In the quest for strong abdominal muscles, you might be crunching and planking your heart out regularly. Yet every day when you climb back onto the floor to go after it again, you’re still finding abs exercises incredibly challenging. What gives?
No, this doesn’t mean your abs are inherently weak. But it might be a sign that your workout needs some fine-tuning.
Why form is key to strengthening the abs
The abdominals are stabilizing muscles made up of four main muscle groups—the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques—running along the front of your torso from the ribs to the pelvis. While many people try to strengthen their abs through old standbys like sit-ups and planks, these moves often result in the recruitment of other core muscles to “help,” says Kristie Larson, CPT, a body neutral strength coach in New York City.
“Factors like body positioning and the mobility of your hips and spine can make a big difference in which muscles are being developed,” says Larson. “If someone feels like abs exercises are never getting easier, my first recommendation is to pay attention to where you are feeling the work. If a plank is harder on your quads and shoulders than it is on your abs, then the problem isn’t strength, it’s positioning.”
One of the most common mistakes when doing abs exercises is tilting the pelvis forward, says Sherry McLaughlin, MSPT, CSCS, founder of the