Hardgainer Ab Workout for Stronger Compound Lifts

By Ire | Workout

Dec 27

In this article I will go over Hardgainer Ab Workout. It is a routine that I like to perform at the end of my lifting session. I will describe exactly who should do extra abdominal work, how to do it which exercises. That way you can start implementing it into your workouts straight away.

“Aren’t compound lifts enough?”

Since you are skinny, odds are you probably already have visible abs. So why even bother to do abs?

If you have been reading my blog before, you should understand the importance of compound lifts. Those are exercises that work many muscle groups at the same time, since they are bending more joints during the movement. For example, getting strong in squat will not just work your leg muscles. Your shoulder,back and abs are working just as hard to maintain that bar on your traps. Therefore, dilemma if it is even necessary to add additional abdominal work appears.

muscular guy with define abs climbing out of the pool

In my opinion, a true hardgainer beginner, should really not have to worry about hardgainer ab workout. However, beginners will still have to learn how to perform Valsalva Maneuver (read below). Everything else can be ignored until you reach a point when your lifts are not improving any more. Working with more serious weight, requires seriously strong abdominals. Just performing compound movements, will not offer enough repetitions in order for your abs to truly develop. Therefore, if you have been lifting for quite some, make sure extra ab work is on your program.  Additional ab work will indirectly help you gain more muscle size everywhere on your body.

Ectomorphs have genetically long torso. What that means is that it is more difficult for us to stabilize our bodies during compound lifts. Not being able to do that can lead to lots and lots of back pain during squat or deadlift. Because of that, long torso ectomorphs have to add extra abdominal work, in order to prevent injuries.

Muscular boxer posing for a photo.


In order to understand why the workout is structure a certain way, we need to understand the anatomy.

1. Transverse Abdominis:

Digging all the way underneath your visible abs, we will find Transverse Abdominis. Muscle that offers support and stability during exercises. Many times, they are compared to the lifting belt. If Transverse Abdominis is strong, you have a natural lifting belt which will protect your spine.

2. Rectus Abdominis:

Thinking about abs or six pack, we would generally refer to Rectus Abdominis. It is made up of bellies which gives that six pack look. Rectus Abdominis is essential for good posture. It helps with breathing regulation and it protects internal organs. Its function is flexing lumbar spine. It does that by bringing the chest toward the pelvis or vice versa. That is when we work on either upper or lower abs.

3. Oblique Muscle Group:

On the side of the rectus abdominis lies Oblique Muscle Group that is divided into internal and external obliques. Obliques allow your body to twist and turn.

Anatomy of abdominal muscle


Before performing any heavy compound lifts, we need to learn how to correctly breathe during the lift. Being able to perform Valsalva Maneuver requires abdominal strength by creating intra abdominal pressure.

Many of us were taught to breathe in on eccentric part of the movement and exhaling on the way up. The lack of intra abdominal pressure during that style of breathing will leave your core soft, making your spine vulnerable.
In order to protect your back, you need to learn how to properly breathe during lifting. I have already written a whole article on how to correctly breathe during a squat. But just to quickly summarize:

1. Take a deep “breath down” through you mouth and nose
2. Pull your belly in
3. Push against the force in 360 degree direction
4. Hold breathe through the entire rep (to avoid passing out, not more than 1 rep at the time)

Performing wheel rollouts in order to increase abdominal strength


In order to focus on all muscles in your abdominal region, I like to divide hardgainer ab workout in the following way:



Cable Crunch
Starfish Crunches

Hanging Leg Raises
Dragon Thrust
One Down Two Ups

Pendulum of pain
Weighted Windshield Wipers

Weighted Planks
Ab Wheel
RKC Plank


Since we all know that abs are build in the kitchen, our objective is not to build the most abdominal hypertrophy possible. As I said before, we train abs in order to increase the weight on our compound movements. That is what will eventually lead to less injury and more muscle size. Pavel Tsatsouline (famous strength coach) said that strength is build with anything that is below 5 reps . If we are performing isometric exercises (holding), it is anything that is below 10 seconds. However, during those 5 reps/10 seconds, we should focus on maximum contraction possible. Do not just have enough energy that is needed to perform the movement. Create maximum amount of contraction/ give 100% energy into those 10 seconds or 5 reps. That is why all the exercises above are not your “standard” ab exercises like sit-ups. They are all modified to make them more difficult.

Hardgainer ab workout. Muscular gymnast flexing his abdominal muscles


Hardgainer ab workout should be performed anywhere from 1-3x a week. Because we want to prioritize compound movements, hardgainer ab workout should be done at the end of the session.


One exercise for each muscle group is enough. Perform up to 5 sets. It should not take you more than 15 minutes for the entire thing.


UPPER: 3×5 Cable Crunches
LOWER: 3×5 Dragon Thrust Twist
OBLIQUE: 3×5 Slashers
INNER: 3×10 sec RKC Plank


With all that being said, hopefully you realize the importance of strong abs. Hardgainer ab workout is designed in order to strengthen your abs, so you continue to improve on your compound lifts. Strong compound lifts will add muscle size to big muscle group in your body. Therefore, hardgainer ab workout purpose is to indirectly add muscle size to a skinny, ectomorph body of yours.

Before you do anything, learn how to effectively perform Valsalva Maneuver. Knowing how to create inner abdominal pressure is your best bet to have a stable core during compound movements. This will keep your back protected.

Remember that Hardgainer Ab workout does not act in a way to expose your beach six pack. That is done through right dieting. Clean bulking will allow you to get swole without gaining too much excessive fat, keeping your six pack showing. Because everybody knows that having a six-pack when you are skinny is just as legit as a a big lady with huge knockers.



About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

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