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How to Use an Ab Bench To Strengthen Your Core

When you think of someone who’s shredded, what’s the first thing you think of? Is it their huge chest? Their bulging biceps? The tree trunks that they call their legs?

It’s their six-pack abs, isn’t it? Six-packs are the envy of many gym goers. And beyond the aesthetic benefit, having a strong, developed core can help when it comes to the strength, flexibility, and endurance needed during your workout session and throughout the day.

You can do a lot of ab work with just your body and some space, but an ab bench provides you with comfort and stability throughout your core workout. To that end, this guide will teach you how to use ab bench exercises to optimize your fitness routine.

Using an Ab Bench

Before digging into potential abdominal exercises you can perform with an ab bench, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the ab bench itself and how to use sit up bench equipment.

Compared to an incline vs flat bench, an ab bench shares some level of resemblance, but it’s set at a declined angle and is often adjustable. They also tend to have padded areas for your legs to slide over and for your feet to hook into.

To start using an ab bench, you’ll want to lay down across the workout bench so that your head is at the low end of the bench that’s closer to the floor. To do this, hook your feet around the footpads at the high end of the bench and place your knees above the knee pads. Your back should rest comfortably along the bench.

Targeted Muscles and Tips

Ab exercises can work several different core muscles, however, three muscles tend to do the majority of the work during most ab exercises:1

  • Rectus abdominis – These are your main abdominal muscles. They are located in the front of your body, at your stomach, and are responsible for the formation of the six-pack shape.

  • Obliques – Go to the side of the rectus abdominis and you’ll find your obliques. These are not as visible as the six-pack muscles (although people with a low body fat percentage may see them) but they are important. They help you stabilize and control your ability to twist from your core.

  • Hip flexors – Your hip flexors are a combination of muscles, such as the rectus femoris and sartorius, that allows you to move your hip joint in and lift your leg to your chest.2

 

When using an ab bench vs a flat utility bench or fid bench, you want to focus on exercising your rectus abdominis and your obliques. Too much hip flexor usage can lead to tight hips, cause a pull on the lower vertebrae of your spine, and lead to back pain.3 

To avoid this, focus on getting to 90 degrees when sitting up and no farther. Also, even though your feet are hooked, do not use them as an anchor point and push into them. Following these two tips will keep the focus of your movement on your abs, where it belongs.

Exercises Using an Ab Bench

While the ab bench is a versatile piece of exercise equipment used to perform a variety of weight bench exercises that target different areas of your body, it’s best suited for high-intensity ab workouts.

To that end, here are three abdominal exercises you can do on an ab bench to start lighting up your core muscles.

#1 Decline Crunch

This is a classic spin on the normal crunch. But the declined angle of the bench puts a greater focus on your abs and makes the crunch more difficult to perform.

To perform this core exercise, simply lift your trunk toward your knees until you get to 90 degrees, then return to the starting position. This is a great way to target your upper rectus abdominis.

When practicing any core exercise, it’s important to adhere to safety protocols. As such, heed the following:

  • Initiate the lift from your abs. Avoid using your legs or putting stress on your hip flexors. Also, be careful not to pull your neck during your core workout to avoid a painful injury.

  • Keep a deliberate pace. It’s not a race. Keeping a slower pace will help you maintain form and get the most out of the exercise.
  • Increase the incline for high intensity. Or, for those looking for even more of a challenge, hold a plate or dumbbell to add resistance.

#2 Twisting Decline Crunch

While a twisting decline ab crunch targets each of your abdominal muscles, it primarily puts focus on your rectus abdominal muscle and obliques, which run along the sides of your abdomen.

To perform a twisting decline ab crunch is fairly simple: On your first rep, twist your abdomen so that your right elbow moves toward your left knee. On your second, twist the other way. Then repeat until you feel resistance.

Helpful Tip: Don’t only twist from your elbows. Be sure that your rotation is being initiated by your obliques. Your shoulders and arms shouldn’t be moving. Instead, your core will be twisting and your arms follow.

#3 Incline Leg Raise

If you want to hit your lower abs, you’ll need to adjust your positioning. For this exercise, place your head at the high end of the adjustable weight bench and hold the leg braces with your hands. Now lift your legs to the sky, initiating the movement from your abs. If you do this right you should feel a burn in your lower abs.4

A few tips:

  • Focus on moving your pelvis off the bench, using your abs to focus the exercise. Your hip flexors will get involved here but you still want to keep them from dominating.

  • Avoid momentum. It’s tempting to swing your legs to complete the exercise but avoid this temptation as it will decrease the exercise’s effectiveness.

  • Your legs will serve as natural weights that offer resistance. If you want to add to this you can grip a dumbbell with your feet but be careful as the dumbbell will drop on you if you lose control. Weighted ankle bands can be a safer alternative when performing an incline leg raise.

Ab Benches from Tru Grit

Now that you know some of the benefits of an ab bench, it’s time to start incorporating one into your core strengthening routine. Tru Grit’s Total Ab Adjustable Bench is perfect for beginners and advanced lifters alike. The ability to adjust the incline will let you dial in your difficulty, and you can also make it lie flat for a multidimensional workout.

Creating the perfect core training routine requires commitment as well as some trial and error to find the best exercise for you. Begin your fitness journey with Tru Grit.


Sources:

Sports Rec. How to Use an AB Bench. https://www.sportsrec.com/5296734/how-to-use-an-ab-bench 

Healthline. How to Do Decline Situps With and Without a Bench. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/decline-sit-ups#muscles-worked 

Science Direct. Arthroscopic and Open Anatomy of the Hip. https://www.sciencedirect.com/sdfe/pdf/download/eid/3-s2.0-B9781416056423000025/first-page-pdf 

Ace Fitness. Why does my back hurt when I do sit-ups? Am I doing something wrong or should I avoid them? https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/667/why-does-my-back-hurt-when-i-do-sit-ups-am-i-doing-something-wrong-or-should-i-avoid-them/ 

Live Strong. Ways to Effectively Use a Sit-Up Bench. https://www.livestrong.com/article/130347-effectively-use-sit-up-bench/ 

Born to Workout. Incline Leg Raise: What is it, How to do, Muscles Worked. https://www.borntoworkout.com/incline-leg-raise-what-is-it-how-to-do-muscles-worked/ 

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