abs are not separate muscles placed horizontally in your abdomen.
The rectus abdominis consists of two connected muscle bands that run parallel down either side of your abdomen.
The 2, 4, 6, 8 pack abs are a result of a band of connective tissue traversing the rectus abdominis into distinct muscle bellies.
2. The Ab Isolation Myth
Like it or not, the number of abs you can have is a matter of genetics. If you are born with a 4-pack, you cannot crunch your way to a six-pack, no matter how hard you train.
Individuals born with a couple of connective tissue bands will sport a four-pack, people with three connective bands will have a six-pack. So, if you cannot see the fifth and sixth ab even with less than 10% body fat, you should not beat yourself up trying to build them by performing middle ab workouts every day.
Saying that you can train your fourth to sixth abs in isolation is like saying you could train your long bicep head without working the short head.
Remember: The rectus abdominis is just one muscle that either contracts together as one or does not contract at all.
Must Read: How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month?
3. Body Fat Percentage
Unless you have a low body fat percentage, you will never be able to see your abs.
The first two abs are relatively easier to reveal since you store less fat in the region just under your chest. The lower abs are harder to reveal since a bulk of the body fat is stored in that region.
So, basically, ab development has more to do with genetics and body fat percentage, than it has to do with training your upper, middle, and lower abs in isolation.
Here is a breakdown of body fat percentages and the effect it has on your abs:
- 5-9%: You will be peeled AF.
- 10-14%: This range of body fat is considered lean, which means your abs will be visible.
- 15-19%: It can be considered healthy, but it is unlikely that you will see any ab definition.
- 20%+: You will be soft around your midsection, and your abs will not be visible due to such a high body fat percentage.
4. Do Not Forget About the Obliques
Obliques are one of the most overlooked muscle groups. They are the forearms of your abdomen if you will. Not only can a strong pair of internal and external obliques add to the aesthetics of your abdomen, but they can also help improve your core stability and posture.
No matter how good your middle ab workouts are, it is impossible to build a shredded midriff on a junk food diet. I can visualize IIFYM (if it fits your macros) guys cringing as they read this, but guess what, even they do not eat refined carbs and sugars throughout the day.
To build a chiseled midriff, you need to follow a calorie deficit diet. Meaning – you should be expending more calories than you consume in a day.
Here is a six-week diet that will compliment your middle ab workouts and help you in carving a shredded midsection:
- Egg whites: 4
- Whole egg: 1
- Chicken breast: 3 oz
- Green pepper: 1/2 cup
- Apple: 1 medium
- Total: 325 calories, 40g protein, 30g carbs, 7g fats
- Coconut-lime chicken bites with baked zucchini fries
- Total: 245 calories, 28g protein, 9g carbs, 12g fats
- Turkey breast: 4 oz
- Brown rice: 1/2 cup
- Brocolli: 1 cup
- Grapefruit: 1/2 large
- Total: 310 calories, 35g protein, 40g carbs, 2g fats
- Cottage cheese: 1 cup
- Blueberries: 1/4 cup
- Almonds: 10
- Total: 197 calories, 21g protein, 12g carbs, 8g fats
- Spicy citrus shrimp with quinoa
- Total: 281 calories, 27g protein, 26g carbs, 7g fats
- Whey protein isolate: 20g
- Peanut butter: 1/2 tbsp
- Total: 122 calories, 18g protein, 2g carbs, 4g fats
Note: This diet plan is designed for individuals weighing between 170-190 lbs.
Check Out: How Many Calories To Eat Per Day Calculator
Benefits of Middle Ab Workouts
A perfectly chiseled abdomen has more to them than meets the eye. They make you want to take off your shirt at every chance you get, agreed, but they have many other benefits that usually go under the radar. Benefits of picture-perfect abs include:
1. Improves Your Posture
Fortified abs can improve your posture that, in turn, help to develop strength, flexibility, and balance in your body. Core exercises can strengthen the muscles in your back and help you stand a little taller.
Some core exercises move your torso by flexing, extending, or rotating your spine. Others help stabilize your pelvis and spine in a natural, neutral position.
A better posture also reduces unnecessary stress on your muscles and ligaments. It can reduce your risk of injury while training or performing physically intensive work.
2. Crush Your PRs
If you have been stuck on a plateau for a long time, it could probably be due to a weak core. Improving your core strength can help build a sturdy foundation.
Whether it is the bench press, deadlift, squat, overhead press, or any other compound exercise, you need a strong midsection to stabilize the lift and perform at your best.
3. Ab Exercises Make You More Agile
According to a study, performing abdomen exercises regularly can help you become more flexible and agile. Including suspension exercises like the TRX and single-leg moves can add a new dimension to your middle abs workouts.
4. Reduces Back Pain
In the WFH age, back problems are fast becoming a common occurrence. A majority of the millennial workforce spends most of their days hunched over a computer screen. This leads to poor posture as well as back and neck-related issues.
While ab exercises are well-known for their six-pack carving ability, the posterior chain strengthening benefits are often understated.
Core strengthening isometric exercises can help strengthen your abdomen and elevate back pain.
Most ab exercises target the back muscles and spine, making them more flexible and less rigid, thus reducing lower back pain.
5. Become a Powerhouse
A strong midsection will help you become stronger at every physical activity that involves your core. Your punches will have more force behind them, you will be able to pull and push heavier weights, and you will have more power behind your throws.
Besides, middle ab workouts are a godsend if you are an athlete. Most sports require balance, stability, and core strength. Core workouts make you better in all three departments.
6. Improves Your Balance
Core workouts including planks and stability ball exercises can help improve your balance. A strong core can keep your torso in a more stable position whenever you move.
Abs workouts strengthen the muscles around your spine and improve posture as the body’s weight is correctly distributed. It reduces your chances of an injury and can help you get more done in a day.
Middle Ab Workouts For a Superhero Midsection
Now that you know the ins and outs of ab training, here are some of the most effective middle abdomen workouts:
Middle Ab Workout #1
The best part about abs is that you do not have to spend hours training them. All workouts mentioned in this list can be completed in under 25 minutes.
- Decline Sit-up: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Reverse Crunch: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Superman: 3 sets of 10 reps, 30-second rest
- L Pull-up: 3 sets of 10 reps, 30-second rest
- Plank: 3 sets of 1 minute, 30-second rest
If exercises like the L pull-ups are too hard for you, feel free to substitute them with easier variations until you build enough core strength. Also, if you are not able to complete the recommended number of repetitions for an exercise, use the rest-pause principle to get out the reps.
Middle Ab Workout #2
You could also perform these workouts as a circuit training routine. Perform three circuits of each workout without stopping for rest between exercises. However, you are allowed one-minute rest between circuits.
- Hanging Leg Raise: 3 sets of 15 reps, 30-second rest
- Barbell Floor Wiper: 3 sets of 10 reps, 30-second rest
- Hollow Hold: 3 sets of 30 seconds, 30-second rest
- Barbell Rollout: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Side Plank: 3 sets of 1 minute (each side), 30-second rest
Middle Ab Workout #3
Follow each abdomen workout for at least two weeks before moving on to the next routine. This will allow your muscles enough time to make the most of the exercise.
- Mountain Climber: 3 sets of 30 reps (each side), 30-second rest
- Russian Twist: 3 sets of 30 reps (each side), 30-second rest
- Medicine Ball Slam: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Side Jackknife: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Cocoon: 3 sets of 20 reps, 30-second rest
- High Plank: 3 sets of 1 minute, 30-second rest
Related: 15 Best Cable Exercises for Abs
Middle Ab Workout #4
Try increasing your workout intensity with every progressing week by performing a higher number of reps, reducing your workout duration, or adding resistance.
- V-Up: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Heel Tap Crunch: 3 sets of 15 reps (each side), 30-second rest
- Dragon Flag: 3 sets of 10 reps, 30-second rest
- Cable Woodchopper: 3 sets of 30 reps (each side), 30-second rest
- Forearm to Full Plank: 3 sets of 30 seconds, 30-second rest
Middle Ab Workout #5
Train your abs like you would train any other muscle group. Ab training is not just about going through the motions. Squeeze your abs with every rep and keep your abdomen contracted throughout the isometric exercises.
- Butterfly Sit-up: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Dumbbell Deadbug: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Bear Crawl: 3 sets of 10 steps forward, 10 steps back, 30-second rest
- Cable Crunch: 3 sets of 30 reps, 30-second rest
- Plank with Shoulder Tap: 3 sets of 30 seconds, 30-second rest
Building a shredded core requires you to dial in your training, diet, and recovery. You need to burn the excess body fat and make sure it stays at a minimum.
Midsection workouts done right can be as brutal as a leg workout. They can feel uncomfortable and lead to ab cramps. But make no mistake, the few days of soreness after effective middle ab workouts are always worth it.