If you're like most people, you have two more or less distinct strength training programs: one for your core, and one for everything else. The second program can look a million different ways, but most core programs look about the same: Isolate each muscle and train for the burn. Isolate, burn, isolate, burn. Do those side bends, crunches, and flutter kicks, and then do them again, because no workout is complete without them.

We're engrained to think this is the only way. No matter how many times we're told that spot reduction doesn't work, our behavior says we still believe crunches and sit-up variations are actually capable of burning away abdominal fat and creating a lean, chiseled midsection.



Well, there is another way, and it comes with the benefit of building full-body strength and definition. I'm talking about asymmetrical loading. Also known as offset loading, it's a way of training that relies on full-body exercises where the weight is held only on one side of the body. An example is a dumbbell bench press performed one arm at a time.

Offset loading with upper and lower body exercises not only works the prime movers—chest, shoulders, back, thighs, butt, and hamstrings—but also challenges your abdominals to maintain a strong, tall and stable torso. By lifting weights in this fashion, your abdominals constantly must react to the shifting load placements. As a result, they get attacked from every angle. This is what core training is all about!

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

 

One Side, Two Workouts, Six Weeks, Six Pack

Any program that has the end goal of a six-pack comes with a caveat: you need a healthy approach in the kitchen in order for this to work. Seriously. Now let's talk training.

Your six-week full-body asymmetrical training program is built around a two-week rotation. Each week, you'll alternate between one of two strength workouts three times, along with three cardiovascular workouts. Your two weeks should look about like this:

Week 1:

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Workout A
  • Tuesday: Easy cardio
  • Wednesday: Workout B
  • Thursday: Easy cardio
  • Friday: Workout A
  • Saturday: Sprints

Week 2:

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Workout B
  • Tuesday: Easy cardio
  • Wednesday: Workout A
  • Thursday: Easy cardio
  • Friday: Workout B
  • Saturday: Sprints

Your cardio workouts can consist of any activity such as running, rowing, or cycling, performed for 20-45 minutes at an intensity of roughly 65 percent of your max heart rate. The sprint workout can consist of short, fast bursts of 10-30 seconds, alternated with the same rest period. An example is running on the treadmill hard for 20 seconds, followed by a 20-second easy jog. This should be repeated for 8-12 minutes depending on your current fitness level.



You'll use the same reps/set/break scheme for the entire 6-week period. However, try to progress each workout by using slightly more weight than last time, if you can.

You'll notice that every upper body exercise in the two workouts is paired with a lower body exercise. This allows one region to rest while you train the opposite region. It also makes for a high-paced style of training that will kick your fat loss into overdrive. This is a must because losing fat—in addition to eating at a slight caloric deficit—is the only way to see toned, ripped abs.

Single-Arm Overhead Press with Kettlebell

 

Offset Loading for Six-Pack Abs Program: Workout A

Perform the first set of exercise A1 followed by the first set of exercise A2. Take the recommended break and continue with the second set of exercise A1 and exercise A2. Repeat this pattern until all sets of exercise A1 and exercise A2 have been completed. Follow the same pattern with exercises B1 and B2, and then C1 and C2.

Workout A
1
Superset
One-Arm Flat Bench Dumbbell Flye
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
One Leg Barbell Squat
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
2
Superset
Single Leg Deadlift
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
One-Arm Dumbbell Row
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
3
Hanging Leg Raise
3 sets, 12 reps
4
Alternating Renegade Row
3 sets, 10 reps

Offset Loading for Six-Pack Abs Program: Workout B

Workout B
1
Superset
Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
Dumbbell Walking Lunge
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
2
Superset
Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
3
Superset
Ab Roller
3 sets, 12 reps
Kettlebell Windmill
3 sets, 10 reps

Movement Notes

The technique with movements like the overhead press, bench press, and Romanian deadlift is not drastically different when using one dumbbell versus two. Just remember to brace your abs, because you no longer have a balanced load.

These four movements bear a little more explanation:

Single-Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat: Perform this movement with the dumbbell front-racked. This means when you are performing it on the right side, you'll hold it in front of your right shoulder with your elbow pointing down and your thumb pointing back at you.

Single-Dumbbell Forward-to-Reverse Lunge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart while holding a front-racked dumbbell in your right hand. Perform a forward lunge with your right leg. Then immediately step back and perform a reverse lunge. This is one rep. From here, step forward into another forward lunge. Perform all reps with the weight on one side before moving it to the other side.



Single-Leg Back Extension: Set the thigh pad of a 45-degree back extension bench to rest at just below your hip crease. Secure one leg underneath the footpad. Draw your shoulder blades back and get tall in your spine. Hinge forward, bending over the thigh pad. At the bottom of the movement, you should feel tension in the hamstring of the secured leg. Raise your back by squeezing your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Be careful not to hyperextend your back at the top of the raise.

Dumbbell Windmill: To perform this on the right side, hold a dumbbell overhead in your right hand with a locked elbow. Stand with your feet pointing slightly to the left. Slightly bend your left knee while keeping your right knee straight. Place your left hand on the front of your left thigh with your palm facing away from you. Turn your head and look up at the dumbbell. Hinge from your hips as you slide your left hand down your left leg. Keeping your eyes on the dumbbell, continue to stick out your butt as your bow forward. Stop when your fingers touch your left ankle, and then reverse the movement to the standing position.

About the Author

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP

Jon has coached and helped numerous clients reach and surpass their fitness goals, including high-level athletes, emergency personnel and more.

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