T Nation

How to Train Abs for Aesthetics?

While It’s certainly true that abs are made in the kitchen and that squats, deads etc are enought to build them strong…

I’d like ti build a blocky six pack, yet i don’t know what to do, and planks don’t seem to be very effective (at least to me) for Building muscle.

Have you tried training them using with something other than an isometric contraction (planks, squats, etc)?

Not consistently. That’s apparentely the problem, yet i don’t know what’s a good starting point, which Is basically what I’m asking for

I have naturally poor abs and out ive everything I’ve done, hanging leg raises (proper form) have actually made a distinct difference when I’ve kept my body fat the same.

But if I drop 5lbs I have way better abs, but that’s my beer weight and I love beer and cider.

I am interested in the question of the OP also.

Can you tell more about the frequency/reps/sets, or how to integrate it in the workout?
What is too much and viceversa?
Thanks :slight_smile:


If you read up you’ll find a ton of articles on T Nation about training abs.

This is like asking how to train your biceps or any other muscle. Neither I nor anyone else other than you knows your muscle fiber make up, what your body responds to. Some people grow legs in the 5-8 rep range others sweat by 12-20. Some prefer mechanical tention, others m-tor activation, and yet other lactate build up (this last one might be called something different).

Since you want abs I’ll assume you are in reasonable shape, because no matter what training you do, you won’t know if it works if you can’t see your abs. If not, start there.

Then if that’s all good, try different things. Things that generate intra abdominal pressure work well, like carries or zercher holds. Anti rotation like pallof presses, flexion exercises like crunches, banded standing crunches, leg raises and the million others can work, see what feels right. Personally, full sit-ups kill my lower back so that’s a no go for me. Rep wise, low with added weight, high reps, timed sets, paused, slow eccentric, and a ton other ways.

I don’t know your training background, your experience level, but there are phases in my training when I do some kind of ab work almost every day. Other times maybe once or twice a week. Occasionally might give them a rest for a few weeks other than the big movements.

Take your pick, try things…

Standing ab wheel has been the best bang for my buck.

1 Like

I’ll be the one to put it in here, and everyone can laugh at me: BOSU (that little half ball) crunches are awesome for me. I can get my abs to cramp hard on that. Sets and reps take care of themselves, because of the aforementioned cramp.

I also would recommend one of two approaches:

  1. Stagger your ab work in between other stuff so you actually do it OR
  2. If you’re just going to do straight sets of abs, use short rest breaks and build up a bunch of fatigue
1 Like

I believe that if you want to have thick and blocky abs, you need to treat them the same way you treat all the muscles you want to get thick…
Lets say - we want massive legs and glutes that can lift a ton… what do we do? kickbacks and bodyweight squats all day? No. We do deadlifts and squats with as much weight as possible.
Same goes with abs - WEIGHTED EVERYTHING in 10-12 rep range. Treat them the same way you treat your triceps or back.


If you actually want to “build” muscle, use resistance training as you would for any other muscle, or muscle group. I say muscle group because you want pronounced obliques as well. What are nice abs without the framing of the obliques?

Crunches, even the maligned sit-up, leg raises, side bends, etc. And add weight as you get stronger. I always worked in the 10 to 20 rep range. Make sure form is good so you don’t injure your back.

But do know, genetics can be cruel. Your abs could be covered with a thick sheath, as it appears was Boyer Coe’s case. That will be a very difficult up hill battle.

Yes, genetics will play main role… some have nice abs, some look like roadkill. Cant change that… Me, for example, i have ugly thick waist and love handles even if im very lean, but my front abs are thick and they stick through winter sweaters…

What do you currently look like. Your body shape will likely determine how your abs will shape.
I have quite blocky abs, but the trade-off is not having the deep v line

Thick is strong and strong is sexy. Believe in your girth.



You get it

1 Like

I wish I could like this more that once

It’s a picture that says a thousand words.

1 Like

How about a thick waist with real aesthetics

One of the greatest lies of the past few decades is “six pack abs”.
The second is the Side View muscle chart.
Third is Side chest shot.

There are 10 lobes to “the ab’s” - rectus abdominis. The 6-pack view decreases thoracic volume. Your guts have to go somewhere so you end up with a bulging lower belly.
The top 6 vs the below the naval lower 4 lobes, have a longer moment arm as in the distance from the xyphoid process tip of the sternum to the spine. The distance from the pubic bone to the spine is much shorter, yielding less leverage. The thoracic vertebrae are thinner horizontally than the lumbar vertebrae. The upper 6 increase the pre-existing thoracic curve. The upper rib joints are more mobile than the base of the spine. So, society has taken the easy route, initially. For boxers, etc. this decreases their target area, for bodybuilders it’s a pathway to looking like a fire hydrant. Train the lowers, even exclusively, but be certain to stretch the living eff out of your hip flexors. As said in muscle media 2000, that’s not a “now hold that stretch girls” stretch, but should be a blood curdling one. Also be sure to superset breathing pullovers to negate any downward pulling of the sternum by the rectus. Breath in deeply as to feel like you’ll explode your lungs against your ribcage.

The side view muscle chart has for thousands of years displayed the rectus abdominis in a straight line from origin to insertion. I’m sorry, how can I say this…total bullshit. **
If the transversalis is worked (the one responsible for appearing to pull your naval backward)
and the obliques are trained properly, the rectus abdominis should arc toward your spine on it’s descent.
** For an even more tragic strategy, many train improperly to the point of the sternum becoming vertical. If you’re hell bent on this, don’t train at all - gravity will achieve this free of charge.
Just as “crunches” will hump your rib cage (as 9 out of 10 people Don’t do an opposite direction, active contraction, opposite range of motion exercise), so will training the obliques with anything other than keeping the rib cage erect. And laying flat on the floor between sets just won’t hack it.
So, lie flat on an Olympic style bench, ribcage erect, grabbing the uprights for stability and do side to side leg raises. (As opposed to clutch humping a ball or on your elbows behind you, humping your back while you train them).

Men’s side chest shot was hard. You had to forcefully keep your sternum way up.
So women’s side chest shot allowed concavity because it was easier…and eventually men’s too.

Inflate the ribcage - breathing pullovers / reverse grip thumbs aside fingers hang / and
Deflate the abdomen - on hands and knees vacuums / swedish breathing exercises / etc.

Hope this pisses some people off … the truth usually does so without diplomacy.
What’s diplomacy?

The Rock comes to mind for me. Even when he gets super lean, his abs look kinda bad, haha.