The lat pulldown is among the best upper body exercises for building bigger latissimus dorsi muscles. In this article, we’ll cover how lat pulldowns activate the movement’s primary muscle groups and outline some of the significant benefits of this upper-body pulling exercise.[Read more…]
How to Deadlift with Proper Form
The deadlift is a popular compound exercise, but it can also pose a significant injury risk if performed without proper form. Here, we’ll explain how to lift with proper deadlift form and maximize strength while staying injury-free.[Read more…]
How to Front Squat with Proper Form
The front squat is a great squat variation that targets the anterior chain and builds core, hip, and leg strength.
In this article, we’ll explain how to front squat with proper form. We’ll also cover some common mistakes when doing front squats and provide useful tips to perfect your technique.[Read more…]
Incline Bench Press Muscles Worked and Benefits
The incline bench press is a popular exercise that targets several upper body muscles, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps. In addition to building strength and muscle mass, this exercise can also help improve posture and reduce the risk of shoulder injury.
Here’s a closer look at the benefits of the incline bench press and the muscles worked.[Read more…]
How to Squat with Perfect Form
Squats are a staple exercise for any serious lifter. Whether increasing glute mass, building strong legs, or maintaining healthy joints, all lifters should learn to squat properly.
Even squatting light, using the proper form is essential. Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know to squat with perfect form. We’ll cover some common squat mistakes and provide tips to perfecting squat form.[Read more…]
The 8 Main Muscle Groups Worked by Squats
Barbell back squats an excellent compound exercise that primarily targets the lower body but also engages several muscles in the upper body. Here, we’ll cover all the muscles that squats work and how for optimal muscle growth and strength gains.[Read more…]
Barbell Row Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Form
The barbell row is among the best exercises for increasing back strength. Here, we’ll explain how to perform a barbell row with perfect form. We’ll also detail the muscles worked by barbell rows and explain the main barbell row benefits.[Read more…]
The Top 9 Muscles Worked with Deadlifts
Deadlifts are a staple exercise for many gymgoers. Deadlifts are a multijoint compound exercise that build maximal muscle throughout the upper and lower body.
Here, we’ll cover the exact muscle groups used in deadlifts and explain how to increase muscle activation by deadlifting with proper form.[Read more…]
How to Bench Press with Perfect Form
The bench press is an essential lift for increasing upper body strength and muscle mass, and is one of the most popular pressing exercises for building developed chest muscles.
However, the bench press is one of the most common causes of pectoral injuries and can cause severe pain and disruption to your training when done incorrectly.
Read on to learn how to perfect your bench press form, avoid common bench press mistakes, and learn some helpful tips to take your bench press to the next level.[Read more…]
How to Do a Lat Pulldown with Proper Form
Lat pulldowns are among the best upper body strengthening exercises for your lats and back muscles. Here’s how to do lat pulldowns with proper form, as well as some technique tips and common mistakes.[Read more…]
Bro Split Workout: Example and Spreadsheet
If you’ve been in the gym a while, you’ve likely come across the term “bro split” and wondered what exactly it means. A bro split routine is a 5-day training program that trains each major muscle group on its own training day once per week.
Bro split workout routines have fans and critics. Some claim they are outdated and ineffective for those looking for strength and muscle gains. Others promote them as a great approach to building muscle and strength.
Here, we’ll explain exactly what a bro split routine entails, how to use this training style yourself, unpack the pros and cons of a bro split, and bust some popular myths about bro splits.[Read more…]
The 8 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Shoulders
Do you want stronger, more muscular upper arms and shoulders? Have you been consistent with your shoulder workouts but still lack definition and muscle mass? If you want to build thick, rounded boulder shoulders – you’re in luck.
Read on to learn why your deltoids aren’t growing. You’ll also find the best exercises and training strategies to help you grow weak or underdeveloped shoulder muscles.[Read more…]
The 8 Best Ways to Strengthen Abs
Are you frustrated by a lack of muscle growth and definition in your abdominal region? Have you been working hard in the gym and optimizing your nutrition but still have a soft, undefined midsection?
You’ve come to the right place. We’ll explain why your abdominals aren’t growing, the barriers to visible six-pack abs, and the best exercises and strategies to build a more muscular, chiseled torso.
What are underdeveloped abs?
Underdeveloped abdominals occur when your abs are weaker or smaller than other upper body muscles. Weak abs result from low muscle density of the abdominals, especially the rectus abdominis or visible six-pack section of your core. A lack of visible abdominals can also result from excess abdominal body fat tissue covering the muscle fibers.
You can strengthen weak abdominals by prioritizing effective core exercises to add bulk to the ab muscle fibers, improving the mind-to-muscle connection with your core muscles, doing heavy compound lifts, and managing lifestyle factors like sleep and stress.
You should also address your nutrition and training to reduce your body fat percentage and make your abs more visible.
The 8 Best Ways to Strengthen Abdominal Muscles
- Rule out medical conditions
- Measure and control your body fat percentage
- Prioritize effective abdominal strengthening exercises
- Consider and accept your genetics
- Optimize your nutrition
- Do more heavy compound lifts
- Address your stress
- Question whether ripped abs are worth it
Rule out medical conditions
Before embarking on the ambitious fitness journey to achieve a visible six-pack, ensure you don’t have a medical condition preventing you from reaching your goals. Some rare genetic disorders like prune belly cause a lack of abdominal musculature and other symptoms.
Other conditions like hypothyroidism, menopause, Cushing’s disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, edema, depression, and gut disorders can also make it extremely difficult to attain visible abs. Always consult your doctor to rule out medical issues and ensure your fitness goals, nutrition, and training plan are safe and appropriate for your health.
Measure and control your body fat percentage
No matter how strong and well-developed your abdominals are, you won’t be able to see them if a thick layer of abdominal fat covers them. You can measure your body fat percentage using several methods, ranging from inexpensive calipers to sophisticated and expensive measures like hydrostatic weighing.
The level of leanness required for visible abs differs for everyone and varies significantly between men and women. You don’t need to get a precise body fat measurement. A rough estimate will help determine how far you are from being lean enough to see your ab muscles.
Prioritize effective abdominal strengthening exercises
Even very lean individuals won’t be able to see their abs if the muscles are too small and weak to pop through the skin. Challenging ab work, like weighted and hanging ab exercises, will bulk up the muscle tissues to make them stronger and more visible.
One study found that ab roll outs using a stability ball, ball pikes, and hanging leg or knee raises most effectively engage the muscle fibers in the upper and lower rectus abdominis and internal and external obliques.
The primary function of the rectus abdominis is to move the torso between the rib cage and the pelvis. Exercises that shorten the distance from the sternum to the hips, like machine crunches or pike variations, build stronger, bulkier abdominals.
Consider and accept your genetics
Some people win the genetic lottery and can maintain visible abs year-round without an overly restrictive diet and exercise regime. Unfortunately, for most of us, a permanently shredded torso and popping six-pack are impossible to maintain without sacrificing our social lives and mental and physical health.
If you are genetically predisposed to store more fat around your middle, prioritize developing realistic goals that align with a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Even with optimal training, some people need to maintain an unhealthily low body fat percentage to see their abs.
You can do this for a while without too many consequences, but over a sustained period, your hormones, mood, libido, and quality of life will start to feel the effects of chronic dieting and intense ab training.
Optimize your nutrition
As discussed above, some people need to reduce their body fat to see their abdominal muscles. The most straightforward way of doing this is spending some time in a moderate caloric deficit to lose fat tissue as it is burned for energy.
To maintain strength and muscle mass when dieting, continue to consume enough protein daily. You also need enough carbohydrates to support your training sessions and dietary fats for healthy hormones, skin, and digestion.
Conversely, if you are already lean but have small or underdeveloped abs, you may benefit from eating in a caloric surplus to build more muscle tissue. Consuming enough total calories, good-quality protein, carbs, and fats will promote abdominal growth.
Do more heavy compound lifts
Targeted ab exercises are one part of the equation for dense, thick abdominal muscles. You also need to prioritize heavy compound lifts in your training plan. Heavy squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and lunges train your core muscles with high-intensity resistance, forcing them to get bigger and stronger to handle the load.
Many lifters can successfully build muscular abs without any targeted abdominal exercises and solely through heavy compound lifting. However, if your abs are stubborn or lagging, you may need to add around six to nine sets of direct ab training on top of your heavy lifts.
Address your stress
If your stress levels are high, you may face significant challenges in reaching your physique goals. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is linked with increased stores of abdominal fat tissue and a higher overall body fat percentage.
Stress from external factors like work, or internal factors like poor mental health, have consistently been associated with an increased risk of obesity and belly fat accumulation.
People leading stressful lives are also more likely to have less time to exercise, poor sleep quality, and a lack of time or mental energy to prepare wholesome meals.
These factors make building muscle, losing body fat, and having quality gym sessions harder. Making lifestyle changes that reduce stress levels will help you lose body fat, strengthen and define your abs, and lead a happier, healthier life.
Question whether ripped abs are worth it
Extremely low body fat can hinder your quality of life, impede your strength, and impact your libido and hormone levels. Since body fat distribution and visible abs are often down to genetics, don’t give up 90% of what makes life enjoyable to look 10% leaner.
There’s a good reason why losing fat becomes more difficult over time. When you approach a very low body fat percentage, your body will use compensatory mechanisms to prevent further weight loss. Although the human body is remarkable, it cannot discern between experiencing a famine and a calculated strategy to cut for summer.,
Your metabolism will start to adjust to keep you within your body’s preferred set point range. It may start breaking down muscle tissue, increasing grehlin (the hunger hormone), and making you highly food-focused. You may experience disrupted sleep as your endocrine system pumps out adrenaline to motivate you to seek food rather than rest.
The 20 Best Exercises to Build Stronger Abdominals
- Machine or cable crunches
- Weighted sit-ups
- Ab roll-outs
- Bosu ball cable crunches
- V sit-ups
- Side planks
- Reverse planks
- Hanging leg or knee raises
- Dumbbell v-sit Russian twists
- Mountain climbers
- Ball or slider pikes
- Lying leg raises
- Seated leg tucks
- Lying toe touches
- Reverse crunches
- Oblique crunches
- Pallof presses
- Bird dogs
In addition to targeted abdominal exercises, heavy compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges recruit the abs to stabilize your torso. Use a combination of targeted abdominal exercises and heavy full-body lifts to target the abs in different ways and build stronger, thicker core muscles.
What are underdeveloped abs?
Underdeveloped or weak abs occur when your abdominal muscles lag in strength, size, or density. Common causes of weak abdominal muscles are poor form when doing ab exercises, insufficient volume for targeted ab training and heavy compound lifts, and poor nutrition.
Strengthen weak abs by performing a few sets of core work three or four times a week. Perfect your form, engage your core in heavy compound lifts, and optimize your nutrition to achieve hypertrophy and fat loss goals.
Abdominal Muscle Anatomy
Your core comprises four main muscles collectively known as your abdominals — understanding how these muscles function will help you identify and address your weak points.
The transverse abdominis (TVA) is the deepest layer of your core. The TVA sits underneath the rectus abdominus and stabilizes the spine and pelvis, especially during heavy lifts like squats. Strengthen the TVA to build a firmer, flatter stomach, avoid injury, and create a strong abdominal foundation.
The rectus abdominis (RA) is the six-pack section of your core. These muscles sit closer to the surface of your skin and grow outward to create visible bumps on your torso. Your RA allows and controls the movement of your rib cage pulling towards your pelvis, such as the movement pattern of a basic crunch.
The external and internal obliques (EO and IO) work synergistically to control torso twisting and lateral flexion. The obliques are on top of one another, outside of your ribcage. Obliques are heavily involved in rotational core training like Russian twists and anti-rotational movements like the Pallof press.
Weak Abdominals FAQs
How often should you train your abs?
If you do enough heavy lifting overall, you don’t need any specific ab training to maintain or build abdominal strength. To grow severely underdeveloped or weak abs, train them twice a week with six to nine total sets of direct ab work.
With what intensity should I train my abs?
Bodyweight exercises generally provide enough intensity to maintain or build abdominal strength. If you have ambitious ab hypertrophy goals, weighted exercises will help develop thicker, denser ab muscles. Ahtlean-X provides a helpful overview of how to optimize your training and nutrition to achieve visible six-pack abs.
What rep range is best for building abdominal muscles?
Your core muscles require a combination of higher-rep, lower-weight training, and heavier exercises with fewer reps.
You should do half your ab training with lower intensity and higher reps (15-20+) and the other half in the 8-12 rep range with higher intensity or added resistance.
Are visible abdominals a sign of fitness?
No. Having visible abdominal muscles does not indicate a more robust core or better overall fitness. Genetics determine your body fat distribution and the visibility of your abs.
If you build muscle quickly and don’t store much body fat around your torso, you will find it easier to get a visible six-pack.
If you struggle to grow your abdominal muscles and are predisposed to store more belly fat, you will probably have difficulty getting your abs to show. Many of the fittest and most muscular athletes in the world don’t have a protruding six-pack. Focus on your performance goals and overall wellness, and don’t get discouraged or obsessed with an arbitrary aesthetic goal.
Grow Underdeveloped Muscle Groups
If you enjoyed this post, check out our other guides on how to grow lagging muscle groups.
The 7 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Obliques
Do you want to build a strong core but aren’t sure which exercises to choose? Perhaps you’ve been doing crunches, sit-ups, and leg raises for months without seeing the abdominal strength and definition you desire.
The obliques (internal and external) are a crucial but often neglected upper body muscle group that controls spinal rotation, stabilizes the spine and hips, and gives your torso a v-shaped taper.
We’ll detail the best exercises and training tips to fire up your internal and external oblique muscles and give you the strong, chiseled core you always wanted.
The 7 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Obliques
Weak obliques happen due to focusing your core training on the rectus abdominis or the visible six-pack section of your abs. Your obliques are a vital muscle group that stabilizes rotational movements, controls forward bending, and aids in maintaining an upright posture.
You can strengthen weak obliques by including more targeted oblique exercises, prioritizing stabilization and anti-rotational core work, bracing your core during functional movements, and practicing diaphragmatic breathing.[Read more…]
The 7 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Rear Delts
Do you want to improve your posture and build a fuller, more muscular upper body? Your rear delts are crucial for well-rounded shoulders and a healthy spine and shoulders. Many popular shoulder exercises focus on the anterior (front) and medial (side) deltoid muscles. Read on to learn how to target underdeveloped rear delts for stronger, healthier, and more muscular shoulders.
Underdeveloped rear delts occur when the muscles on the back of your shoulders are smaller or weaker than other muscle groups in your upper body, like the front or side deltoids or the traps. Common reasons for underdeveloped rear delts include neglecting targeted posterior delt exercises, poor technique, and a weak mind-to-muscle connection with this small muscle group.
You can grow underdeveloped rear deltoids by increasing your weekly rear delt training volume, perfecting your technique, and moving through a full range of motion. You can also use advanced techniques like pauses and tempo work for added time under tension.
We’ll explore these methods for growing underdeveloped rear delts in more detail, so you can start building the boulder shoulders of your dreams.[Read more…]
The 8 Best Ways to Grow a Bigger Lower Chest
Have your lower pecs stopped growing despite consistent training and seemingly endless bench pressing?
If you struggle to build a more muscular, fuller lower chest, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll cover the best strategies to grow an underdeveloped lower chest, show you some of the best exercises, and explain the optimal rep ranges and intensities for lower pec growth.[Read more…]
The 8 Best Ways to Build an Underdeveloped Core
Have you spent hours doing crunches and sit-ups without achieving a strong, stable core? Do you want to build a sound foundation that improves your posture, stabilizes heavy compound lifts, and gives you a chiseled-looking midsection?
Popular abdominal exercises often focus on the rectus abdominus, the “six-pack” section of the abs located on the front of your stomach. But these muscles are only one part of your core. Your abdominal training must target all the different core muscles that span from the top of your ribcage to your hips.
We’ve collated the best ways to build underdeveloped or weak core muscles. We’ll cover the best exercises, rep and set ranges, and intensities to strengthen weak core muscles.[Read more…]
The 5 Best Ways to Grow Bigger Triceps
Underdeveloped triceps occur when the muscles on the backs of your arms lag in size or strength compared with other muscles like the biceps or delts. You can grow underdeveloped triceps by increasing weekly volume, training the triceps with more intensity, and prioritizing tricep isolation exercises that emphasize the long tricep head.
The triceps are the largest muscle in your upper arms, but some lifters struggle to increase their size and strength. If you want to build larger upper arms, targeting the triceps is critical.
We’ll review the best ways to grow triceps to increase your upper body musculature. We’ll also share some of the best triceps exercises, ideal rep ranges, and tips to help you build stronger and bigger triceps.[Read more…]
The 7 Best Long Head Bicep Dumbbell Exercises
Your biceps have two distinct heads – the long head and the short head. The short head is located on your inner upper arm and adds width and density to your biceps. Your long head bicep is on the outer side of your arm and gives your upper arms an impressive peak that adds height and looks great in shirts (or out of them).
If you want a higher bicep peak, focus on including some of the most effective long head bicep exercises. You can train your long head biceps with cables, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and even your own body weight for movements like chin-ups and pull-ups.
What if you are stuck in a small hotel gym with minimal equipment? Or maybe you’re training from home or while on the go.
We’ve got you covered.
We review the best long head bicep exercises using only dumbbells so that you can keep effectively training your biceps peaks anytime, anywhere.[Read more…]
How Much Does a Hex Bar Weigh?
Hex bars, aka trap bars, are becoming more widely used. Popular hex bar exercises include hex or trap bar deadlifts and hex bar shrugs.
But how much does a hex bar weigh? Accurately tracking your weights is essential for progressive overload, especially if your goal is hypertrophy. But without knowing the hex bar weight before adding weight plates, it is hard to precisely track weights over time.
Unfortunately, the weight of a hex bar (or trap bar) differs between various makes and models. Your gym’s brand and type of hex bar will determine its weight.
We’ll review some of the most commonly used hex bars and describe how much they weigh, so you can more accurately track your lifts in the gym.[Read more…]
- Next Page »