Abdominals 101: the anatomy of your abs and which ab exercises work

Abdominals, abs, torso – we know what we want it to look like; lean, flat and defined. However, it is important to learn the anatomy of them so that you can understand where you might be going wrong and educating yourself on which exercise effects which group.

I specifically chose to do an ab challenge because it is one of the muscle groups I myself struggle with especially after the birth of my perfect little Noah. I do believe however, if you put in the work you will get the results!

Before we jump in with the rest of ab blog series, we need to understand the anatomy of your abdominals.

Abdominals, ab exercises

What is the Abdominal muscle?

“Any of the muscles of the anterolateral walls of the abdominal cavity, composed of three flat muscular sheets, from without inward: external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominis (attach at lower back and can’t be worked in isolation but contracts when the others are used), supplemented in front on each side of the midline by rectus abdominis.” – Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The abdominal muscles are located between the ribs and the pelvis on the front of the body. The abdominal muscles support the trunk, allow movement and hold organs in place by regulating internal abdominal pressure.” – Better Health Channel

Why is it so important to know the structure of a muscle?

Well to effectively strengthen, define, stretch and recuperate a muscle group, a rudimentary knowledge of the anatomy and working/movement of that muscle group is key. Abdominal strength and definition come from performing a variety of exercises correctly in a consistent well-rounded routine.

The abdominals cannot work entirely separate (if you are focusing on one you are most certainly using one or more of the others as stabilisers. As I previously explained keep in mind the transverse abdominis are used constantly in these moves but never on its own.
With that said, what you’ll find next are the most effective moves for awesome abs!

Primary Muscle group targeted: Upper Portion of the Rectus Abdominis

  1. Crunch
  2. Segmented double crunch
  3. Crunch with toe touch
  4. Bent leg lying jack-knifes
  5. V-Sit

Primary Muscle Group targeted: Lower Portion of the Rectus Abdominis

  1. Leg Raises
  2. Up down dog
  3. Pike
  4. Reverse crunch
  5. Mountain Climbers

Primary Muscle group targeted: External and Internal Obliques

  1. Plank Twists
  2. Side Planks/weighted side planks
  3. Side Crunch
  4. Leg Rolls
  5. Bicycles

Exercises Where the Transverse Abdominis is key for stability and balance:

  1. Low plank
  2. High plank
  3. Plank with leg lift
  4. Plank with hand lift
  5. Plank with toe touch

Don’t be afraid to add variety in the form of weight and amount of reps or circuits that you complete. If it’s not fun, you’re more likely to abandon your new found routine. These exercises are definitely some of my favourites and they always keep me coming back for more.

ab exercises for different abdominals

The 21 Day Ab Challenge: All of The Ab Exercises That YOU Need

In the beginning of April we kicked off April with 21 day ab challenge. But don’t worry if you never got the chance to start with everyone else. Challenge a friend to join you and get crunching! Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook!

Until next time,


Ab Challenge. Blog. Nutrition blog and fitness blog. Abdominals

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