If you could sculpt one body part to perfection for next summer, what would it be? Let me guess - six pack abs! I don't know anybody who does not want to shrink their waistline, lose body fat, eliminate lower back pain and develop a jaw-dropping set of rock-hard six-pack abs. Building eye-popping abdominals is not the hardest thing to achieve in the world but it's definitely not the easiest either.
Before you can start learning how to get six-pack abs and discover the truth about what it really takes to build a beach-worthy abdominal section, you must first expose the lies, myths and rumors. Before we talk about how to get six-pack abs, the right way, we must re-program your hard drive and empty the trash can of garbage you have been fed.
Because of all this hyped-up and misguided information - even among so-called 'fitness experts' - you should be skeptical of all abdominal training equipment and programs.
Top Four Ways Not To Get A Six-Pack
Let's first eliminate the top four ways not to get a six-pack:
1. Infomercial Workout Equipment
Learning how to get a six-pack does not require expensive workout equipment promoted through obnoxious infomercials. You can't flick on the TV anymore without seeing two new abdominal exercise machines being promoted at once.
There are so many of them that if you get suckered into these 'ab workout' gimmicks, you will be broke quicker than Ben Johnson sprints the 100 meter dash!
And get this: Of the $520 million dollars a year spent on exercise equipment, abdominal machines get a $208 million dollar piece of the pie!
2. Thousands Of Crunches
Learning how to get a six-pack does not require thousands or even hundreds of crunches a day. So much for the Brittany Spears ab workout! Crunches are decent but totally overused and associated with more being better.
Crunches are a very general exercise, and general exercises get general results. Excessive floor crunches shorten the abdominal wall, pull your head forward and emphasize poor posture. They also involve a very low level of stimulation which neglects adequate muscle-fiber recruitment.
3. Starvation Diets
Learning how to get a six-pack does not involve starvation diets. Starvation diets starve the muscle when you should be feeding the muscle instead. Guess what happens when you starve your body? Your metabolism shuts down out of survival and causes your body to store fat.
Your body must get energy from somewhere, so guess what gets sacrificed? That's right, your precious muscle which is, in fact, responsible for maintaining a high metabolism. Starve your muscle - great logic!
4. Fat Loss Pills
Learning how to get a six-pack does not require fat loss pills. What did the last weight loss pill you bought do for you? The same thing the next one is going to do - nothing! Except give you a thinner wallet but not a thinner waist line.
The entire concept of taking pills for fat loss is built on a sandy foundation and misleading because diet pills only treat the symptoms and not the root cause. Without focusing on the root problems of a flabby mid-section, like poor nutrition, a crazy lifestyle and improper training, you will just end up where you started - farther away from having a six-pack for summer instead of closer.
Just Because You're Skinny Does Not Mean You Will Have A Six-Pack
The volume of interest I receive from skinny guys who wish to build their mid-sections is more than enough evidence to disprove the false reality of "I should be able to 'see' my abs if I have low body fat." I'm sure you know of a friend who is completely scrawny, yet, without a shirt on he, has zero abdominal definition! To me that would be salt on an open wound.
Abdominals Are A Muscle, Too!
You want your arms to be bigger, your shoulders to be broader and your chest to be fuller, correct? And what is the solution to making these muscle groups increase in size? High intensity weight training, overload, consistency and a healthy surplus of calories. Starting to sound familiar?
The same goes for your abdominals. Your abdominals are a muscle group that requires the same formula and attention and are not any different from other muscle groups. For some reason many consider abdominals to be a 'special' body part that requires a different set of rules and a completely different formula for training.
Abdominals were not given a 'secret code' to crack. To get thick, dense abs - the ones that 'pop' out - you must train them with intensity and overload. Here are some practical tips you can apply to your program so that you can be the 'man' or 'gal' at your gym with a ripped and muscular six-pack. Then I will provide a sample program!
Prioritize By Sequence
If your abs are your worse body part, then why do you keep training them last, at the end of your workout? Which muscles group will receive the highest priority when you train? The ones done at the start of your workout or the ones done at the end of the workout? Of course, the exercises done at the start of the workout while you have the most energy and focus.
If abdominals are the muscle group you wish to prioritize, then don't be afraid to disagree with the 'experts' who say "Never train your abdominals first because you'll weaken your core muscles for the rest of your workout...". I completely disagree with this and often reply, "Show me the evidence."
The typical response is "Nobody does abdominals first..." That is pure BS. This just supports the notion that many people who work out don't ever question what they hear or do. They want to be spoon-fed answers and follow the trends of others without thinking for themselves. I ALWAYS train abdominals first in a workout if they need the highest attention.
Prioritize By Frequency
What's going to receive better results? A muscle group that is trained one time a week or two times a week (assuming you recovered prior to the second workout commencing)? Of course, the muscle that is trained 2x a week.
The more stimulus on a muscle, the more growth. That is why professional athletes are professional athletes. They have conditioned their bodies to such a high amount of stress that they are able to train more frequently.
How often you train your abdominals is based on the inverse relationship of intensity and volume. The harder you train your abs, the more rest they need. The less intense you train your abs, the more frequently you can train them!
If your goal is rehab or injury prevention, then you will be able to train them often with more frequent and lower loads. If your goal is to make your abs more muscular and dense, then a higher load and less frequency would be ideal. If your goal is maintenance, then a medium load and frequency would be ideal.
If building a sexy six-pack is on your 'to do' list for 2007, then start training abdominals 2-4x a week. I will teach you in a moment how to split your abdominals up into two different days based on movement.
Your Genetics And Abdominals
Right now some of you can see a perfectly set of staggered abs that are wide and thick and separated by a line down the middle. Some of you have the classic four-pack which is four big abs with a smooth lower section. Some of you have tiny cubicle boxes sitting high on your abdominal wall. Some of you have the picture perfect eight-pack that makes people's jaws drop.
Like every muscle group, all you can do is train them as heavy and hard as possible and hope your genetics take care of the rest. You can't change the shape or alignment or separation of your abs. You can't move them around and place them where you want them. Your genetics will affect to which degree they "pop" out and to which degree they stay smoother or flatter.
The good news is that abdominals are abdominals and when your body fat levels are around 5-7% you are guaranteed to impress people, including yourself, with a set of hot-looking abs. Even though genetics play a huge role in how they look, it's important to know how to train them to make them look their best.
Divide Your Abdominals Into Two Separate Workouts For Best Results
To train your abdominals safely and effectively you must know the basic movement patterns of your abs and train them within all sub-categories:
- Truck Flexion (upper abs)
- Hip Flexion (lower abs)
- Rotation (obliques)
- Lateral Flexion (obliques)
The majority of books and articles you have read revolve the bulk of the ab exercises around the trunk flexion that is better known as 'upper ab' exercises. A full sit up is a perfect example of this.
Bill Starr in his 1976 classic The Strongest Shall Survive wrote that the abdominals
"... can be strengthened in a wide variety of ways. Sit-ups of all types, leg raises, truck rotation movements all involve the abdominal muscles to a different degree..."
I wouldn't be surprised if the abdominal program you are following right now is based on one movement - trunk flexion. I am guessing that your primary goal is actually to have a well-defined and sculpted six-pack, so I have provided a sample abdominal program to break it up into a four day program:
Even though you are training each movement twice per week, you will perform different exercises for each workout.
Use A Variety Of Functional Exercises
The Top 3 Hip Flexion Exercises
- Flat bench lying leg raise
- Decline reverse crunch
- Hanging leg raise
The Top 3 Trunk Flexion Exercises
- Swiss ball crunch
- Weighted swiss ball crunch
- Weighted cable crunch
The Top 3 Rotation Exercises
- Russian twist
- Weighted russian twist
- Weighted cable crossover
The Top 3 Lateral Flexion Exercises
- Decline oblique crunch
- Lateral flexion with medicine ball over head
- Lateral flexion with medicine ball twist
Each of these exercises progresses from basic to intermediate to advanced. I suggest you master the first exercise of each before commencing to the next.
Note: Perform this workouts at least two times a week separated by at least 48 hours rest. You should experience a deep muscle soreness after each one of these workouts. Focus on using a load that causes failure within 8-12 reps and then move to the next exercise. This is a non-stop circuit. Rest 1-2 minutes and repeat until you reach 4 sets total.
As said earlier, buiding razor sharp abs is not the easiest task in the work but nor is it the hardest. The above abdominal exercises will help you build a deeply separated and evenly placed set of abs in little time. The truth is that if you can't see your abs, then the best exercise for your abs will be better diet.