This Is the Only Thing That Makes My Abs Sore — and It's Not Even an Ab Exercise

28/01/2018 - 10:14 AM

I used to be one of those women in the gym who spent an exorbitant amount of time doing ab exercises [1]. I would do just about every variation of crunches and sit-ups you could possibly imagine, but they weren't really getting me anywhere, and I never really felt a deep burn in my core. Over the past week, though, I've noticed a huge different in my midsection. My abs are sorer than ever before, and your jaw is going to drop on the floor when you hear what exercise I owe the burn to.

I've been working diligently on my pull-ups lately. My 2018 goal is to knock out a set of eight strict pull-ups, with no band or assistance. It's going to be a long road, but I'm ready for the challenge. Per Tony Horton's advice [2], I've been working on my pull-ups every single day for almost a week now — and my abs have been so sore.

Pull-ups are seen as an upper-body exercise, and that's because they are for the most part. You're using a tremendous amount of upper back strength. But if you really think about it, pull-ups are a big compound exercise, meaning they hit multiple muscle groups at a time. Pull-ups target all of the following [3] body parts: upper back muscles, posterior deltoids (back of the shoulders), forearms, biceps, and abdominals.

When I'm hanging from the bar, trying to pull myself up with all the strength I've got, my abs are contracting really hard, and they're working overtime to help me get the chin above that bar. It's no wonder my core has been on fire lately!

That's why several trainers I've spoken to in the past tell me that they don't prescribe ab routines to their clients. If you stick to compound strength training [4] — that is, exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once, including your abs — you won't need to spend much time at all doing crunches and sit-ups. If you do movements like front squats, pull-ups, and dumbbell thrusters, you'll feel your core fire up in no time.

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