Abs Q&A!

Since the Bodybuilding.com staff and I get so many questions on how to get abdominals, we decided to put together an Abdominals Q&A section. Read below to learn more about some basic tips that will help you get better abs.
Since the Bodybuilding.com staff and I get so many questions on how to get abdominals, we decided to put together an Abdominals Q&A section in order to better help everyone achieve award-winning abs.

Having said that, it must be mentioned that no matter how much abdominal training you do or how great your routines are, you will never achieve a nice ripped midsection unless you follow a clean diet consisting of the correct amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Let's answer some questions on abdominal training:


[ Q ] I have been working out for over a year now in order to build my abdominals. I have lost a lot of weight but to no avail and now I just look thin. I need to know what I should do and eat to build my abdominals and gain muscle mass?

    A: Getting great abdominals is a combination of the following factors:

    1. A great diet consisting of (40% carbs, 40% proteins, 20% Good Fats), like the one I recommend on my book The Body Sculpting Bible for Men, works best for the purposes of losing body fat.

      Carbs should come mainly from complex slow releasing sources such as oatmeal, grits, brown rice, sweet potatoes in combination with fibrous sources such as green beans and broccoli.

      Proteins should come from chicken, turkey, tuna, and lean red meats. Since you are focused on reducing body fat, dairy products and fruits need to be eliminated at this time, not because they are not healthy but due to the fact that the type of carbs contained in these foods may slow down fat loss.

    2. A good weight training routine that has you in the gym for 45-60 minutes four to five times a week, with an abdominal program that is performed at least 3 times a week. For good examples of ab routines, see the article Abs Sculpting 101 which I wrote in conjunction with IFBB Figure Pro Marcy Porter.


      Click To Enlarge.
      Hugo & Marcy Porter.

    3. Enough cardio built into the program to start the fat loss process and burn some extra calories. 20-30 minutes, 3 times a week at a challenging pace should start producing results. For those of us with a slower metabolism, we may need up to 45 minutes 6-7 times a week.

    4. Finally, consume no more than your bodyweight x 12 in calories per day. On Sundays, increase this amount to 15 in order to increase the metabolism. Do the caloric increase in the form of carbs.


[ Q ] Are there any supplements that I can take to get my abs?

    A: If the advice provided in question #1 is not followed, then no supplements that you take may help you in your quest for good abs. However, assuming that you are following all of the advice provided above, there are a few supplement stacks that may indeed improve your metabolism and help you in your quest for better abs:

    Stack #1: Good For People Sensitive To Stimulants

    1. Metabolic Thyrolean from Prolab: When you go on a caloric restricted diet, your metabolism begins to slow down in an effort to maintain homeostasis (constant state) in the body.

      The body accomplishes this through a reduction in active thyroid (T3) production and through a reduction of certain neurotransmitters in the brain like epinephrine and norepinephrine which play a role in keeping our metabolic rate high.

      This formula from Prolab contains a clinically tested combination of ingredients that preserve or increase thyroid output and also provides the substrates needed for the production of neurotransmitters.

      It is stimulant free so it can be used year-round. I like to take 3 caps twice a day when I take my thermogenics of choice.

    2. Hot Rox from Biotest: Hot Rox delivers six compounds that were stacked to increase thyroid levels naturally while maximizing fat mobilization, appetite suppression and mood enhancement; all things that contribute to the successful loss of body fat while keeping the energy levels optimal.

      This formula has 50 mg of caffeine per serving (2 capsules) so it is another good choice for those of you who do not like stimulants.

      I've stacked it with the Metabolic Thyrolean with good results and since I like stimulants, I take a 200mg tablet of Prolab Caffeine along with it.

      Because the formula does not down regulate your beta adrenergic receptors (these are the receptors where stimulants like caffeine and ephedrine operate at) the formula can be used year round as well.

    Stack #2: Good For People That Love Stimulants

    1. Lipo-6 from NUTREX: This formula is a combination of several stimulants, which work by increasing your metabolism by stimulating an increase in noradrenaline.

      An increase in noradrenaline is favorable as fat cells and muscles have an abundance of adrenoreceptors, which are the receptors to which noradrenaline binds to.

      Once noradrenaline binds to the adrenoreceptors in the fat cells, a chain of chemical reactions occur (I won't bore you with the details) that result in the liberation of fatty acids (fat loss).

      In addition, this formula contains guggulsterones, which help support healthy thyroid metabolism and bioperine which aids in increasing the absorption of nutrients and thus enhancing the effectiveness of the formula.

      I like this product the most because it utilizes the HCL forms of the ingredients (as opposed to herbal forms) and in addition, it comes in a liquid capsule that releases the ingredients faster into the bloodstream. This is a strong thermogenic!

    2. Thyrocuts II from S.A.N: This is an actual form of thyroid (T2), which when taken, has a less adverse effect on the body's own thyroid production (it does not shut it down as badly as prescription T3), and penetrates into the inner membrane of brown-fat tissue and uncouples it. Brown fat is the most stubborn fat in the body as the body likes to save it for cases of famine.

    3. Metabolic Thyrolean from Prolab: This product is also useful for this stack, and I particularly like to include it here to protect from any small thyroid shutdown that may occur from supplementing with T2.

    NOTE: I do not use this stack for more than 6 weeks as the body begins to get used to the stimulant based thermogenics after this period and also to prevent the body from getting used to needing T2 supplementation. After 6 weeks of use, I go to Stack #1 and stay on that one for at least 8 weeks before using Stack #2 again.


[ Q ] I cannot get rid of my lower ab fat and love handles. Is there any exercise that I can do to get rid of them?

    A: While leg raise-type of exercises will work your lower abs, and twisting crunches will work your sides, these exercises only firm up and build up these muscles.

    In order to get rid of your lower ab fat and love handles you just need to lose enough body fat to where the fat on this area is burned as well. Typically, this type of fat is the last to go so for women to lose it they need to go down to 12-13% body fat and males down to 6-7% body fat.

    Having said that, you're cardiovascular and nutrition programs will play a huge role in helping you burn that stubborn fat.


[ Q ] Do weighted ab exercises give you a bloated stomach?

    A: Adding weight to abdominal exercises will not give you a bloated stomach look. Instead, by adding weights you will target the fast twitch muscle fibers in the abs and thus create a six-pack with deeper groves in between.

What Is A Fast Twitch Muscle Fiber?
It is generally accepted that there are two basic types of muscle fibers. Slow twitch (Type I) muscle and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fiber. Fast twitch fibers can be an asset to a sprinter when there is a limited amount of time to generate maximal force. The slow twitch fibers, on the other hand, fire less rapidly, but can go for a long time before they fatigue.

    However, beware of using heavy weights when training the obliques unless you want big sides and a wide waist. Obliques respond well to heavy training, so please do not make the mistake of training them with heavy weights and low reps as this will kill your V-taper.


[ Q ] Are higher repetitions best for getting your abs?

    A: Initially, ab training should just consist of two to three movements at the most, performed for 2-3 sets of as many good repetitions as the person can do with his/her bodyweight.

    As time goes by and one progresses, more sets can be added and repetition parameters can also be manipulated by adding weights to some exercises in order to target the fast twitch muscle fibers in the abs and thus create a six pack with deeper groves in between.


    Click To Enlarge.
    The Anatomy Of The Abs.

    So to answer the question, a repetition range between 6-25 works best. However, sometimes to shock the muscle, I may do as much as 100 reps for certain exercises but may only do this for a week.


[ Q ] How often should I train my abs for best results?

    A: While many advanced bodybuilders and figure girls can train their abs every day for a short period of time in order to shock the body part, this typically will lead to overtraining if continued for too long.

    Therefore, unless you are doing upper abdominals one day and lower the next, you are better off training your abdominals for no more than 20 minutes at a time, 3 times per week on alternating days, as in Mon/Wed/Fri or every other day at the most (thus one week you will train them four times and the next 3 times).

About The Author

Hugo Rivera is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, Sports Nutrition Specialist and Computer Engineer graduate from the University of South Florida. Hugo is owner of www.hrfit.net, an informational, free fitness and nutrition website.

Hugo is author of a self published bodybuilding e-book called Body Re-Engineering geared towards the natural bodybuilder and co-author of one of the most popular Men's Health book in the country (according to Barnes and Noble) called "The BodySculpting Bible for Men" and the very popular "BodySculpting Bible for Women".

Hugo also just released his new book called The Hardgainer's Handbook of Bodybuilding in March 2005 and also serves as a nutrition consultant to several professional football players and other elite athletes. Hugo serves as business consultant to many personal training studios as well.

Hugo continues to publish several articles on the subject of health and nutrition in several magazines and websites and has been with Prolab Nutrition for over three years. Hugo competes as drug free NPC athlete at the National Level and his core supplementation has always consisted of Prolab products.