The Ignored Muscle Groups (Part 2)

Calves | Abs | Forearms

In this three-part program, we’ll go over the three least trained muscle groups.  These are the muscles that everyone throws in a couple half-effort sets at the end of their workout.  Or, they don’t train them at all.  The idea behind this program is to give calves, abs and forearms their own day.  This way, all your effort is put into these muscle groups compared to barely training them.

Second part of the program is abs.  Now, I get that many people train their abs and some people may believe this isn’t an ignored muscle group.  Maybe that’s true.  But do they REALLY train their abs with intensity and to failure?  Or do they do their set of 100 crunches and call it a day?  Those workouts won’t get it done.  The abdominal muscles are no different than the other muscles in your body.  They need to be trained to failure and need rest if you want to see any improvement.  Not some light ab work at the end of every session while lying on the ground.

Here’s the workout:

Sets Reps
Twisting Hanging Leg Raise 3 10 (each side)
Hanging Leg Raise 3 10
Serratus Hip Raise (on a dip bar) 3 10
Cable Crunch 3 10

Twisting Hanging Leg Raise

I start the ab section of the workout with these.  I find the twisting leg raises to be the most demanding, that’s why they come first.  The hanging version of this exercise is the hardest variation.  If it is too difficult for you to complete all your reps, you can try with bent knees, on a roman chair, or even on a decline bench.  I see many people doing a similar leg raise, but they just move their legs from side to side.  I like to do each side separately, 10 each side.  I focus on the bottom of the exercise to have my toes pointing to the left, and at the top of the movement, my toes point to the right (and the opposite for the other side).  This really forces me to twist my body and really engage my obliques. The main focus here is to raise your legs high enough that your feet are above your butt and that you maintain control throughout the whole movement. (In other words, try to keep your body still and not swing.)

Hanging Leg Raise

After completing the twisting leg raise, the straight forward leg raise will feel much harder than normal.  Again, if these are too difficult, move to an easier version stated before.  This exercise is one of the best for targeting the lower rectus abdominis.  Same rules apply here.  Get the legs above the butt and don’t allow your body to swing!

Serratus Hip Raise

This is a different exercise that I’m sure many have never tried.  Often ignored when training core, the serratus anterior muscles are the finger-like muscles that sit along the rib cage, just below the pec muscles.  They are best engaged when the scapula is protracted (aka pulled apart).  To do this, you hang on a dip bar with arms straight and your shoulders relaxed.  Then, to engage the serratus, you raise your body without moving your arms (follow the pictures below).  The final part of this movement is to suck in and pull your hips back as high as you can.  This is a very advanced movement.  If you can’t raise your hips very high, that’s okay.  Just do the best you can.  If you can’t raise your hips at all, just focus on engaging the serratus and holding it until you can progress.

Cable Crunch

This is a very common ab exercise and, if done correctly, one of the best for the upper portion of the rectus abdominis.  A few errors that are common are sitting your butt back as you perform the exercise or strictly bending at the waist.  Cable crunches are one of the few exercises where maintaining a neutral spine is incorrect.  The back should round while performing these.  I like to stretch up as far as I can by arching my back.  When I contract downward, I think about each vertebrae rounding, starting at the top of my back and working my way down.  I promise after 3 sets of 20 on this, your abs will be feeling it!

3-Part Series