The external muscles that make up the midsection consist of two muscle groups – the rectus abdominis (aka the “six-pack”), and the external obliques, which run at about a 45-degree angle from your sides to the rectus abdominis. 

Nothing makes the midsection look more impressive than when the obliques are well-developed and frame the rectus with their diagonal ridges. When most men train abs they focus on the rectus abdominis with standard crunches and sit-ups. And if they happen to do oblique exercises, it’s usually some kind of side bend motion where the spine is flexed from side to side. Yet few guys do any form of twisting movements with resistance, which is unfortunate because both the abs and obliques work to twist and flex the spine.

A great exercise that combines both of these motions is an exercise I call the Bell Tower Crunch because it mimics ringing a bell in a bell tower. This combination movement will hit that tricky transitional area where the rectus abdominis and obliques meet.

How to: Bell Tower Crunch

  • Attach a rope handle to a high cable pulley and pull the rope through so that all of it hangs straight down (not two equal lengths on each side).
  • Grab the rope with your left hand above your right and stand in a staggered stance with your right leg in front of your left.
  • Using your abs and obliques, pull the rope down in front of you and toward your right knee (flexing and rotating your spine).
  • Hold this position for a second as you exhale and squeeze your abs as tight as possible.
  • Slowly return to the start position and repeat for reps.
  • When you have completed all reps on the right side, switch your foot and hand position and perform the same way to the left.

Oblique & Ab Workout

Exercise                           Sets       Reps       Rest
Hanging Leg Raise              3        to failure    1 min.
Bell Tower Crunch               3          12-15       1 min.
Crunch                                3        to failure     1 min.

Ab Workout Tip

The best way to build a strong, ripped midsection is to switch up your rep ranges on this exercise by doing heavy weight for low reps (6-10) in some workouts, moderate weight for moderate reps in other sessions (12-15) and very light weight for very high reps (20-30) the rest of the time.


Watch Jim Stoppani perform the bell tower crunch in our video training series M&F Raw! – Ring the Bell >>