When I am asked for training advice, I usually ask, "What are your goals?"
Nine times out of ten, abs are at the top of the list. And why not?
There is nothing that completes a physique like a chiseled set of abs. So, what is the problem?
See, everyone has abs, but there are two problems. They are either too small and smooth to see, or they are covered in fat, or both.
So, when you think about this—and throw all those thoughts of quick fixes from electric belts, or roller abs, or crunch machines—abs are easy.
The Two Major Problems
1. Your Abs Are Too Small
Let's look at the first problem: Your abs are too small. This is easy to solve. To build muscle, what do you do? Strength exercises, such as sit-ups, leg lifts, etc. But, what works best?
For years, the emphasis has been on using high rep exercises, and training abs every single day. When you think about it, it makes so much more sense to train them just like any other body part, once or twice a week, making sure they are sore the next day.
As for high reps, don't go crazy: it's useless. If your goal is to make your abs more prominent, than you want to build their size, right? Do you build size on any other body part by doing 100s and 100s of reps? No. So why are abs different? They aren't.
A big problem area for most is the lower abdominals. One exercise I like, in particular, are leg lifts with a dumbbell between my feet. I have found the best results with this routine:
|Ryan's Lower Ab Routine.|
Ok, this should help with the problem of the muscles being too small or too smooth to show through.
2. Extra Body Fat
Now, this leaves the problem of that pesky fat. I talk about this in my previous article, "Getting Ripped for Summer". However, I have had a lot of questions about which type of cardio is best.
For me, personally, I enjoy the Stairmaster, because where I train I can monitor my heart rate constantly and I simply set it to 70% of my maximum and it speeds up, or slows down accordingly.
As long as you are keeping your heart rate in this training zone it's really just a personal preference. One of the most important things is motivation. Mixing up your types of cardio can help avoid boredom. But sometimes, this just isn't enough...
As I've mentioned, mixing up your cardio is a great way to avoid boredom. I like running outside instead of a treadmill session. Also, something as simple as using a different program on the machine (i.e.: manual, hill climb, interval, etc). My absolute favorite motivation tool is by far music.
I always have my mp3 player on me. Music can make the difference of a 275 lb bench and a 300 lb bench press. As well, the difference between a 25 min cardio session, and a 45 min cardio session. I like to have a mix, using more of a hard rock style for my workout and a mix of hip hop or even dance for my cardio sessions.
For me, the mirror is both my worst enemy and my best friend. One mirror may have terrible lighting, and I can feel horrible when looking at myself, however, another mirror, with good lighting can make me feel like a million dollars.
It's a good idea to set up a mirror somewhere with good lighting. When you're feeling unmotivated, just ten minutes of posing in this mirror can motivate you. Whatever gets you in to the gym. Everyone is different though, and these are just some ideas.
Friends really can make the difference. A friend of mine used to get me to say "Come on, number 2!" as I was spotting him. He said it made him think of coming second place, and pushed him to drive for those extra reps. I've also heard people calling each other "animals" and "machines". Whatever works!
I've even seen a guy get so excited because he picked a scab and was bleeding. He said the sight of blood got him pumped. I'm glad I changed gyms! Whatever works for you, though.
I have pictures of all my idols posted up around my room and especially on my fridge to help prevent those late night cravings. One thing I got from a motivational speaker at my school was the acronym "W.I.N." It stands for "What's Important Now?"
I taped this to my ceiling in my dorm room and every time I felt like hitting the snooze button at 6 a.m., I would see the sign, and it got me up every time. These are some of the things that have worked for me. Find what works for you and use it! There's nothing worse than being in a training plateau.
Keep training hard, and check back soon. I am going to be starting a weekly article to track my progress in gaining mass. I had to take 6 weeks off of training due to a hernia operation. Ironic thing is that I got the hernia from training! Let me tell you, the operation was not pleasant.
I couldn't even walk for a good 3 days, and the painkillers I was on just killed my appetite. I went from 196 lbs to 178 lbs in a matter of two weeks. If anyone has any ideas on supplement stacks they want tested let me know!
As always, keep your protein intake high, and some fat burners won't hurt at all. Check out the great tasting protein at Bodybuilding.com as well as their fat burning stacks—they're awesome!
Best of luck!