But just because we might have a little bit more belly fat after turning 50, there is no reason we can’t get great abs at any age! But beyond just the aesthetic appeal of shredded abs, having a strong core is vital to overall health.
As we get into our middle and later years, gravity starts to affect us more and more. In this stage of life, core strength becomes even more important.
When most people picture the abdominal muscles in their mind, they think of the “6-pack” muscles. However, the abs are technically made up of a few different muscles, and each one is important to emphasize in ab workouts.
The rectus abdominis is likely the most recognizable and most well-known of the abdominal muscles. This muscle makes up the “6-pack”, described in the previous paragraph. It runs on top of the deeper muscles of the abdomen and covers most of the lower portion of the trunk.
The primary function of the rectus abdominis is to flex or bend the trunk. This is the motion one does when performing a crunch, sit-up, or similar core workout.
On either side of the rectus abdominis, you’ll find smaller, but still, recognizable muscles known as the obliques. The obliques are separated into internal and external obliques, but for the purposes of this article, the obliques can be considered as a whole unit.
When the obliques on both sides of the trunk work together, they help the rectus abdominis flex the trunk. When one side of the obliques is isolated, the result is side flexion and rotation of the trunk. Therefore, movements such as twisting and side bending heavily emphasize the oblique muscles.
Odds are, you are unfamiliar with the transversus abdominis muscle. Unless, of course, you’re a doctor, physical therapist, or just very interested in muscular anatomy.
The transversus abdominis lies deep underneath the rectus abdominis. In fact, one would have a very tough time seeing this muscle, except on a diagram.
But despite the general lack of awareness about the TA, everyone should be performing exercises to strengthen this muscle. It has a significant impact on spinal health and also has connections to the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Generally, this muscle acts to support the spine as well as the organs found lying beneath it. Additionally, the TA assists with the rotation of the trunk.
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- The 7 Most Important Exercises for Men Over 40
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The Best Abs Workout For Men Over 50
In the previous section, we talked about the specific functions of the abdominal muscles. However, the truly important function of the abs is to support the body during movement. This support can help prevent injuries as well as increase performance.
For this reason, many of the exercises in the next section will not necessarily be isolation exercises. Rather, most of the exercises will force the abs to stabilize the spine during the movements in question.
So, with any of these exercises that follow (and any exercises you perform for any muscle group) ensure that you have proper form and that you keep your abs engaged.
15-Minute Abs Workout
The routine that follows can be performed between 2-4 times a week. You’ll want to rest 30-60 seconds between sets and exercises.
Again, the focus of these movements is to activate the core. Therefore, while you might not necessarily “feel the burn” in your abs on every movement, you should attempt to keep your abdominal muscles stable and strong throughout each exercise.
Over time, this workout* (when combined with an effective diet) will help you to achieve the shredded abs you’ve always dreamed of.
*Before beginning this or any exercise program, you should always consult with your doctor or trained exercise professional. No information provided in this article is a substitute for a medical evaluation by a qualified medical practitioner.
1. Barbell Squat
Squats engage many muscles throughout the entire body. Obviously, the legs power the movement, but the core has to be strong for you to maintain your spinal alignment while supporting the extra weight of the barbell.
- Primary: glutes, quads, calves (triple extensor group)
- Secondary: rectus abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, transversus abdominis
- Parameters: Select a weight with which you can perform between 8-15 repetitions. Perform 3-5 sets per session, 2-4 Sessions per week.
How to Perform
- With the barbell positioned comfortably on the back of your shoulders, squat down slowly.
- Ensure that you keep your trunk stable, do not allow your back to round.
- Once you’ve squatted to the point where your thighs are roughly parallel with the floor, stand back up slowly to finish the repetition.
- Maintain a strong, solid core throughout the entire exercise.
2. Side Plank Oblique Crunch
This exercise crushes the obliques, while also emphasizing the shoulders and many other muscle groups. When you are forced to balance and stabilize, the abs kick into high gear!
- Target Muscles: Obliques, lats, various shoulder muscles
- Parameters: Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side, 3-5 sets per session, 2-4 times a week.
If it is too difficult for you to perform the movement while your feet are on the bench, start on a lower surface or even on the floor.
How to Perform
- Lying on your side, with your feet stacked on a slightly elevated surface, place your forearm flat on the ground.
- Raise your hips straight up toward the ceiling, keeping your obliques strongly contracted throughout the movement.
- Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position, ensuring that you don’t move too quickly through the negative phase of the movement (this is where a lot of the benefit comes from!)
3. Hanging Leg Raise
Hanging does wonders for your ab strength, grip strength, lat strength, and just about everything else. Adding a leg raise to the equation turns this into a nice lower abs workout as well.
- Target Muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors, forearm muscles.
- Parameters: If possible, find a bar of medium circumference, which will challenge your grip, but not be too difficult to hold. Perform 10-15 leg raises per set, 3-5 sets per session, 2-4 sessions per week.
How to Perform
- Grasping the bar with both hands, hang downward without letting your shoulders completely “sink” (i.e. keep your back and shoulder muscles engaged).
- Slowly lift your knees upward, toward your chest.
- Limit yourself from swinging as much as possible.
- Slowly lower your legs back down to the start, completing the repetition.
4. Weighted Seated Twist
Truthfully, this exercise can be performed on the ground, in a chair, or in standing. But completing this exercise on a stability ball takes it to a whole new level!
- Target Muscles: Obliques, transversus abdominis, many shoulders, leg, and foot muscles.
- Parameters: Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3-5 sets per session, 2-4 sessions per week. Select a weight that is challenging, but does not cause risk for injury, should you lose your balance on the ball.
How to Perform
- Seated on a stability ball (or surface of your choosing), grasp a weight, holding it slightly above hip level.
- Rotate trunk and weight simultaneously, keeping trunk straight and stable.
- A rotation to both sides is considered one repetition.
- Be careful with this exercise. If you feel uncomfortable, start with a wider stance and slowly inch your legs inward as your exercise performance and stability improve.
5. Seated Dumbbell Decline Overhead Situp
No abdominal workout is complete without some sort of sit-up. This variation takes sit-ups well beyond the gym class version.
- Target Muscles: Rectus abdominis, many shoulder muscles, obliques, hip flexors.
- Parameters: Select a decline angle and weight that is comfortable for you. You don’t have to be hanging upside down to start. A little bit of decline goes a long way on this one. Perform 10-15 repetitions per set, 3-5 sets per session, 2-4 sessions per week.
How to Perform
- Hooking your legs into the decline bench, ensure that you have a firm grasp on your dumbbell or weight of choice.
- Keeping your arms straight throughout the movement, start lying down.
- Sit all the way up, adjusting your arms so that they are straight overhead.
- Return to the starting position to complete the rep.
For men over 50, it can be hard to find a challenging and effective ab workout. The above home ab workout can be done by men everywhere and will lead to a stronger core.
With a stronger core comes a healthier, happier person overall!
Also, check out:
- JafariNasabian, P., Inglis, J. E., Reilly, W., Kelly, O. J., & Ilich, J. Z. (2017). Aging human body: changes in bone, muscle and body fat with consequent changes in nutrient intake, Journal of Endocrinology, 234(1), R37-R51. Retrieved Dec 11, 2021, from https://joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/234/1/R37.xml
- Tajiri, K., Huo, M., & Maruyama, H. (2014). Effects of Co-contraction of Both Transverse Abdominal Muscle and Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises for Stress Urinary Incontinence: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of physical therapy science, 26(8), 1161–1163. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.26.1161
- Huxel Bliven, K. C., & Anderson, B. E. (2013). Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports health, 5(6), 514–522. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738113481200