So, here's my stance. Working the abdominals = overrated.
Say what? Yep, that's what I'm sayin'. Before anyone gets into a huff over this, I'll clarify that some people can certainly benefit from ab-specific work. But, in general, I think targeting the abdominals is overrated and that time can be spent more effectively.
It all started when I read an article focusing on Dan Martin, an at the time up-and-coming cyclist from Ireland and superb climber racing on the (then) Garmin team. He was asked if he attributes a strong core to his climbing like a billy goat. His answer was, "No." In fact, he avoids working his core because he noticed when he did work it, his climbing prowess took a hit. It kept him from being fluid on his bike. Martin figured his core was naturally strong enough simply by the daily rigors of riding his bike.
Martin's reasoning made sense to me. Back as a swimmer, I scratched my head at all the ab work we did during our dryland exercises. Even at a young age, I wondered why completing roughly 400 turns per workout, which clearly targets the core, wasn't enough. Targeting the core is no different really than doing bicep curls to target the biceps. But there is a more effective, more efficient and more well-rounded way to incorporate core strength work which can then also be more relevantly applied to the output in your sport of choice.
Exercises like dead lifts, Romanian dead lifts, bent over rows and squats -- the tenets of power lifting -- incorporate the core and blast it. A personal favorite of mine is the clean/squat/overhead press combo exercise. The mistake people make is equating "core" to "abdomen," which couldn't be further from the truth. The core extends from your sternum down to mid-thigh. The more you can target that entire area at once rather than just a small section of it, the more effective you will be at increasing your stability and core strength. And, so it goes, your athletic performance.
After reading that interview with Martin, I decided to stop traditional core-specific work -- that which targets the abdominals. Funny enough, my athletic performance did not take a hit. The onset of fatigue did not occur any quicker. There were no negative impacts from completely eliminating abdominal-focused exercises from my strength routine.
My guess is that I would not be alone here. Those who are relatively-seasoned athletes and/or gym rats have developed strong enough abs through years of exercising not attributed to ab-specific routines. I think many of us could spend that time more valuably, targeting areas of our bodies that are truly weak. IMO, we too easily buy in to the mantra of "strengthen your core (abs) and all will be well in the world."
Food for thought, if nothing else . . .