This movement is more about quality than quantity, if you will. Some quick tips on how to make this abdominal movement more effective with less reps and a shorter range of motion.
By Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, CEO www.MuscleMagFitness.com – Have you been spending hours in the gym doing sit-ups, running on the tread mill and still do not have that elusive “six pack” that most people yearn for?
Well, you are not alone. Many people make some very common mistakes that keep them from getting “washboard” abs.
Here are seven reasons you may not be seeing your six pack, and what you can do to get them to appear.
1. You have too much body fat covering your abs
Abs are made in the kitchen. You can crunch to you drop, but you still will not see your abs if your diet is not on point. This means eating clean, eating small routine meals and burning more calories than you are taking in.
2. You try to crunch away the fat
If someone ever tells you that you’ll lose your gut by performing sit-ups, leg lifts and crunches, bitch slap them. You can NOT spot reduce fat by doing ab exercises. Fat reduction is controlled by diet and when you diet you will lose fat gradually from ALL areas of your body. The quickest way to get leaner is through a complete program that incorporates clean eating, resistance training and cardio.
3. Your abdominal exercises aren’t diverse enough
Many people think of their abdominals as one muscle, when in fact the abdominals (abs) are composed of four main abdominal muscle groups:
rectus abdominus – slung between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. This muscle has the characteristic bumps or bulges, when contracting, that are commonly called ‘the six pack’. The main function of the rectus abdominus is to move the body between the ribcage and the pelvis.
transversus abdominus – the deepest muscle layer. Its main roles are to stabilize the trunk and maintain internal abdominal pressure.
internal oblique muscles – these flank the rectus abdominus and are located just inside the hipbones. They operate in the opposite way to the external oblique muscles. For example, twisting the trunk to the left requires the left side internal oblique and the right side external oblique to contract together.
external oblique muscles – these are on each side of the rectus abdominus. The external oblique muscles allow the trunk to twist, but to the opposite side of whichever external oblique is contracting. For example, the right external oblique contracts to turn the body to the left.
To develop abs to die for you should perform exercises that work all four areas.
One other important point to remember: Your abdominals, like any other muscle group, will react and adapt very quickly to a movement pattern and workload. Vary the exercises, the rep range, the number of sets and the rest period for maximum results.
4. You are doing it wrong
There are a few things people often do wrong when they works abs that keep them from optimal results. The biggest mistake I see people make is they do not train their lower abs first.
Studies show that when you train your lower abs first (such as when you do leg raises) you are able to complete significantly more reps of the lower-ab exercises than when you do them later in the workout.
I prefer to begin with something like reverse crunches or “>leg lifts because the moment that you tighten the lower abdominals, all of the abdominal muscles immediately tighten to stabilize the rest of your body in preparation to execute the movement.
5. You aren’t training heavy enough
As I have stated above, the abdominals are a series of four muscle groups. To get your abs to grow so they can be clearly seen you need to stimulate them just like any other muscle group in your body.
Start training your abs with some weight so they can develop like your other muscle groups, and vary the rep ranges each time you train them. For instance, in one workout, perform all body weight exercises with a rep range of 15-30; during your next abdominal training day, lower the rep range to 8-12 and use a heavier resistance by adding a plate to your floor-based moves or knocking out some cable crunches. Increase the difficulty as you progress. One cautionary note, do NOT use weight when doing twists and other oblique exercises if you want to maintain a small waist.
6. You train your abs every day
You do NOT need to train your abs every day, especially if you are using resistance. While abs do recover quickly, if you want to grow muscle, you also need to give them a rest. Remember, because you actually activate your abs doing many other exercises like squats, dead lifts, military presses, etc., it’s best to give your core a break during the week. Even though you might not be directly training your abs, they still get stimulation during your compound lifts.
Remember, as I stated earlier, abs are primarily developed through diet. My recommendation: use resistance training (weights) 1x a week, and perform higher rep ab work 3x a week tops. You will NOT need to do more work than this.
7. You are not consistent
Many, many people go through crash diets, and crash fitness plans. When it comes to looking good and staying looking good, slow and steady wins the race.
Consistency is the single most important piece of obtaining the elusive “six-pack.”
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a well known author, champion natural bodybuilder, and a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti aging fields. As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and in several popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex, Ironman and in several highly regarded peer reviewed scientific journals. Jeff Behar is also the CEO and founder www.MuscleMagFitness.com and www.MyBesthealthPortal.com.
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The most popular word amongst fitness enthusiasts has become ‘core.’ In the past, we used to just say work you abdominal and lower back muscles, but now they have a fancy term for everything, so why not this?
But it boils down to the same thing once you get your ass in the gym and it actually has shed some more light on that area of the body, too. When performing pretty much any movement for any body part, you can tighten your…dare I say it…core muscles. And this will have a profound effect on your appearance. As a matter of fact, there is a large group of folks that do not even need to do any exercises isolating their abs and still have a well-defined six-pack. (lucky bastards!) All because they are cognizant and use these muscles as stabilizers when doing something unrelated.
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Let’s take a look at some of the more common movements that do work these all-important core muscles.
*Hanging leg raises
*Stiffed-leg dead lifts
*Lower back machine
MORE CORE (AS A SECONDARY MUSCLE GROUP) MOVEMENTS
*Standing barbell shoulder press
Abs – who DOESN’T want them? In actuality everyone is born with abdominal muscles; it’s getting them to be visible and prominent the people want.
First off, the abdominal area is composed of six different muscles and the deeper the muscle, the greater affect it will have. The muscle closest to the spine is the transverse abdominal and the internal obliques control the body’s lateral flexion while the external obliques and rectus abdominal are located more towards the surface with much less effect.
One thing you should not do is train your core (abs) at the beginning of your workouts and here’s why: your abdominal muscles are incorporated in common big lifts such as squats, deadlifts and even military presses, thus you’ll need optimal core strength to assure maximum performance in said lifts.
Thrashing your core at the start of leg day and then diving into back, box and deep squats does not bode well for either form or safety. The job the core has in exercises such as these is to protect the spinal cord and to help relieve pressure off your lower back. By also tightening your abs in lifts like military press, you’re teaching yourself good body mechanics.
Pretty much by training your core at the very beginning of your overall workouts, you’re potentially reducing performance and diminishing the integrity of your lifts. Be patient and hit that core super hard after all weightlifting is said and done; this will translate to better protocol and a reduce in injury.
Maurice Bright is an ISSA certified personal trainer who also manages his own health and fitness website, mauricebright.com in hopes to inform, educate, motivate and inspire whenever possible.
Although it seems as if winter would never leave us, warmer weather is finally either here or on the horizon. So now it’s time for a cure of that ‘dunlap’ disease…you know, when your belly done lap over your belt.
But in all seriousness, folks, it’s time to get your shit together and flatten that flab. And the only way to even think about getting there is to clean up that diet.
First things first – give a good luck at the amout and type of carbs you eat. Simply drop all of the ‘bad’ carbs like bread and especially the white variety of everything – bread, rice, etc. Whole grain is a much better option if you can’t help yourself.
Once you get that figured out, forget about eating any carbs – good or bad – after your mid-day meal. Forego the potato with your steak dinner for now.
Now let’s get to the workout portion of the program. You’ve gone down in carbs, so it’s time to up the cardio. At least four times a week, you should be getting 15-to-20 minutes in on something, albeit a treadmill, jogging or even playing racquetball.
And lastly, now that you are shedding fat from your midsection by way of a sensible diet and cardio, you can isolate and spot reduce by doing some additional ab work. Hanging leg raises are a great exercise that hits the entre abdominal wall and also works on your grip strength. Some cable crunches with moderate weight are good, too.
Summer is right around the corner, fat boy. Get a move on now.
Photo by Simon Lau