All About Abs 1 – The Essential Basics

all about abs

This is a four part series which is all about abs. In this series I will be going over the essential basics, the best exercises, the right diet and some lesser known tips for getting your best midsection ever. If you want to get a toned and sexy set of abs then this is the place to start.

This is the first part of the series and will cover all the essential basics of abdominal training.

All about Abs – the background to this series

The sheer volume of emails that I get about training the abs is amazing. Women really want to achieve a flat and firm stomach but many of them have no idea where to start. And the internet isn’t usually much help. The abs industry in particular if filled with sites that are trying to sell products and abdominal information that is outdated or just plain wrong.

For these reasons I wanted to write a series of abs posts that would become the foundation and core of many women’s abs training. I wanted to create a definitive guide that women could use for their abs training and refer back to whenever they needed some inspiration or motivation.

I have made sure this series of posts is full of original and factual content that is not aimed at hyping anything up but rather aimed at giving you the best possible method of toning and developing your midsection.

All about abs 1 – the basics are THE most important step

The thing about the internet that really cheeses me off is that people will encounter a website or blog and see some workout that promises to tone your abs and then go and do it without really knowing how or why to do it properly. The internet loves to hype up workouts and exercises as they see it as a way to attract readers. I think it is dishonest. It gives women false hope and provides half-baked information that doesn’t really help anyone.

This is why the basics are so important. So you don’t get lost and so you don’t waste your time.

Think about your car. When you want to drive you first learn the road rules and then you sit a written test. After you pass that you go out with a teacher and learn to drive the car. You learn about the keys, the gears and how the car works. Driving doesn’t actually happen until you have done months of preperation. Imagine if you bypassed all those steps and instead jumped into a Forumla One racing car and took off! Disaster. This is what many women do with their abs training. They skip the basics and jump right into the advanced stuff without having any idea why they are doing it.

So, make sure you learn the basics well. If you do you will find that progress comes quicker and you will be less likely to give up because you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere.

All about abs basics

Here are the most important basics that you need to learn, memorize and master if you want to quickly progress along the path towards a firm, flat and toned set of abs.

1. Know where the abs are and how they work

As with any muscle it is important to know exactly what you are working with when you are trying to develop your abs. I am always surprised at how little people seem to know about their abdominals. They do not realise that is is possible to target your lower and upper abs and that you can remove your obliques (the love handle area) from most exercises by using proper technique.

This is where the abdominal muscles are located and what they look like.

The abdominal muscle region

This image from Wiki shows that the abdominal muscles are quite large and run up from the pubic bone to below the chest and insert into several of the lower ribs. It should be noted that it is the area in red that needs to be targeted when we exercise, not the sides.

2. Know that exercise alone cannot produce flat abs

This is one of the most important basic points about abs that I want to share with my readers. If you know this point you will save yourself a lot of time and possibly a lot of heart ache.

The abdominal muscles are underneath a lot of fat. Many women think that if they want to get sexy abs they need to just do some abs exercises and they will appear. However, this is a misconception. The fat on top of the abs will always stop your abs from being visible

This means that you need to give due consideration to fat loss when you are trying to develop some nice abs. It doesn’t matter if you do hundreds of crunches everyday; if you go out and have Burger King and beer afterwards it is unlikely that you will have a nice flat tummy.

However, what this doesn’t mean is that abs exercises are not important. They are. Women need to recognize that abs development is a delicate balance of resistance exercises, cardio and diet. Without all three progress is slow.

3. Learn correct meaning of ‘reps’
This is another big point that is vital for developing your abs. I was talking to a friend once who was telling me about their abs program. She said she did 12 reps for each set but this 12 didn’t really bring and burn. I said, “well, why don’t you add more weight?” and she said “because the program says to do 12 reps”. Confusing?

When a workout program tells you to do a certain amount of reps it usually means you ‘fail’ at this number (cannot do anymore). It does not mean you do 12 reps at any speed and magically your abs will appear! When I mentioned this in an article a few months ago I got a barrage of emails and comments from women telling me they never knew this. I was shocked.

Next time you do your abs workout you need to take notice of how you feel after a certain number of reps. If the workout tells you to do 12 reps but you feel like you could do 100 then you need to add some weight so that it becomes difficult to do 12. For example, when I first started doing crunches I could only do 20 slow ones before I needed a rest. Now I need a heavy weight disc on my chest before the same 20 starts to hurt. This is how we progress.

4. Master the correct abs crunching technique

The basic movement for each abs exercise is the same. Whether you are doing a crunch, decline crunch, fitness ball crunch, rope crunch, twisting sit ups, etc. the essential movement is the same. It is vital that you master it.

If you watch a new-comer to abs training do their sets you will see that they tend to go up and down like a see-saw. They also do it at a quick speed trying to get out as many as possible. This is one of the least productive ways to work on your abs.

The correct technique for most abs exercises involves a rolling motion where you curl your torso much like you would if you were rolling up a newspaper. You start with your head, neck and shoulders and curl it towards your legs so that you can give your abdominal muscles the maximum crunch effect.

The reason this movement is so crucial is because of the way the abdominal muscles are formed and the way they work. If you do your crunches and sit-ups in this fashion you hit the muscles much harder and as such make your progress move along much quicker.

The correct technique also involves getting the speed right. The abs are just like any other muscle in that they need to be worked out slowly and with control. One must learn to tense the abs and perform each rep with concentrated contraction of the muscles. Do not try to rush through the set and wear out your abs in a hurry. While this might seem like a good idea at first training the abs quickly often compromises your technique and takes the emphasis off of the abdominal area. And, you don’t want to put all that effort into the set only to find out you aren’t really targeting the abs. Don’t waste your time.

5. Workout the lower abs first, always

When people first get into abs training they think that the abs are just one big muscle and that the only exercise you really need to do is sit ups. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

You might notice on your own body that there is little or no definition on the lower area of your abdominals down near your pelvic region. This is quite common and the reason for this is that your lower abdominals store most of the fat. Both men and women have more fat on their lower stomach than most other places.

Another reason for this is that the lower abdominal muscles are not as developed. We do not use them as much and as such they do not show through. The are also weaker than the upper abs.

All of these reasons mean that when you workout your abs you should do the exercises that target the lower abs first in your routine. If you do an upper abs exercise (like the crunch) first then by the time you get around to hitting the lower abs they will be too tired to handle the amount of weight/work that they need to truly develop.

6. Know that perfect abs don’t come quick
I am often a little surprised at how some people write to me asking how they can get awesome abs in under two weeks. While I love to see such enthusiasm I feel a little sorry for these people as I know they are going to be disappointed.

Developing some sexy abs is a long process that involves losing weight and building muscle. This means you have to get your diet right, cardio right and then master some helpful exercises. It is not an easy process and it does not happen overnight.

My reason for saying this is not to depress you! I just want the women who are starting out on their abs journey to realize that it is a long process that will take some time and a lot of hard work. If you are not prepared to put in that hard work then do not be shocked when you don’t get anywhere.

However, if you ARE prepared to do some hard work and stick at it then with the right information you can ge some sexy abs. Anyone can. It is not something that only some people can do. Everyone can do it.

Questions about abs? Ask us on our new Women’s Fitness Forum!

The basics really are so very important if you want to succeed in developing your abs. Learn them well and do lots of research so you know that the information you have is correct. The other three parts to this series are an excellent place to start.

The full series is: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4.

About Katie

Katie has transformed her body from a flabby 186lbs, to a fit & toned 124 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Katie joined the Lean Curves team in 2007 and has posted hundreds of articles on fitness, fat loss and healthy eating.


  1. Jamie says:

    This is an amazing post. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite so detailed and heart-felt about abs training on the net before. I really appreciate the honesty in this one. I am particularly impressed by the reps point which I also had not thought about even though it seems so simple. Thanks.

  2. alice_21 says:

    FREAKEN AWESOME! I just found your site on Digg and I have subscribed to your feed and will be back. AWESOME!

  3. Sarah says:

    I worry about what you just said with rolling when you are doing crunches.

    I completely agree – it works the muscles the most, but it is also dangerous for those who have back problems (I have heard it could make them worse/potentially give them to you if you are not careful)

    So – perhaps a little warning to ask a personal trainer or something else is necessary before just saying that people new to the exercise are the only ones who do see-saw motions – some are trying to prevent strain on the back muscles/they may instead just hold a position rather than rolling at all. Etc etc.

  4. RT says:

    Sarah. I would like to hear more about what you are saying because I am under the impression that the see-saw motion and anything else other than rolling will cause back problems.

    Do you have a source?


  5. nazly says:

    hi im so glad i found out all this information its really good… i need help i dont know what diet i can do or what workouts i could do… please give me futher information..
    thank you

  6. Anjali says:

    i liked the points noted here. and will try it out.
    because i am also not able to get right results inspite of the fact that i m doing hard work.
    lets see if it works.

  7. asia says:

    hi, i was wondering if you had a specific workout that you do reguarly to have nice abs?

  8. Cindy says:

    Excellent article! So glad I found this site. Thanks.

  9. stela says:

    Brilliant explanation….this article has helped me 2 see what was it that i was doing wrong. Answered all my doubts…thanks!

  10. Teresa says:

    Thank you for your instruction . It is excellent article


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