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  • Clem Duranseaud

can you isolate your lower abs in a workout?


Clem doing and abs workout at home

The lower abs are one of the toughest areas to get muscle definition. Can we isolate them with proper exercise selection or is getting our lower abdominals to pop a disconsolate quest?


In this articles


Lower abs anatomy


Your lower abs are part of the rectus abdominis, which is one big muscle that extends from your sternum down to your pubic bone.


It is intersected by three horizontal tendinous intersections and the vertical linea alba which gives it it's six pack appearance.


The linea alba and tendinous intersections are connective tissues, we cannot train them to look a certain way.


Abdominal anatomy, lower abs, obliques, core muscles and six pack
Abdominal anatomy

Essentially, your six pack is one muscle. Not 6 individual ones.


We should start to see here that isolating one part of it, be it lower, upper or middle abs will be challenging. It's like saying you want to isolate the part of you bicep that is closer to your elbow...


My understanding of what people want when they say "lower abs" is to see definition around and below the belly button.

Chiseled six pack
This is not me 😅

What does the research say


The research points towards the conclusion that yes, you can engage your lower abs more than you upper ones in certain exercises.


All articles are linked at the end, but essentially, your lower abs seem to engage more when there is a posterior pelvic tilt involved.


This means that exercises like leg raises, flutter kicks, hanging leg raises, GHD sit ups will make you feel your lower abs more than your upper ones.


Ok so the research says it is possible, and I'm here to ask you: should you even spend time isolating them?


Let's look at what it takes for them to be defined before answering this.


How to make your lower abs defined


Lower abs definition is the epitome of the saying "you cannot out train a bad diet".


If your diet is not precisely locked in and adhered to on the long term, you will not see any definition around and bellow your belly button.


The reason being that your lower abdomen is where your body will use it's fat stores last.


I won't dive into the complicated explanations of fat storage in different areas of your body, but from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that your body stores fat first around your abdomen in order to protect our guts, which are vital to our survival.


You could have very defined upper body and legs and still not see definition in your six pack.


To start seeing definition in that area of your midsection, you need to have under 10% of body fat. To see your upper abs pop out on the other hand, requires a more achievable 15% body fat.


Those last 5% are extremely tough (but very doable) and require your nutrition to be on point for a very long time.


My recommendations


Chiseling your abs takes time, patiences and consistency. The key to consistency is to do things you enjoy.


Before even thinking about training your lower abs, you must be:

  1. Diligent with your diet. Eating at least 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight, knowing how many cheat meals to have according to your goals and doing this for months in a row.

  2. Have a sound training routine with a good mix of strength training and cardio. Knowing how to track your progress and knowing when to push yourself would also be a big bonus at this stage.


Now, if you have been doing these two for at least 2-3 months, and if you have extra time to work on your abs, and if those extra workouts bring you happiness, then yea, go for it and isolate those lower abs.


Keep in mind that if you do in fact have time to spare for those lower abs, could you use that time more efficiently to reach the same goal?


For example, if you allocate an extra 15 minutes to specific ab workouts, could that time be better spent doing cardio or HIIT? Both of those will burn way more calories than ab work, which in turn can help you go down in body fat.



Should you train lower abs?
Should you train lower abs?

*The flow chart is purposely complicated to illustrate the fact that isolating abs should not be your first priority if getting a visible six pack is your goal.


Conclusion


Isolating your lower abs is tempting, especially if you want to have a defined mid section.


I personally think it's a waste of time. You already train your abs whenever you do heavy compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, lunges, over head presses just to name a few.


If you have extra time to spend on more training, I think there are better ways to spend your time in order to see definition in your lower abs. Cardio and HIIT both burn more calories, which will help you see more chiseled abs if done properly.


Using that time to meal prep or get better at cooking is also time well spent in my opinion.


Realistically, I think specific lower abs training should only be done:

  • If you body build

  • If you have loads of time to spare

  • If it really, really makes you happy


Remember that ANY ab workout will work your lower abs. So if you find yourself training abs all the time and not seeing any definition, start taking a serious look at your diet.


To sum up, can you isolate lower abs? Yes. Should you? Probably not.


Happy training,


Clem


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