One of the hallmarks of complete physique development is having six pack abs. You can pound away at the weights but if you have weak ab development or a coating of fat around it , you won’t be winning a bodybuilding contest anytime soon.
The ability to get “ripped” is mostly a function of diet, with some aerobic training usually thrown in but that is not the focus of this article. We are going to concentrate on what it takes to build the muscle necessary to display great ab development.
If you think back to gym class in grade school or high school, you may remember doing dozens of situps in an effort to “burn off fat” and strengthen the stomach muscles. Unfortunately, these old school methods are wrong on many counts.
First of all, since the ab region is comprised of one of the smaller muscle groups in the body, doing endless sets and reps of situps and crunches will burn an insufficient amount of calories to lean you out. You are far better off using a routine consisting of compound exercises, especially ones where the legs are the main muscle being used. The reason for this is the legs require far more energy during training because they are the body’s largest muscle. Thus, they burn more fat.
More Muscle =Less Fat
The more muscle you carry on your body, the less fat you tend to have. Muscle burns a lot of calories both when its working and when at rest. Even while relaxing muscle burns many times more calories than other tissue. So a sound strategy is to build as much muscle as possible when you are younger and preserve as much as possible as you age. If you begin bodybuilding when you are older it is still possible to add a good amount of muscle to your frame, so don’t feel you are late to the game. Train hard and get plenty of rest and good nutrition and you will succeed.
Misconceptions About Ab Muscles
A common misconception regarding abs is they are endurance muscles, and as such, must be trained using high sets and reps in order to grow larger and stronger. This is not correct, in fact, they need to be trained in much the same way as other muscles. All muscles grow as a result of the correct amount of stress, or stimulus, put on them during a training session and respond during periods of rest. This necessitates the use of moderate weights and reps. A good rep range to use is 12-20. Vary the reps with different exercises as each rep count affects the abs in a different way.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to add too much mass to the abs because that will give you a thicker waist appearance, something you want to avoid if you desire the much-sought after v-taper. Train the entire abdominal area including the upper and lower abs, serratus and obliques so you end up with complete development.
Abdominal Training Routines
- Ab Crunches-1×20
- Leg Raises-1×20
End all sets 1-2 reps before muscular failure. Rest one minute between sets.
- Ab Crunches-1×20
- Leg Raises-1×20
- Ab wheel-1×10
End all sets 1 rep before muscular failure. Take a 20-30 second rest between sets depending on conditioning.
- Reverse Crunch-1×20
Lie flat on your back on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Place your hands at your sides by the floor for support. Slowly bend your legs at the knees bringing them towards your chest. Once the knees are by your chest, raise your shoulders and torso as far as possible from the ground in a curling movement without raising your back from the floor. Return your legs to the starting position and bring your torso back to the floor.
Hanging Leg Raises-1×12
Do these while hanging from a chin-up bar, preferably using ab straps for support.
- Weighted Side Bends with Dumbbell-1×20 each side
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Lean as far as you can to your left side. Reverse direction and lean as far right as you can. Repeat until unable to complete another rep.
All sets are to be taken to total muscular failure; that is until no more reps can be completed. Do these exercises as a giant set- as soon as you complete one exercise go to the next one without any rest. Since you are at an advanced level of High Intensity Training, one set of each exercise carried to muscular exhaustion is all you will need to build and strengthen all musculature in this region.
As you can see there is a natural progression from beginner to advanced. The beginner ends sets 1-2 reps before failure because the main focus is on learning proper exercise form. The intermediate bodybuilder finishes his/her sets just shy of failure, continuing to emphasize proper form and adding additional resistance to the exercises to facilitate gains in strength and development.
The advanced trainee is ready to safely push himself/herself to the limit and has gained the ability to focus the resistance on the muscle. Because of a heightened level of strength and ability to apply greater intensity to the abs, three sets is all that is needed.
The usual time-frame from beginner to advanced bodybuilder is: beginner progression to intermediate three months of training, intermediate to advanced an additional 3-6 months of training.
Keep in mind there are other great exercises to train this area, I have outlined a few of the most common to get you started.
David Groscup has over 35 years of training experience in HIT, or High Intensity Weight Training. He is certified as a High Intensity Trainer by the IART/Med-Ex Group and has trained many people successfully in this protocol.
He has authored several books on the subject of high intensity training, which are available at: https://www.amazon.com/author/davidgroscup
You can read his blog on High Intensity Training at: https://drhitshighintensitybodybuilding.blogspot.com/