What about abs?

For the CrossFit OGs out there, the title of this blog will immediately conjure up memories of Coach Glassman’s famous lecture on the matter. The question is something that dominates the minds of people both in the gym and those who are not. We routinely engage in ab exercises, but of course it doesn’t dominate our program nor do we use the exercises you’ll see people do in traditional gym settings.

The role of the abs in any exercise is that of flexing the trunk. If you stand up and then just slouch forward you will be contracting your abs. Yes, this very simple almost lazy movement is your abs engaging in their primary role. Funny how that is quite the opposite of what we perceive “strong” abs to be. The sit-up or crunch will dominate traditional programs because people are convinced this is the way to the ever-elusive six-pack.

CrossFit has a very different desire for the abs, and it extends that demand out to even more muscle groups that have a role in trunk/hip flexion – the hip flexors. The iliopsoas and rectus femoris. The role we’re concerned with and very interested in is the ability of your abs to maintain midline stabilization during hip flexion. This is why we use exercises like toe to bar, ghd sit-up, and L-sits to train the abs. This exercises force a contraction not only from the abs in closing the hip, but also the muscles of the hip flexor which are largely ignored in traditional gym ab exercises. The hip flexors’ ability to violently close the hip is of real value in athletic endeavors such as running, jumping, and weightlifting. The abs are often being worked just as hard when performing some of our favorite movements like front and overhead squats. Try doing a set of 10 heavy front squats, and I promise you will feel your abs the next day. Resisting the shear forces on the trunk as you squat is precisely what happens when we do L-sits.

The visual aspect of the abs is purely aesthetic and really only capable of attaining once you’ve learned how to only eat enough to support lean body mass. The strength of the abs is where the real bang for your buck is and that is gained through midline stabilization.


To learn more about the strength of your abs, and how you can get the best use of them, email us – jobie@crossfitvirilis.com.