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In the past I've heard Abs are different from other muscle groups. You can work on your Abs everyday, but then I've also heard, Abs are like any other muscle groups. It needs rest for recovery. So, my question is, how often can you work on your Abs? Can it be a daily routine or should you work on it every other day? What's the best rest day/days between each Abs session? Would like to achieve sculpted Abs with rock hard core.

EDIT: To clarify, I have a set weekly workout routine, but am looking for peak performance specifically targeting my Abs. Also, I have a strict healthy diet currently and looking to improve it as well. I am looking for that extra boost into the 6-8 pack Abs.

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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Abs are muscles like any other muscle in your body. What's different is the typical exercise regimen. Most people train abs with crunches, sit-ups, etc., which are tantamount to a very high-rep exercise with low weight. Compare with a bench press where you're doing at most sets of 10-12.

This high-rep exercise is probably not too effective for much more than perhaps endurance for very light-weight work. Certainly because of the light weight, it's only hitting the slow-twitch muscles which recover quickly so you could do this sort of exercise every day.

If you want to build muscle strength and mass I think you'll need to involve heavier weight, which means fewer reps to failure, which means involving your various fast-twitch fibers, which means more rest between workouts as the fast-twitch fibers (three kinds, actually) take longer to recover than the slow-twitch.

All this said, having "sculpted" abs is primarily about shedding body fat rather than doing exercises to shape and grow your abdominals.

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Rather than purely consider working your abs alone you should focus more on core strength. Your core includes your abs but also includes down from the chest right to the hips.

Having a strong core will allow your abs to develop and be more pronounced based on the fact that the muscle around and underneath will see development.

In order to build a strong core and in turn strong abs the following exercises are key:

  • Squats (The daddy of all exercises)
  • Deadlifts
  • Front Plank (Hold as long as you can, rest 30 seconds then do it again)
  • Side Plant (Similar routine to front plank)

Your squats and dead lifts if done correctly should be done no more than twice a week on different days as they will require recovery but you can probably safely do the planks after every exercise session, even daily as your core tends to recover a lot quicker.

Each of these train the abs and the stabilizer muscles of the core. Note that term stabilizer; this is key. The core is designed to stop things moving around and protect the spine. Too many crunches / sit-ups etc and you're asking for back problems.

As mentioned you also need to get your body fat down in order to be able to see your abs. There is a saying that abs are made in the kitchen, and in order to get them showing you're going to have to eat very clean and get that body fat down to something like sub 12% to really see what you've got there.

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Excellent viewpoint, and what I actually do myself. However, if squats are the daddy of all exercises, then deadlifts are the grand-daddy. :-) –  Greg Apr 10 '11 at 23:11
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Like Greg said... Most ab exercises target slow twitch muscle fibers, so they can be trained on a daily basis. However, since slow twitch muscle fibers have a greater propensity to grow, they might not be what you want to target in order to get a 6 pack. Nonetheless, without decreasing your body fat, the sculpted abs will never show.

When training abs, you need to remember to target the muscle group at several different angles in order to work every part of the core.

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Do you mean that one has to target fast twich muscle fibers in the abs to develop a 6 pack? –  Sarah Jan 20 '13 at 19:28
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