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Noah Siegel
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ASK THE SIEGE

"I sometimes feel like I have to choose between strength and aesthetics.
Can't I have both?"

Ask The Siege: How Do I Improve My Strength And Aesthetics?

Too many people worry about how they look in the mirror and don't pay enough attention to their performance. Learn how to train for aesthetics and strength.

Q
Siege, I'm going to be honest: I'm in the gym to carve a six-pack. But I was wondering if it's possible to look good and be strong. You seem like the right guy to ask.

I know all about you, bro. You're in the gym for one thing, and one thing only: aesthetics. Forget about eating, sleeping, or drinking—if you don't have that coveted V-taper, you might as well pack it in because your life has lost all meaning. Oh, I get it, aesthetics are the new "big." Nobody talks about how big guys are anymore; it's all about, "Oh, damn, that guy's aesthetic as hell!"

Well, that's nice and all, but pretty little guys have to learn how to look good and be strong. That's the new rule of fitness. I'm calling it "strengthetics." Yeah, you can walk around with a good physique and leave everybody 'mirin, but if you don't have any go with your show, strong people are going to call you out on it... or laugh at your weak lifts.

Prepare yourself for more articles on this subject—it's dear to my heart. Today, we're going to concentrate on your core. A six-pack is a matter of diet; a strong, healthy core is a matter of training. Here's what you need to know.

"Strengthetics" For Your Abs

A lot of guys like the thought of having a tiny waist and carved six-pack. Shoulder-to-waist ratio is like Hollywood magic—the bigger the ratio the better you look. Abs training, however, doesn't work how you think it does. If you spend half an hour at the end of every workout doing crunches and can't figure out why your belly isn't looking any better, I've got some new rules for you to follow.

You're never going to do another sit-up or crunch again. One of the biggest problems in society is caused by everyone sitting on their asses so much. This sedentary lifestyle makes the hip flexors shorter and the pelvic tilt more pronounced—that's why back problems are so common. Crunches and sit-ups just add to the stress in your back, so stop doing them!

"Crunches and sit-ups just add to the stress in your back, so stop doing them!"

Do you seriously think that your body evolved the way it has so that you could lay down on the floor, curl up into a fetal position, and somehow grow yourself a six-pack? Your abs were built to stabilize your body through isometric, eccentric, concentric, and rotational contraction in an upright position. Stop lying down on the job.

Compound Your Six-Pack

If you want a six-pack that's actually strong, you need to do standing compound movements like standing presses, squats, front squats, and deadlifts. When you do compound exercises, you train your entire core, along with the other muscles you activate doing those lifts. That means you don't have to do any extra abdominal work. It's built in to your workout.

Instead of doing all your shoulder presses seated, stand up and engage your abdominals, lumbar, and a whole mess of other muscles! Doubt that you can work your abs doing presses? Then try a heavy front squat. Unrack the barbell and tell me you can't feel your abs engage.

Ab-Strength Exercises

If you're not getting enough compound action in your program, add the exercises below to your workouts a couple times per week. These movements will keep your core nice and tight without making your waist overly wide, and without affecting the hip flexors. We want to keep our midsection slim and trim, so keep that volume down and your strength up!

1
Cable twists

2 sets of 12-15 reps at each height
These can be done from three different positions: low, middle, and high. I suggest a mixture of all three. If you do it from the top, the movement should mimic a sledgehammer swing. Put the cable at the midpoint and make sure your feet are wide so you only engage your upper body. A top-to-bottom cable twist should mimic a bad golf swing.

Each of these variations provides rotational, concentric abdominal work which engages your entire midsection, including the obliques. Make the movement fast and powerful. Go for speed.

2
Overhead medicine ball slam

3 sets to failure
This is full-body movement requires energy generated from the core. Raise a medicine ball above your head with both arms and throw it down as hard as you can. Pick it up and repeat until you are fully exhausted.

3
Planks

2 sets of 30 seconds
During each training session, your goal should be to increase the time you can hold a plank position. Have a partner assist you once you can hold a plank for more than 20 seconds; have your partner push you down or place weight on your back.

4
Ab roller

3 sets of as many reps as possible
I like the ab wheel because it can be scaled to skill level. Start on your knees so you can limit the amount of extension. The extension portion should be slow and controlled. As your strength increases, try doing them from a standing position.

Depending on your skill level, you can do other forms of eccentric work. An advanced athlete could perform dragon flags, but a beginner probably should start by perfecting the ab roll-out and progress from there.



Related Articles

About The Author

In addition to his day-to-day activities, Noah Siegel is also a personal trainer, fitness model, and sponsored athlete for Optimum Nutrition.

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BioFlexFella

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BioFlexFella

Appreciate the article. Def gonna go and buy me a ab wheel and medicine ball. Unfortunately, I make the skinny tone guys in my gym, look bad enough to when I walk in, they leave. But I know its their way of telling me im doing it right.

Feb 6, 2014 6:29pm | report
 
hardrock4171

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hardrock4171

Got that right, brother!

Feb 9, 2014 3:06pm | report
Coby80

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Coby80

Don't hate on the skinny guy (reference to myself)...why are just overwhelmed at times...:)

Aug 6, 2014 11:22pm | report
kyleD12345

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kyleD12345

Good information, good moves. Always tell everyone, abs are made in the kitchen.

Feb 6, 2014 6:31pm | report
 
kyleD12345

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kyleD12345

Good information, good moves. Always tell everyone, abs are made in the kitchen.

Feb 6, 2014 6:31pm | report
 
Vic1123

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Vic1123

Gotta say, he's right on the money. Haven't done a crunch in months and the squats/deads/slams/presses are doing the trick!

Feb 7, 2014 6:04am | report
 
BrentLeClair

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BrentLeClair

Great stuff, Diet/Exercise! But exercise still counts!

Feb 7, 2014 6:56am | report
 
mmiltonp

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mmiltonp

great advise as always Noah, I was taught to do as many exercises as possible standing.... this may be the reason
; )

Feb 7, 2014 7:16am | report
 
BenBlue

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BenBlue

Love the message here. My biggest fear is to look good and not have strength to back it up. Too many guys these days lift just for show. As far as I am concerned, it's all about strong lifts. Aesthetics come second.

Feb 7, 2014 7:46am | report
 
hardrock4171

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hardrock4171

Absolutley right on the money!

Feb 9, 2014 3:06pm | report
Brucef

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Brucef

Great article Sieg. Core work is definitely high on my priority list so this was very helpful.

Feb 7, 2014 8:14am | report
 
racks11479

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racks11479

Awesome article as always Siege! And even better than we don't have supplements shoved in our faces in the article. Precise and to the point. Thanks!

Feb 7, 2014 9:20am | report
 
popeyeandrada

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popeyeandrada

Great article!

Feb 7, 2014 9:59am | report
 
tmittan

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tmittan

Another great article Noah. Looks like I've been doing abs all wrong for years, this explains whey they haven't gotten any better.

Article Rated:
Feb 7, 2014 10:09am | report
 
Mahdeeb

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Mahdeeb

While Siegel is not wrong, and this is a great article, I have to say that the crunch and sit-up movements are functional movements. For example, when I get out of bed, I am doing a sit-up on some level. Not to mention in Brazilian Jui Jitsu, that lying on your back and crunching your stomach is required. That noted, it is important to exercise using functional movements. I realize the article is about carving a six-pack, not functional movements. On top of that, I have been doing overhead slams and wood-chops as this article mentions, and they are powerful movements.

Feb 7, 2014 10:40am | report
 
TrimLines

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TrimLines

Im not saying that you dont use your stomach to get out of bed. Im saying that its not the most functionally effective way to train nor is it the fundamental purpose of your midsection. Stability control and protection of the spine are much greater on the list of hierarchy

Feb 7, 2014 1:26pm | report
mfinkle1

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mfinkle1

What about hanging leg raises! 4 or 5 sets to failure after heavy deadlifts does wonders

Feb 7, 2014 10:43am | report
 
TrimLines

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TrimLines

My opposition to hanging leg raises are that they directly hit the hip flexor that are already impaired and shortened by our sedentary lifestyles

Feb 7, 2014 1:29pm | report
Redsox2345

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Redsox2345

Good info, thx!!!

Feb 7, 2014 3:27pm | report
 
Marktheshark93

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Marktheshark93

It's absolutely possible to! I kickbox 3-5 days of the week so I need that functionality in strength and endurance and a great aesthetic look can come from athletic training alone (even if its less intense training)
Good exercise choices as well!

Feb 7, 2014 5:10pm | report
 
DREWSU06

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DREWSU06

"Crunches and sit-ups just add to the stress in your back, so stop doing them!"

i liked this plan, but am i the only one that feels some intense lower back strain on the ab roller? definitely a lot more than if i did a crunch even with weights

Feb 7, 2014 5:29pm | report
 
xcrotorhead

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xcrotorhead

I like it.

Feb 8, 2014 12:23pm | report
 
davidelias24

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davidelias24

Awesome article. Thank you for sharing!

Feb 8, 2014 8:02pm | report
 
BaBbu38

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BaBbu38

A perfect article and really effective. Thanks for sharing.

Feb 8, 2014 10:58pm | report
 
DirtyViking84

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DirtyViking84

Any alternatives to the medicine ball slam?

I'm pretty sure my gym would have a problem with that...

Feb 10, 2014 12:12pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 36 Comments

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