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How to Make Your Ab Workouts Harder

    how to get harder abs

    If you have been working out for some years or you do the same abs workout for a period, the time comes when you feel your abs do not develop as you want.

    It is a typical problem that the abdominal muscles get used to the same training. Muscles need a new “input” regularly which force them to adopt.

    Have you ever heard about the progressive overload technique?

    That means, frequently, you need to modify your workout so that the muscles keep gaining. For example, you do more reps, sets, try new types of advanced exercises, increase the resistance, etc. Frequently, you change your training to be more challenging.

    Here I’m going to show you various ways to how to make your ab workouts more difficult.

    1. Increase the number of reps and sets

    Most of us like following the same plan. I mean if we set up a program, we strictly stick to the same number of repetitions and sets.

    When I started muscle building, I downloaded a routine from and sticked to it for many months. I did the same abs exercises with the same 12 reps because an expert recommended it. Frankly, in the beginning, it was tough, but then I did not feel the moves and could not see and development in size and strength.

    Why did I not change? If a pro bodybuilder says something, that is scripture, isn’t it?

    Now I know that is not like that. We are different. What works for you, may not for me. And with time, change is required.

    So, what I wanted to say is that do not be afraid of doing more than recommended.

    Do 20, 30, 40 or even 50 reps of an abs exercise; you are already good at. Bruce Lee did simple drills like sit-ups, crunches or in and outs with extreme high reps (50-100) and he had an unbelievable solid midsection.

    Moreover, if you go up to such high reps, you prepare your body and mind for more advanced exercises.

    The same is valid for sets. With just one more extra round you can get 25% more training.

    To sum up, do not be afraid of having a brutal ab workout routine.

    2. Switch to more advanced exercises

    If you can do high reps, it is time to switch to a more advanced exercise or version. It does not have to be a significant change in most of the cases.

    Let me give you an example.

    Let’s say you can do 40-50 correct knee raises in the captain chair (vertical knee raise station). Switch to straight leg raises. Since you already have pretty good core strength, you will be able to do at least 15 properly. But, resistance is much higher. Hence the abdominal muscles have to develop. Then, you go up to 40 maximum reps again, and you switch to pull up bar ab leg raise when there is no back support, so the core has to work even harder.

    Each time you change, you will enjoy the benefits of progressive overload.

    Almost all the ab exercises have plenty of advanced versions, and it is not hard to come up with your own variations.

    3. Raise the resistance with decline position

    The adjustable sit up bench is the most useful equipment for decline exercises. Better models can be set at many levels from easy to very high. Hence, you can add a bit of more resistance frequently to the abs exercises.

    By the way, the ab bench is more versatile fitness equipment than just using for sit-ups. You can do decline crunches or Russian twists for complete core training.

    4. Ab workouts with weight

    You can choose from a wide variety of strength training equipment to make your ab workouts tougher. You can use a dumbbell, a barbell, rubber bands, a medicine ball and if you are a gym-goer, use the cable machine.

    However, you must be careful, mainly if you use free weights since those moves put much more stress on your lower back.

    Let me give you some examples.

    Let say you do crunches to isolate your upper abs. Grab a 5-pound medicine ball or dumbbell. Just a bit more difficult, but that will force the muscles to develop. Learn dumbbell core exercises with weights here.

    Have you ever tried barbell abs training? These compound moves work all parts of the core at once, plus build functional strength. On top of that, it is easy to increase the hardness by adding a few pounds to the bar. These are real advanced core exercises.

    A cable crossover machine at the gym is also a useful tool for weighted abs training such as crunches, special planks. Here you can learn many cable moves for abs to have hard ab workouts at the gym.

    5. Use the weight of your lower body

    If you do ab strength training that only requires to lift your upper body such as sit-ups, crunches, it is time to switch to ones when you have to raise your lower body. Your lower body is longer and heavier, and with that, the resistance will be higher as well. Besides, by using your lower body, you can get a more extended range of motion, which leads to better strength and muscle mass gain.

    Which is more difficult? Crunches or hanging leg raises?

    The answer is obvious.

    6. Use exercise equipment that is unstable

    ab wheel advanced

    One job of the core muscles ( rectus and transversus abdominis, obliques, lower back, hams, etc.) is to keep the balance of the body. It is a connection between the lower and upper body.

    A few exercise equipment gives such an unstable environment while you use it that the core is always engaged to keep your balance.

    The ab wheel and stability ball are the best for this purpose.

    The ab roller has a rather thin wheel, so to avoid falling to the sides and keeping the balance of the body while rolling in and out, the core works hard all the time.

    The fitness ball gives almost the same. For example, when we do crunches on it, we target the rectus abdominis, but since the ball moves to sides, the oblique is activated as well.

    Do you want to see a killer ab workout? Check out the example plans below.

    What are hardest ab exercises?

    From the following video, you can learn tough moves. If you do just a few of them, you will get close to those six-pack abs much faster.

    It is an excellent collection of static and dynamic movements. Try a few. If you cannot do them yet, do not care about it. Modify your abs training to build muscle so that you are going to be able to do them in the future.

    Workout Ideas

    Extreme ab workout at home for 8 packs

    For this routine, you need a pull-up bar. High reps and hard moves.

    crazy ab workout

    Workout with the hardest oblique exercises

    Want to target your side abs? Try this short yet killer routine with oblique moves that you may have never done before.

    To sum up

    You have just learned a few methods on how to make your ab workout harder. You can use one technique or combine them. Hence, you will give the progressive overload for your midsection that is required for continuous development.

    If you have more ideas, feel free to share with us below.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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