It makes it difficult to train your abs if you are experiencing pain during exercises.

Abs serve many purposes other than just looking aesthetically pleasing. They brace your entire body during many big movements such as the squat, dead lift, and overhead press.

Having stronger abs will assist you in all areas of your training.

Why Do Ab Workouts Hurt My Ribs?

If you’re experiencing rib pain while training abs it may simply just be oblique pain. Your obliques rest just above your ribs so you may be confusing this with rib pain. If you are overtrainig or not recovery properly, this is a main cause of pain. If you are newer to core training, your muscles may not be strong enough yet.

You Are Training Your Obliques

What are the obliques? They are made up of two muscles, the internal and external obliques.

They’re located on the side of the abdominals from the ribs to hips. The internal obliques are located directly under the external.

The obliques primary roles are bending the torso sideways, twisting the torso, and rounding the spine.



Due to the obliques being located directly on top of the ribs, people can often confuse sore obliques with sore ribs. So if you were training your obliques yesterday, this may be the cause of your sore “ribs.”

The obliques help with bracing the body in many movements such as the squat, dead lift, and during pull ups. If you just did a heavy squat session yesterday, you may find them sore.

Many high intensity activities such as sports, gymnastics, and rowing also use the obliques.

You Are Over Exerting Your Abs

If you are overtraining, this could be a reason for pain. Abs can be trained frequently but do not need high amounts of weight to grow.

There are usually 2 ways to classify; one being overreaching. Overreaching is when you experience muscle soreness beyond what you normally do. The main cause is not enough rest between training sessions.

Overtraining is when you ignore feelings of overreaching and train through the pain. This can cause serious issues.

If a body part is still sore, you should let it rest until it’s fully recovered before resuming training.

The best way to tell if you are overtraining is by how sore you get. If your abs hurt for longer than a day every time you train, then it’s probably a sign.

Cut back on a few exercises, and the pain should go away. Make sure to not train your abs if they are still sore from your last session.

You Aren’t Recovering Properly

As just discussed, not resting long enough leads to over training. You should generally wait 48 hours after training abs before training them again.

Hydration and proper nutrition are also key for quick recovery. Staying hydrated actually improves muscle flexibility and prevents muscle soreness, so it is important to be drinking water during your workout.

Drinks that contain electrolytes can also help with muscle cramping. Consider Gatorade, but try to get one of the lower sugar options.

Note that caffeine will dehydrate you so drink plenty of water if you’re taking a pre-workout supplement. Or, consider a stim-free pre-workout such as this one.

Eating something that contains carbs and protein after you workout is helpful with replenishing muscle energy stores and starting the recovery process.

The carbs will restore glycogen levels and restore your energy after an intense workout. While the protein will help recover and build new muscle tissue.

Try using BCAA’s during or after training. They have been studied and shown to decrease muscle soreness and muscle damage while working out.

They also prevent muscle wasting or breakdown.

You Are New To Training

If you’ve never trained abs much before, that could the reason you are experiencing pain. If the muscles aren’t used to being placed under tension, they will be sore until they get stronger.

By breaking them down, they will recover and eventually grow and be able to take more breakdown without getting as sore.

You may also not have correct breathing down if you’re a new lifter. Do not hold your breath at all during exercise as this can be dangerous.

Exhale as you are contracting your abs or curling your elbows towards your knees. At the top of the rep, squeeze the abs and then take another breath.

Note that when you contract your abdominals, they help keep your ribs down and in place. When exercising, keep your chest up and ribs down or abs engaged. This applies to almost all exercises in the gym.

This is important because the air that you take in oxygenates your blood, giving your muscles strength.

Try not to focus on your breathing too much during exercise if it becomes too confusing. Mainly focus on not holding your breath.

Correct form is another thing that new lifters may struggle with. If your form isn’t proper, it can lead to unnecessary pain.

When doing a crunch or sit up, you want to make sure that you do not tuck your chin into your chest as this can put strain on the neck.

Instead, try to keep your chin up and away from your chest.

Engage your core to begin the movement, rather than pulling from your neck. Move in a slow, controlled manner.

Learning correct form is very important because constant rib pain can lead to damage to the intercostal muscles which can result in breathing problems.

Try watch some videos about ab form, or consult a personal trainer.

Preventing Sore Ribs

Make sure not to eat too close before your workout. If your stomach is full, it can cause discomfort in the rib and stomach area. Try leaving about 2 hours after a meal before training. Everyone is different and you will have to experiment with what works best for you.

Don’t over train. If your ab or oblique muscles are sore, wait until they’ve recovered before training them again. Eat proper nutrition, stay hydrated, and get proper sleep to speed up recovery time.

Learn correct form to prevent placing strain on the ribs.

Warm-up properly before training. This includes stretching out the abs, which makes sure they aren’t tight. Tight muscles lead to cramping and pain that can easily be avoided.

Stretching also increases flexibility and range of motion, while also decreasing muscle tension in your body.

Make sure to stretch slowly and if you feel any pain, don’t go past that point of tension.

If you’re using weight to train your abs, do the same movement without weight first to warm up.

The cobra pose is a great way to prepare the abs for training.

Start by laying face down on the floor or on a mat. With your hips flat on the ground, push your upper body upwards while looking straight ahead. Your hands will be placed on the floor in front of your body.

Hold the position for about 20-30 seconds and then return to the starting position. You can repeat about 3-4 times.

Pain relievers can be taken to reduce pain, but the intercostal muscles will heal on their own with time. If it’s taking very long to heal, you may want to visit a doctor.

A massage may also help reduce pain. Cold and hot presses can also help. A cold compress will lessen pain and inflammation around the ribs, while a hot compress increases blood circulation, helping with recovery.

Let me know if these tips help. Leave any questions or comments below.

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