When it comes to having an aesthetic and strong physique, we know that having a well developed core plays a big part.
Having a lean and physically pleasing body usually involves a thick pair of obliques and washboard abs, these making the rest of the physique stand out in its own right.
If we look at even the earliest of strongmen such as Eugene Sandow and others, the exercises they advocated, and the literature they left behind, core work was strongly advocated as something that should be an important part of one’s training, but only of course, if it done properly.
In this article, we will look at how to properly train your core with the best ab workouts for lower abs and obliques. Little to no material required.
These exercises will be based on the highest performing exercises during various scientific studies where the EMG activation (Electromyography is an electrodiagnostic medicine technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles) of the core muscles were monitored during each movement.
As always, one should note that working out using any exercise is not going to deliver maximal results unless it is paired with a clean and balanced diet. Follow along and read up on the recommended bodyweight and weighted exercises for a strong and developed core.
First, as promised, here are the exercises that performed the highest in various studies, and should help you along the road of building a stronger and defined core. Some of them will work out your entire core, and some will target certain regions more efficiently than others. Pick one or several, and add them to your own routine !
Leg raises can be done on a pull up bar, or stool bars like in the GIF below. They can also be performed on dip bars or parallel bars for similar results.
In various EMG studies, the leg raise performed the highest, with the most efficient overall contraction of the abdominal muscles. This movement recruits your entire core to an extended degree, with a slight emphasis on your lower abs, and will do wonders for you in terms of core strength and definition.
Doing this exercise on a pull up bar will provide you with an extra stabilization challenge. If you have trouble keeping your body still on a pull up bar though, try to move to stall bars or a dip station.
Ab wheel/ring roll outs
Ab wheel roll outs also proved very effective in EMG studies as an overall ab strength and definition builder. This movement can easily be adjusted to your required difficulty level by performing the movement on your knees, or gradually rolling out further and further, until you can perform the full movement.
Be sure to remain in a hollow body position throughout the entire range of movement, and keep you back from arching. If you notice any activation and arching of the lower back, perform an easier progression that you can do with clean form.
Farmer carries – one handed and standard
Farmer carries are generally know as a great trap and core, and more specifically, oblique builder as your body requires extra stabilization to remain upright during the exercise. What’s good about this exercise is that not only will it challenge your core but also your grip as you fight to keep a firm grasp on the dumbbells or whatever other piece of equipment you may be using.
Grab a weight heavy enough to provide you with a challenge over a few meters, walk slowly and make sure you have a retracted scapula and your shoulders aren’t rolling forward. This is one of the best if not the best weighted movement of it’s kind that you can perform for your abs.
The one handed farmer walk will challenge your obliques to a much higher degree and are a brilliant variant of the regular farmer carry, if not better for core development.
Hanging leg twist
A fantastic exercise for obliques, the hanging leg twist may not be directly accessible to a complete beginner at it requires some core, arm, and back strength from the start, but it is quickly achievable.
See the video above for instruction on how to perform the exercise, although you should try to keep your arms locked out, in the contrary to bent as shown in the video. You should feel the extra stimulation this movement brings to your obliques, almost instantly as they fight to help turn your legs in one direction, and the the other.
As with most other exercises, you want to avoid kipping as much as possible, especially on this movement as it really will take out the benefit of an effective mind to muscle connection and concentration.
I personally prefer these over side plank crunches as I feel a better contraction and there is no twisting of the spine for several repetitions. A good way to progress on this is by adding a small weight plate on the side of your hips, or maybe even using a weight vest.
Again, watch the video above for a demonstration of how to perform this exercise correctly. I like to add this exercise at the end of my core routine and hold for anywhere between 30 seconds to a minute.
best ab workouts for lower abs and obliques – The routine
The exercises above can be taken and either performed individually in your own routine, or you could also perform them as a cycle, one after the other. I like to pick out 3 to 4 exercises and perform them back to back at the end of my workouts to really blast my core.
If you were to perform the above mentioned exercises in a routine, here’s an example of how it could be structured:
Leg raises – As many reps as possible
Ab wheel roll outs – As many reps as possible
Single arm farmer carry – 1 walk on each side
Hanging leg twist – As many reps as possible
Side plank – 30 to 60 second hold
Above you will have read about the 5 must-do exercises for optimal lower ab and oblique development. We have also put these same exercises into a handy, highly applicable workout routine that you can either extract exercises from to add to your own, or follow along.
Which lower ab exercise is your favorite? If you think I left anything out that should be in this guide, please comment below and we’ll get a conversation started!