Abdominal Exercises: Which Ones Are the Best?

What Are the Best Abdominal Exercises?

             If you want a sexy, flat, toned stomach or 6-pack washboard abs, you can send me 3 easy payments of $99.99… just kidding.

The truth is that if you want a lean midsection, the majority of the work is done in the kitchen, not the gym. But if you’ve been reading my newsletters for any length of time, you already know that (and if you haven’t been reading my newsletters for long, but want to read past newsletters, you can do so here: www.torontofitnessonline.com/blog).

This newsletter isn’t about that. This newsletter is about training the abdominals to be stronger and more functional (I almost hate using that word).

To figure out what the most appropriate exercises for you abdominals are, let’s take a look at the architecture of the abdominals:




Look for these 4 muscles, and notice in which directions the fibers run (ie at which angle do the lines on the muscles go?)


Rectus abdominis

Transversus abdominis

Internal oblique

External oblique


Do you see how the lines on the muscles go in all different directions? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that if you want something to not move, you’d reinforce it from a number of different directions at a number of different angles.

So yes, although the abdominals (when I say “abdominals”, I’m referring to all 4 muscles mentioned earlier) can cause movement (namely bringing the rib cage towards the pelvis, as in crunches or vice versa), their predominant use is to prevent movement.

How can we train these functions of the abdominals?


Here are some exercises:






Side plank:




Stir the pot:




Pallof press (this looks like an arm exercise, but it isn’t. Your abdominals are resisting rotation):




And my favourite, the dragon flags (the Rocky IV footage is a bonus):




These are some examples of some good abdominal exercises. Of course knowing which exercises to do is one thing. Knowing how to program them into your training is another. But that’s a topic for a different newsletter.

Quick Summary


  • To get leaner abdominals, that’s mostly a function of what you do in the kitchen, not the gym. To get stronger abdominals is a different story.
  • Although the abdominals can be used to create motion, their primary function is to resist motion.
  • The function of resisting motion can be trained with:

◦      Plank

◦      Side plank

◦      Stir the pot

◦      Pallof press

◦      Dragon flags

  • Watch Rocky IV (AKA the greatest movie in the history of time).


Do you have any questions?


Email me, and I’d be happy to answer them.


Until next week,





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