I think you can have very strong abs from just squatting and pulling. I did virtually no direct ab work for a couple years and suffered no ill effects. In fact, I probably added about 100-150 to both my squat and pull over that time. A couple months ago I added in a lot of direct ab work and my lifts have not changed dramatically.
I think this leads us to one of the quandries of accessory work. You’re usually hard-pressed to see a big change from each little thing you add or subtract in this area. Most of of your training results come from the major lifts done with heavy weights, not the hundreds of reps of glute ham raises, kettlebell swings and farmer bar sidebends you do after your hard work.
However, the cost of doing accessory work is usually low. By cost, I mean that you are hard pressed to tap out your strength to squat and pull or to recover for your next session by doing ab work. You’re probably not going to injure anythign doing it. It doesn’t take a lot of time. And adding direct ab work MAY help in the long run. It may help your squat and dead form. It may help you avoid a back injury or hernia. I guess the question changes here from “why do direct ab work” to “why not do direct ab work?”
Great post. We actually cut out most direct ab work 3 weeks out from a meet.
It helps with recovery and at that point in time, given the heavy volume of squats and pulls, they are getting plenty of work.