The Best Time to Work Out Abs

A complete fitness program includes nutrition, stretching, strength training, cardiovascular exercise and abdominal exercises. Your abdominals -- or abs -- are engaged during physical activity and are essential for maintaining proper form and good posture. The best time to work out your abs depends on your meal times, the frequency of your workouts and what types of exercise you will be performing that day.

Your Abdominal Muscles

Your abdominal muscles are made up of several smaller groups of muscles that run from your sides across your stomach. The internal and external obliques are located on your sides, the transverse abdominus runs horizontally across your stomach and the rectus abdominus runs vertically over the transverse abdominus. These muscles work together to support your trunk, hold your organs in place, allow movement and regulate internal abdominal pressure.

Workout Routine

During strength training and cardio exercises, your abdominal muscles engage to support your body, enable twisting and bending movements, and provide power to the exercise. If you are performing your ab workout on a strength-training day, it is best to work out your abs in between sets or at the end. Doing your ab workout first can hinder your performance during strength training. It is also best to do weight training before cardio -- which can fatigue your muscles.

Planning Around Meals

The best time of day to work out your abs will depend on your schedule and when you eat. Working out on an empty stomach can cause your body to feel fatigued. Working out on a full stomach can slow you down and possibly make you feel sick. Your body needs fuel before and after a workout to support your muscles and replace nutrients and fluids. If you eat a heavy meal, it is best to wait two to three hours before your ab work out. You can work out 30 to 60 minutes after a light meal or a small snack.

Workout Frequency

The frequency of ab exercises is also crucial to a safe fitness program. According to the American Council on Exercise, you should not train your abs every day. Work out your abs three to four days a week as long as you allow time for your muscles to rest and recover. Rest your abs for at least 24 hours in between workouts. Allow more time if your abs are still sore or feeling weak from a workout.


The type of exercise you perform is equally as important as the time you spend working out your abs. Your ab workout should focus on all of your abdominal muscles equally. Include exercises that target your obliques, rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus. Side bending and twisting exercises target your obliques, while crunching and pelvic flexing exercises target your rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus.