Abs: How to get them once and for all!
The simple plan to make those washboard abs visible once and for all
Brace yourself. I’m gonna be blunt. I’m gonna tell you what no other trainer (or doctor or friend or coach) is willing to tell you.
Ab training is overrated. OVERRATED.
Those crunches and sit-ups you do at the end of every workout really aren’t helping you get that 6-pack.
In the fitness world, more people train abs than do ANYTHING else (capitalization for added effect). It’s true. Everyone has their own workout niche – lifters, cyclists, yogis, crossfitters, cardio junkies – but everyone does abs. We all want that chiseled midsection.
You can buy entire programs on ab training. You can find 14, 21 and 28-day programs just about ab training. Heck, you can even find programs that are 6 weeks of solid ab training. That’s right, 42 days straight of training that middle. (Can you say waste of time!)
I constantly see people walk into a gym and spend over an hour just training their abs. No squats, no jumps, no curls. Just abs. All day, erry day.
And when was the last time you worked out and didn’t feel you had a “complete” workout until you got in a few hundred crunches? Yes. Even you overtrain your abs.
What all of these ab training programs do is take dozens of ab exercises and wrap them up in a package, tied with a pretty bow, promising you the key to those washboard abs. Unfortunately, what’s in that surprise package is not a 6-pack. And it’s certainly not a washboard. It’s more like false hope and crushed dreams.
Now, now. I get it. I understand why everyone and their mom want to train abs. I know that the ultimate prize in fitness is a shredded 6-pack.
But here’s my issue with your 6 weeks of solid ab training. Or your daily dose of crunches and sit-ups.
We (yes, you and me both) carry too much fat on our bellies. And that dang belly fat makes those sit-ups and crunches pointless.
Because our abs sit UNDER our belly fat. So I don’t care if you spend 40 hours a week training abs. You might have the most beautiful, washboard abs on the planet. But if you have any amount of belly fat, that perfect washboard will always be hidden. It’s like spending hours on your ’65 Mustang GT but never taking it out of the garage. What the heck is the point?
And despite what those senseless ab training programs tell you, more crunches does not decrease your belly fat. Nope. Not at all worth noting.
We have abs. And we have belly fat. The two aren’t related. So more crunches do not mean less belly fat. And more sit-ups do not change that belly fat into flat and chiseled abs.
So do you wanna know what the ultimate training program is for abs?
The program that beats out every other ab focused program?
The real key to getting that 6-pack?
Here it is:
Warm up) Walk to grocery store
A1) Buy some green vegetables
A2) Buy some yellow vegetables
A3) Buy some white vegetables
B1) Buy some red vegetables
B2) Buy some meat
B3) Cook meat
C1) Cut up green, yellow, white, red vegetables
C2) Add some balsamic vinegar and olive oil to your colorful vegetable salad
C3) A lil’ splash of lemon too
Repeat 100 times. Flex your 6-pack in the mirror.
Nutrition is the foundation of leanness. Leanness is the foundation of a visible 6-pack. So if you want a-rockin’ 6-pack that’s not hidden by flab, the first and most fundamental step is a thoughtful and consistent nutrition plan.
Okay. Glad we cleared that up.
So the first step for impressive abs: nutrition.
The second step: resistance training.
Metabolically demanding, full body resistance training to be precise.
This type of training burns a butt ton of calories, builds lean muscle mass and has a profound effect on your hormone profile, all of which help make shreddedness attainable. Helloooooooo abs.
People always ask me, how come we never do ab work in our training sessions? Simple. Deadlifting, squatting, jumping, pressing, and pushing have more core activation than you could dream of getting through any isolated ab exercise. Resistance training is key.
Alright, the first step is nutrition. The second step is resistance training.
The third most effective step to getting a 6-pack is rest and recovery – the unsung heroes of fat loss.
I promise I’m not messing with you here.
The first three most effective steps to getting a real 6-pack have nothing to do with ab exercises.
“But, but but… I have to do ab exercises!”
If you just HAVE to do abs to feel like you are getting a good workout, I am okay with you doing a little ab training. But FIRST, you have to perfect your nutrition plan, establish a challenging resistance training program and balance in your rest and recovery. Only THEN should you incorporate a reasonable amount of ab training.
Sounds frustrating, I know. We all want abs. And we want them quick.
I get it. Molding your abs into the flawless specimen of delectable sex-appeal is a perfectly noble pursuit. And I support you on your quest. But you need to follow the right steps to get there. Or you will end up somewhere on the other side of the playing board.
We all need strong abs. Not only so we can look sexy naked, but so we can stand upright and walk.
Our abs are incredibly important in stabilizing our spine. They also keep our organs in place. Another important job, unless you are a fan of having your intestines swishing around inside you.
Our abs are important.
And our core is important.
But these are not the same thing.
Your abs are part of your core, but your core really includes so many more muscles than just your abs.
Basically, every muscle in your trunk (meaning everything that is not in your arms and legs) is included in your core. Your back muscles, your obliques, even your diaphragm (yes, this is a muscle) is part of your core. So if someone tells you your abs and your core are the same thing, run far, far away.
Your core is what actually keeps your spine stabilized, your abs just play a small part. And your core is pretty complex because it has all kinds of different muscles overlapping into a crisscross puzzle board. But it has to be complex because it has to work harder than almost any other muscle in our body.
Most of our muscles only have to know how to move on an x or y axis (hello junior high algebra…or was that geometry). Their movements are always along the same path and in only one direction. But the abs and core have to move left, right, forward, back (and every which way in between). But we ain’t no Barbie or Ken doll. We need to shake our groove thangs in any direction, not just left or right. By having our muscles overlapping and crisscrossing, our core can move any way we want to twist or twerk it.And in order to get shredded abs, you need to know the two big players.
Let me introduce you to the muscles of the mouthwatering 6-pack and the coveted “V” of the gods (You know what I am talkin’ about, the one that points down toward your Herman von Longschlongstein or your Lady Garden. Yeah, that’s the one).
The rec abs (rectus abdominis) are the desirable “packs” that turn the heads of interested and envious onlookers. And whether or not you have a 6-pack or 8-pack (and whether your packs line up directly or are a little off-kilter) depends on your good ol’ genetics. No way you can change those so you might as well embrace what your momma gave ya. But these bad boys are what most of us refer to as our “abs.”
This muscle is connected from the rib cage to the back of the pelvis so it can tilt your ribs down or your pelvis up (I know as you sit here reading this, you are moving your ribs down and your pelvis up to see what it feels like – and yes, your co-workers are watching you confused…). And surprisingly, you tilt your body in these ways many times throughout the day. Not only when you do crunches, but also when you cough, hold your breath or take a dump…
So that’s the rec ab.
And the V (obviously that’s not really a technical term) is actually made up of three muscles in the core. I would explain them, but I don’t want to put you to sleep. Basically, it’s three main muscles (even more if you want to be all technical) that overlap to make the craved V cut.
And if you want to see that V pop, you have to be ultra lean. I don’t mean that you have to be in shape. I mean you have to have a super low body fat percentage. Because if you have even a slight amount of body fat, it will sit on your lower abs and you can say goodbye to your moneymaker cut.
That is why the V is most coveted, only the leanest of the lean get to experience it.
So your rec abs and your V. That’s what we all want to see. So how do we train them to make them beautiful (read: sexy)?
First of all, we DON’T train them every day. Overtraining can make them hypertonic and really just isn’t effective.
Hypertonic (adj.): having a greater degree of tension.
Too much tension in your abs means they are constantly activated. And activated abs means that you are constantly pulling your rib cage down and pelvis up. If that happens, you start to see the rounding in your back and ultimately feel the injury and pain.
Definitely not what we want to happen by working our abs.
The idea that abs only respond to high repetition, high-frequency training is a misunderstanding of, you know, everything. Your ab muscles just don’t need that much training. Period.
Let me sum this up: don’t over train your abs.
Yes, sometimes we incorporate ab training into our workouts. And when we do, it might be once or twice per week (on non-consecutive days).
And when you do train your abs, be sure to include a variety of exercises.
Let me give you a nice little way to categorize your ab training. Don’t do all of these every day, but do all of them eventually within your training program.
Upper Flexion: like weighted crunches or frog crunches on the ab mat
Lower Flexion: like hanging knee raises or toes to bar
Double flexion: like row boats or skater rows
Rotation: like Russian twists or canoe machine
Stability: like planks and Pallof cable press
*Stability exercises are often neglected because they don’t seem like you are getting work done. But remember the main purpose of your abs and core are for spine stability. So this type of training is incredibly important. And anyone who is a bada$$ knows to train stability.
Let me give you one final point from the Soap Box o’ Abs:
The simplest and most effective way to get the uultra-covetedlower abs is through a full range of motion training. For example, if you’re doing incline leg raises, initially the exercise is going to work the muscles of the hip flexors. In order for the exercise to actually work your abs, you have to extend the range of motion. So to get the abs engaged and working, you have to curl your butt off the mat. Without the full range of motion, all the work stays in the hips.
Okay, okay, one more thing: you should know that your rec abs are one muscle. So when people say the “upper” or “lower” abs, it’s all part of the same muscle, just different ends of it. And that muscle either activates or it doesn’t. You can’t only work one side while keeping the other one inactive. They both work or they both rest. So you aren’t really training just your lower abs, but you can choose exercises that engage the one end more than the other. And if your upper abs are “developed” but your lower ones aren’t, those lower muscles are probably just sitting under more belly fat. So to see those lower packs, you need to lose a little more fat (I know, it’s way easier said than done).
Let me step off the Soap Box and give you a little take-home message to share at the dinner table:
Despite the misinformation and tons of ab training programs, getting a 6-pack comes down to a few simple steps:
1) Get lean by focusing on big money methods – nutrition, full body metabolic resistance and rest and recovery.
2) Don’t over train your abs. Once or twice per week is plenty.
3) When you DO train your abs, make sure your training program is varied. Then viola! Abs for days. And get ready to tell everyone how you got it. Because no one likes to talk about the real way to get abs. But we do.