As a San Diego personal trainer, I’ve been asked so many times on what is the best exercise to build abs. So what is the ideal exercise for your midsection? The answer is counterintuitive and will probably amaze you.
I will address this inquiry from the perspective that it is normally asked. People are often not searching for the exercise which will make their abdominal muscles stronger and larger. What most people really want to find out is how they can make their tummy small, firm, toned, and defined. Sounds good?
In general, you will find two things which contribute to a pleasing look for the midsection: first, less fat around the middle and second, stronger, firmer, and larger abdominal muscles. The reason why both of these factors are very important is that the layer of fat that’s on your abdominals needs to be thin enough in order to see the muscles beneath it. And when that layer of fat is thin enough, the larger your abdominal muscles, the easier it is to see them and they’ll look more “defined”. These items aren’t of equal importance on how your midsection looks, however. Stronger and larger abdominal muscles simply become relevant if the layer of fat on your stomach region is thin enough that you could see the outlines of your muscles underneath the layer of fat. Most people have excessive fat on the stomach area to see the abdominal muscles. So for nearly everyone, cutting down fat on the stomach area is exactly what may have the biggest impact on how great the midsection looks.
Interestingly, there is no way to “spot reduce” fat on your body. Working on an exercise for the specific area on the body won’t cause excess fat to get lost just from that particular area. This means that, regardless of the efforts of many people to do this, you can’t start a whole bunch of crunches (which directly work your stomach muscles) and believe that you’re going to hasten fat loss just from your stomach area. Rather, once your body loses fat, it loses fat from all throughout the body. (It may lose more fat from some areas compared, although how much it will lose from every area is going to be determined by the inherited genetic programming for how the body proportionally gains and losses fat.) So, to be able to lose fat from your abdominals to make the midsection lean and defined, you have to shed fat all over the body.
So what is the ideal exercise for shedding fat from all over your body? Well, out of anything you can do, nutrition certainly has the major influence on losing fat. So nutrition is the most important thing to focus on for leaner abs. As far as exercise though, the most important exercises are those that work the biggest muscles in the body simply because they get the biggest effect on increasing your metabolism.
The exercise that almost all of our clients do that works with the main muscles in the body is the leg press. So, what is the best exercise for your midsection? I said the answer is counterintuitive – for many people it is actually the leg press.
Of all the exercises that we commonly use, the leg press works with the most of the muscle in your body. Therefore it gets the biggest possibility of adding lean muscle tissue to your body and therefore the greatest possibility of helping increase your metabolism. It’s the exercise which when put together with appropriate nutrition helps you shed fat. Because you can’t spot reduce fat from your abs (or anywhere else on the body), it’s the exercise that has the greatest effect on helping you to shed fat from your abdominal region too. Achieving less fat in your abdominal region is considered the one that will provide the major impact on how your midsection looks, and the leg press is considered the exercise which helps you accomplish that the best.
So, to get a lean and defined midsection: first and foremost focus on a good nutrition plan that will help you shed fat. Then, when it comes to exercise, your main concern is to challenge your muscles as deeply as you possibly can on each exercise to help you stimulate the metabolism. This is especially important with the leg press. You need to get to the point on the leg press that after several repetitions your muscles become so fatigued that completing another repetition is not only difficult, it really is impossible. You’re pushing as hard as you can, and the weight won’t budge even a fraction of an inch because the muscles became so fatigued. At this point continue maximally pushing for a few more seconds, and you’ll fatigue the body’s main muscles a lot more. Achieving this sends the most powerful signal possible to your body that it needs to get stronger and improve your metabolism, and will get the biggest impact that exercise could have on the midsection.
With my experience as a San Diego personal trainer, nutrition plays the key role for fat loss and the way your midsection looks. But for exercise, the leg press has the biggest effect on your metabolism and about how lean and attractive you can get with your abdominal area.