WARNING: Your waist may be getting thicker when using weight with ab exercises.

What exercises work best for bringing out abdominal cuts? Obviously, low body fat percentage isn’t enough. We’ve all seen thin people with absolutely no ab definition.

Hardcore abdominal training alone won’t do it, either, since a stubborn layer of fat can easily camouflage beautiful abs.

Or, maybe you do have a nice six-pack showing, but overall, your waistline is thick.

It’s time to examine your abdominal exercises. If you’re doing weighted ab exercises, STOP.

Just like using weights against your biceps will build a bigger biceps, using weight with ab exercises is bound to build a thicker waist.

I don’t mean crunches holding a 25 pound plate to your chest, but those SIDEBENDS that everyone seems to be doing.

The exercise world swirls with debate regarding just how to work the abs.

It’s a vexing situation for physique and figure athletes because strong abs are important for contests because they have the desired look.

Unfortunately, how abdominals respond to exercise and diet is often genetic, not just in where a person tends to store fat, but the actual shape of abdominal muscles.

But building those muscles with weighted ab routines will make them thicker, bigger. I’ve seen women doing side bends with heavy weights.

A thick waist with muscular development is not as visually attractive as the tight, small waist that has very little fat stores.

Stop the Weighted Side Bends

To get as small a waist and abdominal area as possible, along with visible ab muscles with a lean look, you should incorporate a wide range of exercises that hit the entire abdominal region.

Additionally, it’ll help if you include jumping drills and hard sprints over short distances.

Shutterstock/Razoomanet

Here are some great ab isolating exercises:

  • Cable crunch
  • Decline sit-up (with or without weight)
  • Regular crunch
  • Reverse crunch
  • Ball crunch

As simple as these routines may seem, it’s possible to do them wrong. Cable crunches are a classic example.

Many people get into the position, knees on floor, hands grabbing the rope, but instead of curling in their trunk, they end up performing a bowing motion, sitting on their heels, which works only the lower back. Your body position should be an inverted floor crunch.

For stability ball crunches, make sure your feet remain planted on the floor and that the ball does not move while you crunch.

Rolling the ball backwards as you crunch and forwards as you release is cheating.

V sits should be done without holding onto the bench.

The potential problem with machine crunches is that, as the weight load gets heavier, the user may start yanking through the movement with shoulder and arm muscles, de-isolating the abs.

Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

Ultimately, the best abdominal and waist shrinking exercises are those that blast off the most fat:

  • Big compound and hybrid exercises (e.g., deadlift, squat, chin-up, renegade row, dumbbell squat-to-overhead press, tire flip, leg press)
  • High intensity interval training (e.g., sprints, hill dashes, staircase dashes)

Avoid the heavy side bends.

They may add bulk to your middle.

For any kind of crunching motion, hold the crunch position for two seconds as tightly in as possible before releasing.

Sprinting

How do sprints develop lean, tight, cut abs? Have you ever seen a competitive track sprinter without a six-pack?

It’s not that short-distance specialists do a lot of ab work like crunches and sit-ups.

Their marvelous six-packs come from all the explosive running.

Not only does sprint training recruit fast-twitch muscle fiber, thereby inciting substantial fat-burning over the entire body, but the motion of sprinting works the abdominals in a unique way.

If you’re still not getting the desired results, the obstacle may be in your diet.

Your diet must be clean, including lean protein, lots of fresh vegetables and water, plus avoiding processed foods as much as possible.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.