Summer is soon approaching which means only one thing – everyone wants to shed their Winter weight ready to hit the beach. More importantly, we all want to know the tricks to creating strong, lean abs.
The trouble is that people simply do not know how to create the flat stomach they visualise in their mind. For some reason it became an unwritten rule that the way to do so is through doing endless hours of sit ups… the only thing this will result in is lower back issues.
Sound familiar? Read on…
The Abs: Misconceptions
Before I get into the bulk of the article there are two common misconceptions concerning the abs that I’d like to highlight…
✓ Even if you’re sporting a 10 pack, it will never be seen if it is hiding underneath a layer of fat.
✓ Abs may be visible whilst still carrying body fat but will only stand out when you’re under 12% body fat…It’s really that simple!
✓ Genetic predisposition plays a big role in the shape, number and look of your abdominal muscles: If you do not genetically already have 6 pack abs then it is impossible to turn your 4 pack into a 6 pack.
✓ By defining and developing your abs as well as the surrounding muscles of the midsection is how you build an impressive physique – work with what you have and develop YOUR physique to its highest possible standard!
“Six packs” are predominately known as the rectus abdominis muscles; this is only one muscle of the midsection. Therefore, if you want to build a truly impressive midsection then you need to effectively train this muscle whilst also using exercises to target a range of abdominal muscles…
To get started, my recommendation would be to train abs from 3 – 5 days a week to stimulate your abdominal muscles – here a few of the best exercises to give you some deep, defined cuts that will really help your midsection to stand out.
1) Weighted Cable Crunch
My personal favourite. You may be thinking, “I don’t want to use weights for my abs, I want them defined, not bulky.”
…The truth is, abs are very thin muscle tissue and do not have the fibre make-up to grow to freaky proportions. Using additional weight is a great way to add dense cuts into the abs that will make them stand out.
To perform this movement grab a rope or straight bar attachment with the cable set up high on the pulley machine.
a) Kneeling down with the attachment held behind your head you want to pull your upper body down and inward towards your knees – you can start this like the image above, or really bend down so your head almost touches the floor.
b) You are not bending over and trying to force the weight down – pull your chest towards your knees using only the abdominal muscles.
c) Gradually exhale during the concentric or ‘pulling’ portion of the exercise as you do this you will feel a powerful contraction in the abs.
d) Try to blow out all the air in your lungs, once you get so far you will feel abs begin to tighten and contract.
2) Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises work the lower portion of the abdominals whilst also stimulating the serratus and oblique muscles. The oblique muscles are what give people that V shape definition below the abs and help to tighten the waist giving you a much more aesthetically pleasing midsection.
a) To perform this exercise hang from a pull up bar or use a piece of equipment that allows you to rest your forearms on…
b) Pull your legs up towards your chest using your midsection – you should feel this pulling at muscles just above your groin region as opposed to the upper abs which you might be accustomed to.
c) Only use the muscle of the midsection to perform this – lifting the legs up and down will not give the same level of stimulation or results.
d) Bring your knees up with legs bent, then, as you progress and get stronger perform the movement with legs straight and no bend in the knee.
3) Ab Wheel Rollouts
The ultimate abdominal exercise that hits all areas of the midsection to strengthen and stabilise muscles whilst building phenomenal core strength.
Ab wheel roll-outs are definitely at an advanced level but will work the abs in ways a sit up never could… 100% worth the effort for a tough but fulfilling abs workout.
a) Using an ab rolling wheel or if one is not available a barbell will suffice:
b) Starting on your knees in an upright position you slowly roll forward bringing your upper body towards the ground as though you are about to lie down
c) Stop an inch or two above the floor
d) Pull yourself back to an upright position.
…That sounds simply but chances are once you get around 6 inches from the floor depending on your current level, you will not be strong enough to hold your position – this is not a problem and only go to a level you can maintain whilst gradually trying to improve each time.
TIP: A little trick is to start on a raised surface, so a piece of stepping apparatus would work, this would allow you to get a little close to the floor before it becomes too difficult.
Take Home Message
The abs are not easily fatigued, therefore I suggest performing:
3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.
If you want to build and impressive 6-pack, cut out the sit ups and work to really stimulate the abdominal and surrounding muscles.
To significantly witness the hard work you have put in, get your diet in check to get the body fat right down… you’ll create a killer mid-section in no time!