I was quite surprised to discover that this was such a commonly-asked question, “Should I Train Abs While Bulking?”
I guess most lifters view bulking as a way to gain weight and add as much muscle mass as possible.
However, as you’re eating at a calories surplus you’ll typically also gain body fat as well.
So, this begs the question whether it’s worth your while training abs if your midsection is going to be covered in a layer of body fat while you bulk.
Allow me to explain the ins-and-outs of training abs while bulking.
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Should I Train Abs While Bulking?
You should train your abs while bulking. The abs are a muscle group just like any other, and therefore require regular training for strength, hypertrophy, and aesthetic appeal. In fact, training your abs and core can carry over into many of the big lifts. The stronger your core the better you’ll be able to perform certain lifts like squats, deadlifts, overhead press, etc. Furthermore, you can recover quickly from ab training and it won’t impact on your Central Nervous System. Therefore, it won’t affect your main muscle-building workouts.
1. Your Abs Are a Muscle Group Just Like Any Other
Firstly, I have to say that the abs are a muscle group just like any other.
So, in order to have a great set of abs you still have to train them.
With that being said, great abs that are visible are typically associated with lower levels of body fat.
In other words, you can train the abs as hard as you like, but if they’re covered in a layer of fat you’ll never see them.
And lower levels of body fat are more attuned to a cutting phase.
I guess this is why you’re probably wondering whether it’s worthwhile training your abs while you’re bulking.
I mean, your main aim is to consume more calories in order to gain weight and hopefully add more lean muscle mass to your frame.
So, it’s almost as though hoping to see your abs during a bulk is counterintuitive.
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But, you still need to keep in mind that your abs and core are still a muscle group.
Therefore, they are just as important as any other muscle group regardless of your training goals.
This is especially true if you’re training for symmetry or aesthetic purposes.
With that being said, the vast majority of lifts stem from the core in the first place.
So, having strong and well-trained abs is a must.
2. Ab Training to Improve Your Main Lifts
I’ve just mentioned that most lifts stem from the core.
In fact, you could say that every single movement we make has some type of core involvement.
This includes walking, bending over to pick something up, and even reaching up to grab something from a shelf.
In other words, you use your core throughout the day, often without even realising it.
So, even something as simple as walking, bending over, stretching upwards, etc. can be more difficult if you have weak core muscles.
And this is even more true when it comes to lifting weights.
Basically, the stronger your abs and core are, the easier you will find many of the lifts you’ll be performing in the gym.
If you think about it, while you’re looking to gain weight and add muscle mass you’ll have a huge concentration on the big compound lifts.
These are the lifts that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
In the main, I’m talking about:
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Pull Ups
These exercises are the bread and butter of building muscle and strength.
And it just so happens that every one of these exercises (and their variations) relies on the core.
So, the better trained your abs and core are, the better you can perform these lifts.
The better you can perform these lifts, the more weight you can use.
And the more weight you can use, the bigger and stronger you can get.
So, hopefully you can see just how important it is to train abs while bulking.
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3. How Often Should You Train Abs While Bulking?
As I’ve alluded to above, the abs are a muscle group just like any other.
Therefore, you should train them in exactly the same way.
So, as an example, if you’re training your legs, chest, and back twice a week, you can do the exact same with your abs.
I know many people look to train abs every single day, and I don’t specifically see anything wrong with this (more on this in a moment).
However, just like any other muscle group, they’ll respond even better with some rest and recovery.
For me, training abs 2-3 times a week for 15-20 minutes at a time is more than enough.
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4. Ab Training Won’t Affect Your Recovery
One of the best things about training abs is that it won’t affect your main muscle-building exercises.
Basically, ab training is a lot easier on the Central Nervous System and you can recover from it very quickly.
It’s not like doing a big session of squats and deadlifts, which typically means that you feel tired and wiped of energy afterwards.
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In fact, after a heavy workout of squats and deadlifts it’s going to be a day or two at least until you can perform either exercise again with the same intensity.
However, even if you feel a burn from your ab training you’re pretty much good to go again the next day.
Obviously, I’m not saying that you should train abs every day, but it’s not a muscle group that will impact on main muscle-building goals.
You know if you do heavy squats one day that you’re going to probably struggle to hit a PR on the leg press the next day.
The same can be said about doing a high volume of pull ups one day and then trying to hit your one-rep max on deadlifts the following day.
You could even say the same about bench pressing today and trying to overhead press tomorrow.
So, certain “big” exercises will impact on other “big” exercises.
However, the same cannot be said for abs.
5. What Are Your Bulking Goals?
Okay, I’ve pretty much covered that yes you should train abs while bulking.
But, in truth, this does very much depend on your actual goals.
If you’re more into a bodybuilding physique then aesthetics play a huge role.
So, you want to look as good as possible, and a toned set of abs will add to your appeal.
With that being said, if you’re more of a powerlifter, and you’re bulking simply to get as big as possible, then perhaps ab training isn’t as important.
I will repeat that strong abs and core muscles will help to improve the big lifts.
But, then again, most of the exercises require a great deal of core stabilization anyway.
In effect, you can create a tight, strong and stable core just from the main compound lifts.
You probably won’t produce a great looking six-pack, but you’ll still train your core to great effect.
I still believe that specific ab and core training provide their own benefits.
However, if your aim is to just get huge and lift one-rep maxes and PRs all the time, your ab training probably isn’t as important as numerous other exercises.
So, decide on your actual goals from bulking and that will give you a good idea of just how important ab training is to you.
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So, hopefully you understand that I believe ab training is important while you’re bulking.
Basically, the abs are a muscle group just like any other, so in my mind they also require training.
Plus, a stronger core can help you to lift bigger and better in the main compound lifts.
Furthermore, your abs recover much quicker than most other muscle groups, so this won’t impact on your training.
However, the final decision is down to you, and more specifically your reasons for wanting to bulk in the first place.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.