Are your abs ready for summer?
It’s summer time again. Time to get them abs out on the beach, pool party or whatever. Are you ready? Are you confident enough to take off your shirt and reveal them rock hard chiselled abs to the public?
No? Why not?
Oh they aren’t ‘ready’ yet?
Let’s be honest for a moment, they never are ready, you’ve been saying that for years, ‘just another week, that’s all I need’ or ‘I just don’t have good abs’. This may be the case or perhaps you haven’t considered the AB factors. . .
Regardless of what you’ve been told or read, genetics is a major factor . . . it’s not a limiting factor in your ability to attain six-pack abdominals, but it’s a key factor none the less. The Shape of your abdominals is decided at birth, deal with it. I know guys that are twelve percent body fat and still have ripped abs and guys at seven percent that are still struggling to reveal the bottom of their abs. You cannot change the ‘shape’ of your abs or make the ‘cuts’ between your abs deeper using abdominal exercises.
I have personally witnessed guys doing crunches with the smallest range of motion conceivable in a vain effort to ‘deepen’ the gaps between their abs. You cannot non-surgically change the shape or orientation of your muscle. Concentration crunches or whatever you call them are futile and a nonsensical way to try to develop a ‘deeper cut. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the only way you are going to ‘deepen’ them cuts is to fix your diet and lose some bodyfat. Period. Which brings us to the bodyfat factor.
Next to genetics this is the most important factor of them all. You MUST lower your bodyfat in order for your abs to show up. You can do all the abdominal work in the world, and even the right type and amount of weight training, but if you don’t reduce bodyfat then you’ll never see your abs and your dreams of having a six-pack will have to be put on hold.
Some people will be able to see their abs ‘start’ to appear at around ten to eleven percent bodyfat, whereas most will need to be down around seven or eight percent to see signs of their six-pack coming through. This has a lot to do with genetics and it is out of your control.
To attain a true six-pack, where ones abs are really popping, will require most people to drop down to six percent bodyfat or less and that is going to be achieved by using an effective resistance training program, metabolic type work like intervals and circuit training, and most importantly nutrition. It’s been said before. . . but let’s say it again, your abs are made in the kitchen, so get your kitchen in order and start eating clean to get, and keep, them abs lean! That brings us nicely on to the nutrition factor.
I will reiterate what I said in the bodyfat factor. Your abs, and the rest of your physique development, originates in the kitchen. You cannot out-train poor nutrition and I know you have heard it before, but still you have that cheeseburger and tell yourself you will train it off later in the gym. It doesn’t work like that, trust me. You should not be training to battle poor nutrition, you will be chasing your tail for years. You need to address your current goals; revealing those abdominal muscles, not training hard to stay the same and maintain your current physique. That is essentially what you are doing! It’s the definition of insanity!
‘Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results’ – Albert Einstein
When it comes to nutrition you have got to eat clean, so do it! You know it already but still you have that chocolate bar and your next training session is about compensation and not advancing to the next level of leanness. If you want to get your abs lean and develop a six-pack you can be proud of you need to be strong and resist eating crap!
Supplementing with high quality fish oil has actually been show to assist with bodyfat loss, especially in the abdominal region. This wonderful supplement has shown exciting results that are about as close to non-surgical spot reduction as you are going to get!
Keeping yourself hydrated is essential when you want to show off that chiselled six-pack. I know you think water has nothing to do with your abs. There are a number of reasons I have mentioned water here.
If you are dehydrated your body will retain water, your body stores water in the only available storage space under your skin . . . this stored water will actually look like excess fat . . . no abs for you.
Drinking water will keep you occupied, help you satisfy cravings and actually speed up your metabolic rate slightly. All of these factors are minutiae but they add up and contribute to revealing your abdominal muscles.
You may be surprised to see exercise or training so far down the list of AB factors; it’s an obvious factor in your abdominal development but not the biggest. The primary training mistake people make when trying to develop six-pack abs is performing ineffective programs and exercises.
When it comes to exercising or training for the attainment of six-pack abdominals you need to train using big compound lifts, unilateral exercises, bodyweight exercises, sprint training, metabolic type work and incorporate ‘some’ highly effective abdominal exercises.
The focus needs to be on resistance training. . . and it must be resistance training for the entire body, making sure you target the body’s metabolic hot spots (back, chest, lower body). The reason for this is that we are looking to stimulate our metabolism and create an afterburn effect and burn fat ‘after’ the workout as well as during.
Cardio is always going to be a key factor in your quest of achieving lean six-pack abdominals. I have a problem here too; too often people engage in the wrong modes of cardio . . . they perform routines that are time consuming, damaging to the metabolism and may burn off precious muscle in the process!
Low intensity cardio training has its time and place; go for a stroll or walk the dog. Do not go to a gym to creep your way through a ‘cardio’ session. You’re there to train, so do it. Introduce intervals into your training routine and rev up your metabolism and start burning some real fat.
In order to accelerate fat loss you need to engage in high intensity cardio routines and start thinking ‘intensity’ when it comes to your cardio routines, not duration.
The ‘crunch factor’ is listed last for a reason. Simply because crunches and all other ‘direct’ abdominal exercises are the least important piece of the puzzle for achieving a lean set of abs. The biggest mistake most people make when training to achieve ripped abdominals is zoning in on them exclusively.
The crunch itself is an obsolete and useless exercise. On the surface it appears to make sense. Your abs ‘can’ flex your spine so that becomes the primary exercise for developing abs; the ‘crunch’. Your bicep ‘can’ rotate your forearm, that does not mean if you stand there twisting your arms you will develop massive biceps. This is also true for the abdominals.
The primary functions of your abdominals include; stabilization, initiation of rotation and resisting rotation about the spine, not spinal flexion. The lumbar flexion performed in a crunch actually contributes to the degeneration of the vertebrae, elongating lumbar muscles and is the cause of most trainees back pain.
The only crunch anyone should be performing is the serratus crunch. This involves thoracic mobility and uses minimal lumbar flexion, i.e. safer on your back and spine.
The AB factors are an essential blueprint for you to follow if you are serious about revealing your abs once and for all. If you follow the principles outlined above your 6 pack is guaranteed.
Ian Graham, CPT and Bryan Kavanagh, BSc CSCS
Co-Authors of ‘The Athletic Body System’
Copyright 2009. Athletic Body System. All Rights Reserved