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It's not just Instagram #nofilter hype; Cellucor athlete and fitness model Jordan Edwards knows exactly what it takes to develop and maintain a photo-worthy set of abs. A former collegiate high jumper, she now spends her time helping others clear their own obstacles in their routines via her online training business. On a daily basis, she fields a number of questions from clients, the most frequent of which is, of course, "How do I get abs like yours?"
While the answer is layered, and of course includes plenty of discussion of diet, Edwards urges her clients to first explore one particular variable in their training setup: frequency.
"I truly believe consistency is key with abs," she says. "Most people train them once a week and get tired of it. However, in order to maintain a perfect six-pack, your abs should be trained at least three times a week, or every other weekday."
This doesn't mean falling into the trap of doing the same workout day after day. Edwards mixes it up with each workout, and the results speak for themselves. Here's how she achieves a new level of definition!
Weight or No Weight?
One of the most hotly debated topics pertaining to abdominal training is whether or not to use resistance. Some athletes swear by the judicious use of cables, medicine balls, and even machines to bring about the fine details in their abs. Edwards has used weights in the past, but today, she isn't so sure.
"I don't typically like using resistance or weights for doing ab workouts, because I believe it makes my midsection look thicker and more muscular," she says. "I like to do ab exercises on the floor, using strictly body weight, in order to really shred my midsection. Occasionally, I'll use a light load, as when doing hanging knee raises for obliques, but I avoid the heavier resistance, because my abs tend to take on a 'bigger' look."
Take it from the abdominal diva herself! If you're looking to bring out the muscular pop in your abs, spending some time working in moderate rep ranges with weighted movements can help. But when the goal changes to slimming your waistline and maintaining it, leave the heaviness for someone else. "Women who just want that super flat, toned stomach may benefit more from doing movements with just their body weight."
Jordan Edwards' Abdominal Schedule
"I like to split my ab workouts up in sections," she says. "For instance, I'll emphasize the lower-ab region on Mondays with moves like hanging leg raises. Then, I'll hit oblique exercises on Wednesdays with exercises on the floor. Upper abs are on Fridays, and feature my favorite move, the decline-bench sit-up."
Dividing the work in this way allows Edwards to add volume to each area she's targeting. "I usually do roughly 260 reps for abs in most workouts," she says. "I train them until I simply can't take it anymore. This usually takes about 20 minutes."
Edwards' advanced workout consists of just one move, but follows a protocol of descending and ascending reps, which she says is killer. A good example is the hanging knee raise for lower abs. (Choose a challenging exercise but one that's not overly difficult.) She does 29 sets of the movement in this progression: set 1 is for 15 reps, then rest up to 30 seconds, then do a set for 14, alternating work:rest all the way down to 1 rep, then go back up to 15. In the video Edwards is shown doing the cable version for obliques and lower abs, which increases the level of difficulty.
Alternate High-Rep Plan
The single-exercise approach isn't the only one Edwards favors in her ab training. Another rotates five exercises in a circuit (with very short rest periods) that's highly intense in which she completes almost 400 reps.
A full 400 reps? How does she even count them? It's simple: Pick a few highly effective exercises, and use a rep scheme that allows you to rack up serious volume without doing serious math. "My favorite technique that always gets my ab burning is a descending style of training," she says. "I like to pick five different exercises and do them back to back for 30 reps. Then, I go back through all five exercises again for 25 reps, and then I end with 20 reps of all five back to back. The burn is intense!"
Note: Do all exercises in order in circuit fashion, resting if necessary. Beginners can start with just 10 reps per move. More advanced trainees should do 30 reps of each movement, 25 on the second round, and 20 in the third.
"I have been doing these same exercises for about eight years now, and my core is still going strong," Edwards says. "I don't think doing new, tricky ab routines is the right way to go. I think the best way to shred your core is to go old school, grab a yoga mat, and do as many bodyweight reps as your core can take." Here are her technique tips for these key moves:
Toe toucher: "The higher you reach the more you'll pull your shoulder blades off the floor. The lower abs get worked isometrically, so this is really a challenging movement, and the burn is intense."
Decline crunch: "Don't put your hands behind your head; instead reach for the ceiling. Because it's so hard, you may have to break your reps into blocks of 10."
Hanging leg raise: "Straightened legs are more difficult than the bent-knee version. Be sure tilt your pelvis toward your rib cage to target the lower region of your abs. That's an area most people find they need to work on."
Dead bug: "I love dead bugs! Dead bugs give you the best burn, especially if you really focus on contracting the abs hard on each rep."
Russian twist: "Don't do these with your feet anchored like shown in the photos. Raising your feet off the ground is more challenging; you'll have to maintain balance on your glutes. Twist side to side with your hands together in a fist."
How to Keep Progressing
Those two routines should give your abs all it can handle. But when you get to the point where you can rock through all the reps of any given exercise, Edwards suggests you consider it outgrown—at least for a little while.
"Replacing easier movements with harder ones is certainly the best way to continue progress," she says. "For example, a V-up is an extremely difficult move when training abs. I usually do this exercise when I feel my abs are ready for a new workout stimulus. Also, for my male clients, I'd say even adding a medicine ball to certain workouts exercises or using the ab roller will help increase the overload and keep your routine from going stale."