Category Archives: abdominals
By: Bill Hartman, P.T., C.S.C.S.
If you can’t see your abs, don’t assume it’s because you’re missing out on a magical abdominal exercise or secret supplement. Blame your mindset.
You see, losing belly flab is a boring process. It requires time, hard work, and most important, dedication. Take the right steps every single day, and you’ll ultimately carve out your six-pack. But if you stray from your plan even a few times a week—which most men do—you’ll probably never see your abs.
The solution: six simple habits, which I teach to my clients to help them strip away their lard for good. Think of these habits as daily goals designed to keep you on the fast track to a fit-looking physique. Individually they’re not all that surprising, but together they become a powerful tool.
The effectiveness of this tool is even supported by science. At the University of Iowa, researchers determined that people are more likely to stick with their fat-loss plans when they concentrate on specific actions instead of the desired result. So rather than focusing on abs that show, follow my daily list of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle strategies for achieving that rippled midsection.
The result: automatic abs.
Need help planning your workout? Men, click here | Women, click here.
Wake Up to Water
Imagine not drinking all day at work—no coffee, no water, no diet soda. At the end of an 8-hour shift, you’d be pretty parched. Which is precisely why you should start rehydrating immediately after a full night’s slumber. From now on, drink at least 16 ounces of chilled H2O as soon as you rise in the morning. German scientists recently found that doing this boosts metabolism by 24 percent for 90 minutes afterward. (A smaller amount of water had no effect.) What’s more, a previous study determined that muscle cells grow faster when they’re well hydrated. A general rule of thumb: Guzzle at least a gallon of water over the course of a day.
Eat Breakfast Every Day
A University of Massachusetts study showed that men who skip their morning meal are 4 1/2 times more likely to have bulging bellies than those who don’t. So within an hour of waking, have a meal or protein shake with at least 250 calories. British researchers found that breakfast size was inversely related to waist size. That is, the larger the morning meal, the leaner the midsection. But keep the meal’s size within reason: A 1,480-calorie smoked-sausage scramble at Denny’s is really two breakfasts, so cap your intake at 500 calories. For a quick way to fuel up first thing, I like this recipe: Prepare a package of instant oatmeal and mix in a scoop of whey protein powder and 1/2 cup of blueberries.
As You Eat, Review Your Goals . . .
Don’t worry, I’m not going all Tony Robbins on you. (I don’t have enough teeth.) But it’s important that you stay aware of your mission. University of Iowa scientists found that people who monitored their diet and exercise goals most frequently were more likely to achieve them than were goal setters who rarely reviewed their objectives.
. . . And Then Pack Your Lunch
My personal Igloo cooler just celebrated its 19th anniversary. I started carrying it with me every day back in college. Of course, it often housed a six-pack of beer—until I decided to compete in the Purdue bodybuilding championship. (Second place, by the way.) Once I knew I’d have to don a banana hammock in public (the world’s best motivator), I began to take the contents of my cooler seriously. And so should you. In fact, this habit should be as much a part of your morning ritual as showering. Here’s what I recommend packing into your cooler.
• An apple (to eat as a morning snack)
• Two slices of cheese (to eat with the apple)
• A 500- to 600-calorie portion of leftovers (for your lunch)
• A premixed protein shake or a pint of milk (for your afternoon snack)
By using this approach, you’ll keep your body well fed and satisfied throughout the day without overeating. You’ll also provide your body with the nutrients it needs for your workout, no matter what time you exercise. Just as important, you’ll be much less likely to be tempted by the office candy bowl. In fact, my personal rule is simple: I don’t eat anything that’s not in the cooler.
Exercise the Right Way
Everyone has abs, even if people can’t always see them because they’re hidden under a layer of flab. That means you don’t need to do endless crunches to carve out a six-pack. Instead, you should spend most of your gym time burning off blubber.
The most effective strategy is a one-two approach of weight-lifting and high-intensity interval training. According to a recent University of Southern Maine study, half an hour of pumping iron burns as many calories as running at a 6-minute-per-mile pace for the same duration. (And it has the added benefit of helping you build muscle.) What’s more, unlike aerobic exercise, lifting has been shown to boost metabolism for as long as 39 hours after the last repetition. Similar findings have been noted for intervals, which are short, all-out sprints interspersed with periods of rest.
For the best results, do a total-body weight-training workout 3 days a week, resting at least a day between sessions. Then do an interval-training session on the days in between. To make it easy on you, I’ve created the ultimate fat-burning plan.
Skip the Late Shows
You need sleep to unveil your six-pack. That’s because lack of shut-eye may disrupt the hormones that control your ability to burn fat. For instance, University of Chicago scientists recently found that just 3 nights of poor sleep may cause your muscle cells to become resistant to the hormone insulin. Over time, this leads to fat storage around your belly.
To achieve a better night’s sleep, review your goals again 15 minutes before bedtime. And while you’re at it, write down your plans for the next day’s work schedule, as well as any personal chores you need to accomplish. This can help prevent you from lying awake worrying about tomorrow (“I have to remember to e-mail Johnson”), which can cut into quality snooze time.
If you’re a regular reader of Testosterone — meaning you actually read the articles every day and don’t just skim down to the Vixen du Jour — you likely know that the whole “core” training concept is pure marketing hype.
Think about it: In the golden days of Muscle Beach and the Venice boardwalk, guys trained their midsections with sit-ups, crunches, and various lifting movements, and they probably had much stronger abs than most people walking around today.
Still, core training is an easy sell: After a few crunches, you can feel the “burn.” Too bad that’s lactic acid you’re feeling, not progress!
Here’s an analogy: suppose you walked into an 8 x 8 foot room filled with a million mosquitoes, armed with only a pair of fly swatters. After 10 minutes, you’d probably have torched a few hundred thousand of the bloodsuckers and built up one heck of a triceps pump. But how effective would such a “workout” be if your goal was to build up your triceps? Well, that’s doing about as much for your arms as nouveau core training is for your abs.
Now it’s definitely important for just about everyone to work his or her midsections. The benefits are overwhelming: improved posture, more stable midsection, better movement, and eliminating lower back pain. However, this can be accomplished in five to ten minutes per workout, with a few simple, non-retarded exercises.
Below are seven such movements. They’re all guaranteed to improve your looks, your lifts, and your lower back health — without leaving you looking like the latest infomercial victim.
As athletes we perform standing up, so why do so many magazines only recommend exercises performed while lying down? They’ll usually say that this is done in some half-ass attempt to “isolate” the abs. This explanation is a) wrong, and b) retarded.
First, the abs don’t need to be isolated. They function as a stabilizer in most athletic functions. Second, trying to take the hip flexors out of all ab training movements is asking for trouble. Sure, if you’re after only aesthetics, then isolating is a good idea at times — but always isolating can be problematic to long-term health.
The hip flexors and abs were designed to work together, so they should be trained together most of the time!
The Standing Cable Crunch is a perfect exercise to involve the abs in a dynamic fashion while standing.
Simply attach a rope or strap to a high pulley station, walk out a step or so, and bend forward in a forceful but controlled manner. Return to the top slowly, flex, and explode down. You can change up the attachments and foot placements to change the exercise.
Do 3 to 5 sets of 5-10 reps. Yes, that’s a far cry from the 500-rep nonsense the core training divas talk about. There’s a reason for this: the abs are muscles — so train them like muscles! Don’t be afraid to put some weight on the stack.
I learned about this exercise years back from Pavel Tsatsouline. It’s an excellent movement for the obliques and abs. Forget standing on a Swiss ball; the FCT isfunctional ab training!
I’ve found that this exercise not only strengthens the abs but also helps with the ability to “pop” the hips. Both seasoned MMA fighters and weekend warriors who like to throw the occasional drunken punch at closing time will find this exercise helpful.
Load one side of a barbell and stick the unloaded end in a corner or the corner of your rack. Stand to the left of the bar, facing it; the bar is perpendicular to your feet at this point. Grab the bar’s sleeve and tighten your body, pivot and turn the bar until you almost face the corner. Keep your elbows locked throughout.
When you reach the other side, reverse motion.
• Keep your abs tight the entire time and lift slowly and smoothly. Do not jerk or speed through this lift!
• Don’t twist your back while doing the FCT; it should be a smooth motion. Lower under control then flex and rotate back to the other side.
Again, 3 to 5 sets x 5 – 10 reps seems to work best. Add weight slowly; the majority of form problems I’ve seen have resulted from adding too much weight too quickly.
This is a great movement to really overload your abs; don’t be afraid to go heavy on this one. This is the type of movement that’ll pay huge dividends when it comes time to attempt a max squat or deadlift because you’re exposing your abs to way more weight than you ever could with a simple crunch, or even weighted crunches.
Simply set up as you would in a floor press or on a bench as in a bench press. Keep the bar locked out at arms’ length and do a crunch. Don’t let the arms drift back or forward. Concentrate on keeping the bar locked-in and flexing the hell out of your abs.
• Use dumbbells or kettlebells to crank up the intensity and place a different stress on the muscles.
• Try using one dumbbell or Kettlebell at a time to further increase intensity.
• Hold the top position for a second before returning to the starting position.
Do 3 sets of 6, but really load up the bar and go heavy!
Let’s not forget the obliques. The average side bend just doesn’t cut it when it comes to building a truly strong midsection. For anyone who wants to deadlift or squat real weights, the obliques must be strong.
The Suitcase Deadlift is old school and brutal. I’ve seen some very strong people humbled the first time they’ve tried this exercise.
This movement is best done off the floor, but if you’re having trouble, you can set the bar at about mid-shin level in the rack.
Stand to the side of the bar. Bend and set yourself in the same position you would to deadlift (back flat, chest up) and pick it up just as you would a suitcase. You can also use a Farmer’s Walk bar if you have access to them.
Keep your abs flexed and your lower back tight throughout the movement. If you start twisting, stop and take some weight off the bar.
Three to 4 sets of 5 reps is sufficient with this toughie!
Most of you have probably never done this lift before. The Pitch Fork Lift (sometimes called the Shovel Lift) comes from Steve Justa, author of Rock, Iron, Steel, and is true functional training. It works the obliques as hard as any other movement I’ve ever come across.
If you’ve been having trouble with falling forward in the squat or haven’t been able to properly push out against your belt when squatting or deadlifting, this movement will push your personal records to new heights.
This one’s easy to set up and perform. Load one end of an Olympic bar. Now, grab the unloaded end with one hand and place the other hand at about the midpoint of the bar.
Bend the knees and sideways at the hip and lift the loaded end of the bar, just as you would when shoveling dirt. You can make the movement much harder by then turning a bit to the side, as if “dumping” the dirt out of the shovel.
Return to the starting point and repeat. It will help if you lockout your arm farthest from the loaded end and “press” it down, levering the weight up.
Keep the reps under 6, and go for 3 to 5 sets.
Pavel re-popularized this movement in Bullet Proof Abs, but anyone who loves training movies fell in love with this exercise in Rocky IV.
This is an advanced exercise and you must already have very strong abs and great body control to do these properly.
Lie down on a bench and grab it hard at head level (if your grip slips, you fall). Then, roll your body up so that your lats are pointing straight out at almost 90 degrees. Slowly lower yourself to about 45 degrees, then down as far as you can without touching the bench.
Use your abs to pull your legs back up to above 45 degrees. At first, you may need to start dropping to just below the starting position until you feel strong enough to go all the way down.
• Keep your body tight and straight
• Hold on to that bench!
The ab wheel is one of the original darlings of the infomercial scene, which is too bad since it’s also one of the most kick-ass movements you can do.
The trick is, you have to do it properly: Simply rocking back and forth on your knees while holding a wheel will do about as much for your abs as a Thighmaster does for your quads.
Using an ab wheel properly is simple: Kneel down, roll out with the wheel, then pull yourself back up using your abs; don’t jackknife the hips. Your hips should “tuck” a bit (the end position should look like a scared cat).
There’s a big problem with the ab wheel that some of you seasoned guys can relate to: It’s just too easy for anyone who’s even moderately strong. Sure, you could run the reps way up, but who wants to count that high?
Here’s the solution: use the ab wheel while standing. This variation is much harder and you need to have good body control and a strong back.
Perform the exercise just as you would its kneeling variation, but standing up. When you reverse motion, your feet will act as “hooks” and pull you back to the top.
Start with low reps until you feel confident. Sets of 10 would be pretty damn strong, so shoot for that.
Rack Pulls aren’t your traditional ab exercise — they’re designed to hit the hams and back hard, along with helping improve your deadlift. But, as anyone who’s ever tried them will know, your abdominals will take a beating if you’re using heavy weight. Otherwise, you’ll fall forward and lose the lift.
Set up a bar at knee height (or just above or below the knee) in the rack; load it up, and deadlift it. This should be done as a heavy leg exercise with the benefit of hitting the abs, rather than as a direct abdominal movement.
Keep the reps low, 1 to 3 and the sets from 5 to 8.
If you compete in any sports or do any kind of powerlifting or Olympic lifting, I suggest training the abs three to five times per week. If you’re training to look good, three times should be enough, but you can never really do too much ab work.
Just add one exercise to the end of your training sessions several times per week and you’ll notice a huge improvement in both performance and looks!
And, if you call in the next 30 minutes, we’ll email you another free article, Tight Taut Tushy in Just Two Minutes a Week! But you must call now, or —
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Forget for a moment that the shape of your midsection largely determines how good you’ll look on the beach this summer—and how well you’ll play volleyball. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
The pursuit of abs goes deeper. You strive for a six-pack as if your life depended on it, and now science proves that it does. At a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, research was presented declaring that waist circumference is more conclusive than either weight or body-mass index (BMI) as a measure of disease risk.
Miami cardiologist Arthur Agatston, M.D., author of The South Beach Diet, puts it this way: “Abdominal fat is different and more dangerous than fat elsewhere. Unlike fat directly under the skin, belly fat, which adheres to organs, is associated with increases in C-reactive protein (CRP) and other markers of inflammation that can lead to heart disease.”
Motivated yet? Good. We trust you’ll lay off the fries and onion rings. Remember, if your body fat is too high, it doesn’t matter how wisely you work your abs—they won’t show. (For most men, anything over 10 percent body fat keeps your abs in hiding.)
For the next month, work your abs according to the following steps and try this eating tip from Nancy Clark, R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook: “I make two peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches every day; I eat one for lunch at 11 and one for my second lunch at 3,” Clark says. Notice that the 3 o’clock feeding is a “second lunch,” not an “afternoon snack.” Too many men equate snack time with, well, snacks—junk food. You’ll eat smarter (whole grains and muscle-building protein) and not need as big a dinner if you allow for a second lunch. Plus, you’ll have more energy for a better workout in the afternoon or evening.
This, in turn, will keep your insulin levels steady. When insulin is in excess (from too much sugar and not enough exercise), it can turn on you, depositing fat into your gut. Or worse. “When the pancreas burns out after years of producing excess insulin, that’s when buildup begins in arteries; that can cause heart attacks and strokes,” Dr. Agatston says.
But enough scary stuff. Time to hit the gym—and then the beach.
Train with 2 Types of Exercise
Some abs exercises are based on movement. Others focus more on balance, so your abs contract harder to keep your body stable. “Most men have difficulty with either stabilization or mobilization,” says Carter Hays, C.S.C.S., a Houston-based personal trainer and a performance-enhancement specialist for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Include both types of moves in a workout to challenge your abs.
For instance, try performing a Swiss-ball rollout (mobilization), followed by a Swiss-ball crunch (stabilization). To do the rollout, kneel in front of the ball with your forearms pressed against it. Keeping your knees and feet in place, roll the ball in front of you so your hips, torso, and arms slide forward. Advance as far as you can without arching your back, then pull back to the starting position.
Get More from Your Cardio
Strip away abdominal fat by switching around your cardio routine so you run hard early. In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, eight men ran for 30 minutes on 2 separate days.
In the first session, the men ran at a relatively high intensity—80 percent of their maximum heart rate—for 15 minutes, then slowed to 60 percent for the final 15 minutes. In the other session, they ran the slower part first.
The men burned 5 to 10 percent more fat when they ran faster at the start of the workout. “And this is only a 30-minute workout,” says Jie Kang, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “If you extrapolate that to a longer workout three to five times a week, things can add up.”
Here’s why it works: To burn fat, your body first breaks down fat tissue into fat molecules. “Our study found that this works better when your abs exercise is done at a relatively high intensity,” says Kang. Next, molecules go to your cells to be burned, which Kang says can occur at relatively lower intensities.
The best part: You’ll feel as if you’re burning fat easier than ever. Kang measured the participants’ perceived exertion—how hard they felt they were working. Turns out the body feels fatigued late in a workout, regardless of what you do.
This one’s almost too easy, but drinking plenty of water not only helps you burn fat, but also builds more muscle. “All creatine does is force fluid into the muscle,” says Hays. “Your body will do that itself if there’s enough water available.”
Skip the Bonus Abs Routine
Edging closer to sharp abs can tempt you to work them every day. Don’t. Training more can actually make your abs show less. “You don’t need to overwork your abs—they’re no different from any other muscle,” says Hays. “If you’re always in a state of overtraining, you’re going to get more laxity in your muscles.”
In other words, they’ll appear soft. Instead, add resistance to make moves you already do more challenging. For instance, hold a light weight plate during a Russian twist or Swiss-ball crunch. Then give your muscles time to rest.
Do More Total-Body Exercise
Isolation moves like crunches are great for developing your muscles, but they don’t burn much fat. You’re better off training multiple muscle groups at once, says Hays. Total-body exercise burns more calories and also causes a greater release of muscle-building hormones.
Try combination moves, like the reverse lunge to cable chest fly. Stand between a cable station’s weight stacks and grab a pulley handle with each hand. Hold your arms straight in front of you. Then step back with one leg, bend your knees, and let your arms move out to the sides. Pause when your back knee is just off the floor and your upper body looks like a T, then push yourself back up while you pull your arms together. Repeat the move with your other leg in the back position.
Get Off the Floor
Define the lower portion of the rectus abdominis (your six-pack muscle) with a Swiss-ball reverse crunch, but instead of doing the move on the floor, hop on a bench. “It allows for a greater range of motion,” says Gregory Joujon-Roche, C.P.T., president of Holistic Fitness, in Los Angeles.
Lie faceup on the edge of a bench with a Swiss ball pinched between your heels and hamstrings. Keeping your abs drawn in, roll your pelvis off the bench and, maintaining the same knee angle, bring your knees toward your chest. Slowly lower the ball. As soon as your back begins to arch on the way down, that’s the end of your range of motion. Pause at this point for a few seconds before finishing your set. Try five sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Abdominal muscles are multilayered, but most men focus only on the outermost layer with exercises like the crunch. So look for moves that work the abdominal muscles closest to the spine, such as the plank. Strengthening these tiny stabilizers will provide a solid foundation to allow your six-pack muscles to grow stronger and bigger. For more exercises, check out The Abs Diet Online. It also provides you with a nutrition plan designed by our experts to target that pesky midsection. Join today.
by the World’s Most Dangerous Editors
Okay, we’re going to say this one last time:
If your diet sucks and your body fat level is high, you aren’t going to have visible abs, no matter how much you train them.
Can’t see your abs? Fix your diet.
But there’s a caveat. Just because you can’t currently see your abs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train them. After all, you hopefully plan on seeing them one day, right? And skipping any muscle group, especially those that involve the very core of your body, is a recipe for poor performance and future injury.
One more thing before we tell you about some of the best ab exercises and training techniques we’ve tried over the last decade: Yes, big compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, and pull-ups bring the various ab muscles into play. That’s cool, you should definitely be doing those.
But that doesn’t mean you should skip doing effective, direct abdominal exercises. The men and women with the most admirable physiques sure don’t. Neither should you.
With all that out of the way, let’s get to the cool stuff!
Things You Don’t Know About Abs
Bodybuilding expert Christian Thibaudeau has exhaustively researched ab training for physique athletes, and he’s made some very cool discoveries that cut through the bullshit. Here’s a quick and dirty summary:
There’s no reason to worry about your abs getting “too big” by training them heavy with external load. You won’t build a blocky midsection, so stop worrying about it… or stop using that as an excuse to skip ab work.
For example, EMG studies by Willet et al. concluded that the most oblique activation is seen in a reverse crunch, not a twisting movement as you might expect. And while the reverse crunch does produce the greatest muscle activity in the low portion of the rectus abdominis, there’s basically no difference in the muscle activity of the upper ab region between a crunch, reverse crunch, or twisting crunch.
“As a result, the ab muscles can be trained more often than most muscle groups, even if loaded exercises are used. A frequency of 2-3 times per week is optimal in most cases.”
Cool, huh? Now, let’s get to the exercises and training routines!
#1: Accentuated Crunches on the Bench
We learned this one from Charles Poliquin. That’s significant because Coach Poliquin is one of those “just squat and deadlift and the abs will take care of themselves” guys. And even he likes this unique ab exercise.
Accentuated crunches will expose your rectus abdominis to a different type of stimulus, with just the right amount of eccentric loading. Here’s how to do it:
Grab the ends of the rope, position yourself on the bench with your back toward the machine, and start with your hands on your shoulders. Roll your shoulders forward just enough to feel the resistance.
#2: The Staggered Abs Method
Most people dislike ab training. And it’s especially difficult psychologically to get pumped about it when you can’t see your abs yet!
Another issue is where in your workout you place ab training. Most people “toss in” ab work at the end of their planned workout for that day. In other words, they do their ab training when they’re physically and mentally fatigued and ready to get the hell out of the gym!
Staggered training, used by everyone from Arnold in his prime to Coach Thibaudeau today, can solve all these issues. Here’s how Thibs explains it:
“Perform one set of abdominal work after each set of every exercise in your regular weight training workout,” says Thibs. “This allows you to perform anywhere from 9 to 20 sets of abs without even noticing it!”
So for example, if you’re doing three sets of bench press, simply perform an ab exercise between each set. Then, when you move to dumbbell flyes, choose another ab exercise and again perform a set between each round of flyes.
Simple, but brutally effective!
#3: Tate’s Reverse Cable Side Bends
Here’s a unique abs/obliques movement we picked up from Dave Tate.
The movement is performed on a standard cable machine with the use of a single D-handle. Begin by standing with your side to the machine. Grab the D-handle and pull it down to your side so your arm is locked.
From here, perform the same movement as you would with a one-arm dumbbell side bend. The difference with this is the resistance is now opposite what it would be with dumbbells. The tension is now on the downward phase.
Before you begin, remember to tighten your abs and obliques. Bend to the side and make sure to keep a controlled tempo. Flex your obliques very hard when you reach the midpoint and keep your upper body erect. Return to the start position slowly while keeping as much tension on the obliques as you can.
#4: Train the Serratus
The serratus anterior is that cool-looking muscle on the side of the upper abs area, sometimes referred to as the “boxer’s muscle.” It isn’t technically an abdominal muscle, but it completes the look of a muscular, shredded torso.
Problem is, it’s kinda tough to train directly. In fact, many strength coaches say to forget about targeting the serratus and instead just get your body fat very low and do lots of overhead presses and pullovers, which bring the serratus into play.
Not bad advice really, but you can directly target this muscle group. Here’s how:
We can’t remember if we learned this one from a trainer somewhere or if we “invented” it. Regardless, editor Chris Shugart has successfully used this exercise to hypertrophy the hard-to-hit serratus.
Here’s how it works. Stand sideways to a high cable with a D-handle. If your left side is facing the handle, reach up with your left hand and grab it. Place your right hand on the left serratus. This is a form of “touch training” and will help you target the serratus and work it fully.
Bend in the opposite direction to get a full stretch, then “crunch” the serratus down and forward slightly. Hold the crunched position for a few seconds for full effect. After 6 to 12 reps, switch and train the other side.
Poliquin notes: “Usually a guy with no serratus, assuming his body fat level is low, hasn’t done enough full range of motion movements with dumbbells, such as dumbbell bench press and dumbbell rows. He’s been using barbells too much (less range of motion).”
So, easy solution: If your serratus sucks and you use mostly barbells, switch to dumbbells.
#5: Forward Roll
We remember seeing those silly-looking “ab wheel” gadgets at K-Mart when we were kids. The box had a photo of a leotard-clad woman in the doggy-style position about to roll out on a device that looked like a lawnmower wheel on a stick. We liked the gal, but we thought the gadget was goofy.
Years passed, we got into training, some guy named Pavel said the ab wheel was actually a pretty cool tool, so we forked over five bucks and tried it.
Ho-ly crap! It was vicious. To use an old-school bodybuilding term, it seemed to “shock” our abs, probably due to contracting them in an extreme stretch position, which many believe is crucial for fast hypertrophy. And the next day? Exquisite soreness, telling us that despite all our previous ab training, the ab wheel was doingsomething new.
Here are a few ways to use the forward roll:
The objective is simple: Extend your body forward until it’s parallel to the ground. However, to make this drill effective you must:
Same as above, but use a barbell with some small plates on it instead of a wheel.
Same as above, but use a Swiss ball instead of a wheel or barbell. This is a good one to use if the standard ab wheel forward roll is too difficult for you. (Weenie.)
We learned this variation from Chad Waterbury. Stand up straight and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Now, keeping the weight on the hands and toes, “walk out” until your arms are as far out in front of you as possible, then walk back up.
#6: Reverse Crunch on Swiss ball
A reverse crunch is difficult enough for most people. Add in the instability of a Swiss ball — which causes your abs to fire erratically as you fight to attain balance then maintain it — and you have a very advanced ab training tool.
Place a Swiss ball or stability ball near a power rack or something stable that you can hold onto. Lie back on the ball and grab the power rack. Now raise and lower the legs until you vomit. Fun!
#7: Eccentric-Only Leg Drop
Time to channel your inner gymnast. Jump up and grab a pull-up bar. Bring your legs up and hold them in the air as straight as possible. Once you’re steady, begin to slowly lower the legs.
Try to lower them as slowly as possible. “Cheat” the legs back up and repeat until your legs are dropping quickly because of abdominal fatigue. Then, if you’re a real masochist, finish off with AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of standard bent-knee leg raises.
#8: Decline Dragon Flag
Do we even have to say it? This one is not for newbs.
This exercise is often attributed to Bruce Lee, but we say Chuck Norris invented it… after he invented Bruce Lee. And China.
The video is self-explanatory; just remember to roll all the way back on your upper back/traps. To keep the tension on the core, don’t come quite all the way up.
#9: Incline Russian Twist
“I don’t like regular Russian twists as I don’t feel they’re that effective,” notes Thibaudeau. “However, I find this variation to be extremely effective…and painful!”
Anchor yourself on an incline board or roman chair, then do a half sit-up so that your lower back isn’t in contact with the board. Keep that position during the whole exercise.
The execution is simple: rotate your torso form side to side. The arms are fully stretched out in front of you and they don’t move — only the trunk is mobile. Try for the longest range of motion possible. Perform 8-12 reps per side, or 8-12 full rotations. Hold a weight if you’re a stud.
Final Tip & Wrap-Up
While we like adding resistance to ab training, it’s not for everyone. Beginners and those who have dysfunctional abs — people who use their psoas and rectus femoris because they can’t “feel” their abs working — will want to use unweighted exercises performed slowly as first. Use touch training and place your hand on the muscle you’re trying to train, then contract that muscle maximally.
Give these powerful ab training movements and routines a try. That — and laying off the post-workout doughnuts — will help you find those abs you’ve been searching for!
Location: Gold’s Gym, Abilene, Texas
Tates Reverse Cable Side Bends
Serratus Cable Crunch
Ab Wheel Forward Roll
Swiss Ball Forward Roll
Hand Walkout From Toes
Reverse Crunch on Swiss Ball
Eccentric-Only Leg Drop
Decline Dragon Flag
Hate the Gym? How Very French, by Mireille Guiliano
2.) Incorporate simple resistance movements into your daily routine. Use your own body weight as resistance wherever possible. Isometric exercises, discreet but effective, are very French. This can be done before you even leave the house in the morning. For example, while waiting in traffic or on the subway, contract your abs for 12 seconds with your back pressed against the seat (it’s better for you than road rage). When reading a magazine at home, try sitting on the floor with your legs stretched and apart in a V and your hands on each side; this is a great stretch for your inner thigh muscles.
3.) Take care of your core. I’m a firm believer that we need to attend to our abdominals as we age. These are the muscles that hold all our vital organs in place; they support good posture and a healthy spine, something we must take care of as we get older. Do a few sit-ups as part of a little stretch/exercise/yoga routine in the morning — it’s never too early or too late to start this ritual.
4.) Acquaint yourself with small to moderate free weights (3-5 lbs.), especially if you’re over 40. A bit of extremely simple resistance training is an antidote to hours spent on gym machines. Short but focused movement with small weights is a good way to preserve upper body tone and bone density and supplement the cardiovascular benefits of an active lifestyle. A little goes a long way, and that only increases the older you get, so don’t let extremism overtake you.
|You don’t have to torture yourself on those metal contraptions or run a marathon to stay trim. French women reject the notion of ‘no pain, no gain.’|
5.) Get en vélo. Americans tend to see bicycling as recreation, and often either as a child’s pastime or a hobby for only the most serious triathletes. But French and European women see cycling as a mode of transportation. I encourage those who can bike to work or shopping to do so. One of my pleasures in Provence is taking my bike to run errands. Riding my bike is one of my favorite warm weather routines and is, of course, environmentally clean and efficient, so I am happy to see bikes and bike lanes increasing in New York and other cities. Cycling has well-known health benefits: it’s a low-impact, mild aerobic exercise that strengthens your heart and lungs; tones the large (read: fat-burning) muscle groups; keeps joints, tendons and ligaments flexible; builds stamina; and is generally fun, reducing stress and boosting your mood. And the view from a real bicycle ride beats the view from a stationary bike in a white-walled gym any day of the week.
6.) Yoga. If there was ever a fountain of youth, it might be the practice of yoga. Not only does it reduce stress, improve your posture and help to develop longer, leaner limbs, it also speeds up your metabolism, works nearly every muscle group and promotes an overall bodily wellness that no other sport or class can compete with. I practice yoga religiously, usually in the comfort of my own home. I am no yogi; I do not spend hours upon end on my head — I simply have a handful of mastered poses and movements that make me feel good and keep me limber and trim. Most women can find 20-30 minutes a day to practice if they make it a priority. No equipment necessary.
7.) Vive l’escalier! Taking the stairs whenever possible is one of the main tenets of my philosophy. It always astounds me to see people who live no higher than the fourth floor and with nothing more to carry than themselves taking the elevator. In France, walking up and down stairs is a perfunctory part of our day. We rarely spend an hour stair climbing, but you should know that climbing stairs burns a stunning 1100 calories per hour. Climbing a couple flights a day will surely go a long way. A few times a week I choose to walk up the 15 flights of stairs to my apartment for some healthy fun — and yes, I do enjoy it.
In the end, remember that those who overexert themselves inevitably burn out, but those who know how to stay fit while enjoying life come out ahead, mentally and physically.