T Nation

Ab Hypertrophy


Just wanted to discuss a thought that I've been having lately:

When it comes to the ever-popular stomach muscle, we are always given the go-to advice of low body-fat etc etc

Why is hypertrophying the rectus abdominis not a huge talking-point as well? Am I incorrect in assuming if we were to hypertrophy(high resistance, low rep) the 'abs', they would actually become 'more easily' visible even at slightly higher bodyfat percentages?

I mean, the 'abs' rarely ever get isolated, unless we specifically do so, so wouldn't it make sense to isolate them and grow them, just like everything else? Why isn't this the number one advice?

I don't mean the bodybuilders etc, I mean when 'we' give advice to (total)'beginners' regarding 'abs'. Greene/Heath didn't have monsterous abs like that until they actually targeted them, right?

The only thing I could think of that makes sense for this is that a majority of people are clueless to how important diet/nutrition truly is in a body-comp scenario, so 'we' emphasize that point right off the bat.


Besides, when people say they want a 6-pack, don't they actually mean they want to have large rectus abdominis?


Because it is not part of the "basic".

Just imagine, kid comes on with this question: "What can I do to see my abs?" Answer: "Do more crunches and leg raises."

Overall, it should be included in a program, but to emphasize ab work right off the bat is pointing to the minor stuff. Once they added 20-30 lbs of muscles, lets talk abs and diet.


From what I understand, they're very much slow-twitch dominant, so high-resistance, low-rep doesn't do much. That's from what I understand, but doesn't mean I'm right.

I think because 1) you won't see them until you're lean, and 2) because they're used in most compound movements already, it's better to focus on those movements than isolating the abs.

That being said, I've seen videos where olympic weightlifting teams train their abs using basically a toe-to-bar movement. I don't know what the contraption is, but here around 8:25.

I'd agree with this... as well as the part where it's better to focus on compound movements.

But yeah, I know some bodybuilders and physique athletes do actually focus on dedicated ab work.


It might not be the "in thing", to train the abs directly, but like I said here, there are four basic functions of the abs (flexion, rotation, anti-flexion, and anti-rotation) and there should be no problem for most people to address them all through the week.

If the schedule is tight for whatever reason, just focusing on anti-rotation and anti-flexion exercises translates to being stronger and healthier, while still stimulating some growth in that area. To prioritize appearance, if "having great abs" is someone's exact goal, you still get more bang for the buck focusing on fat loss (diet and cardio), on top of some direct ab work.

It's probably debatable, but trying to build ab muscle without intentionally reducing bodyfat runs the risk of building a blockier midsection. The kind of abs that might feel solid to the touch but still look like a sack of potatoes when you've got a shirt on.

Same reason training wrist flexors isn't talked about much. The abs do get lots of "accidental" work, but there's nothing wrong with training them directly as long as you do it smart (proper exercise choice, volume, and intensity). If you really want to have them standout, then sure, isolate a bit more and crack down on the diet.

"6-pack abs" technically translates to having low enough bodyfat to reveal the linea alba and the tendinous inscriptions across the rectus muscle. Since their shape is largely genetic, it's why some people won't ever get more than 4-packs, some have wobbly/funky diagonal 6-packs, and some have freaky 8-packs. Even Arnold only had a 4-pack, at best. But that's not about diet or training at that point. It's nature.

Increasing the size of the rectus won't carryover to seeing a "better or deeper" 6-pack if the person's still a fatso.


I've personally been very happy with the results I've gotten from more frequent ab work. When I dieted down to a very low bf percentage last fall, I was disappointed to find that my abs were very shallow and not very defined. I had to hit a hard contraction to bring them out, even at probably sub 7 percent bf. Since incorporating direct ab work 3 times a week in addition to occasionally going beltless for squats and deads, my abs are much more defined even at a higher bf %.


lmao man, that video very much reminded me of typical P.E class in Sweden. Those "bars" were standard in every gym. when i say gym though, i mean like p.e room, because 'gyms' as they pertain to weight-lifting were non-existent in sweden/europe while I was growing up.

you definitely bring up some solid points though. The abs is probably an area where most people subconsciously prioritize aesthetics over functionality...?


gotchya, yeah i mean this is pretty much inline with my 'gut feeling'/connecting-the-dots. To be quite honest, I have a tendency to need to justify doing or changing certain things and I'm trying to justify incorporating more frequent ab training, and not pretend like my compounds truly do that much for my abs. my front(and hack) squatting does a lot for the core for sure, but I think it's time to call myself out on doing better.



feel free to hit me up with that AC.gif again but:

You managed to fully tickle and satisfy my intellectual lust (curiosity) as it pertains to the subject.

Especially this part:

Right, that goes without saying. I'm not trying to find a short-cut to a 6er, just you know, kinda figuring that when most people say they want a 6-pack, they are indirectly meaning that they want to have larger, physically, abs(with the assumption of a static & low bf%)...


What direct ab work do you do? How have you programmed it?


Makes me want to do more ab-work... I actually think the "blockier" abs look better. I dunno... the super symmetrical round abs always seemed kind of feminine to me. Granted, this is coming from a dude that has never seen his abs.


I think largely because there's too much of that sort of thing around already, frankly. I'm pretty sure your abs will do just fine if you just follow a normal program for a normal person, and hypertrophy-ifying your abdominals when the rest of your body isn't very hypertrophied seems like putting the cart before the horse?


Interesting. What did your ab work look like before/during the cut?

For people who know lifting, sure, a 6-pack probably menas the combination of significant/visible muscle built and fat burned. For "most" people in the general public, they're happy to rave about Justin Bieber's super-amazing 6-pack when no reasonable definition of the word muscular really applies to the kid.

Even with the "Brad Pitt in Fight Club" look that was often talked about here on the site a while back, BPiFC was pretty lean but his abs were actually quite flat/unbuilt.


Ugh. I didn't even realize Bieber had a six pack, and now I feel dirty for google image searching.


wish I did not google him as well. came up with this.....provided a good laugh



That's hilarious.

The only thing that might make that more hilarious was if it was true.


I wouldn't doubt it.


Why did chris already have the low down on the beib?


Hardy har har. Very funny.

No tattoos for me though, just this sweet workout shirt.


I see you've been working those abs w/ that blocky mid section