I’m just gonna go ahead and start where we need to start and you’re not gonna be happy about it…
Ab training is overrated.
We train our abs too much.
In gym culture, I see more ab work than ANYTHING.
I’ve seen 7 days of ab training. 7 DAYS. All abs. I’ve seen guys walk into a gym, do an hour of ab work and go home. Entire DVD’s have been made about ab training. And nobody seems to consider a workout complete without ab specific work. Everyone is training abs. Erryone.
Now I get it – there are few things in this world more coveted than a shredded 6 pack, but here’s the problem…we’re too fat for it to matter.
Our abs sit under our belly fat and the two aren’t related.
You have your abs. ….And then you have you belly fat.
It doesn’t matter how perfect your ab development is if they’re always covered by fat. It’s like spending hours on your ’65 Mustang GT but never taking it out the garage. What the hell is the point??
And so for most of us, here is the most effective 6 pack workout EVER written:
Warm up) Walk to grocery store
A1) Buy some green vegetables
A2) Buy some yellow vegetables
A3) Buy some white vegetables
B1) Buy some red vegetables
B2) Buy some meat
B3) Cook meat
C1) Cut up green, yellow, white, red vegetables
C2) Add some balsamic vinegar and olive oil to your colorful vegetable salad
C3) A lil’ splash of lemon too
Repeat 100 times. Flex your 6 pack in the mirror.
Nutrition is the foundation of leanness. Leanness is the foundation of a visible 6 pack. So if you want a rockin 6 pack the first and most fundamental step is a thoughtful nutrition plan.
Okay. Glad we got that clear.
And that makes the SECOND step to a rippling 6 pack metabolically demanding full body resistance training.
Sweaty, aggressive challenging resistance training will do more for your mid section than crunches. This type of work burns a butt ton of calories, builds lean mass, and has a profound effect on your hormone profile, all of which help make shreddedness attainable. Looking for some aggressive training ideas, here’s a good article:
And since we’re on a roll here, the THIRD most effective step to getting a 6 pack is probably rest and recovery – the unsung heroes of fat loss.
I’m seriously not trying to fuck with you here. The first three most effective steps to getting a 6 pack have nothing to do with ab training. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
So if you’ve perfected your nutrition, you’ve established a periodized and challenging full-body resistance routine, and your rest and recovery is on-point AND you want to incorporate a reasonable amount of ab training into your routine, I’m cool with that. Molding your abs into the perfect specimen of delectable sex-appeal is a perfectly noble pursuit.
And so, long-ass preamble aside, let’s actually talk about your abs:
The primary 6-pack muscle is the rectus abdominis. It’s the vertical muscle that attaches your rib cage to the anterior portion of your pelvis. That means it can tips the pelvic up, it can tip the rib cage down, or it can do both at the same time. It can also prevent movement by engaging in order to stabilize.
The rec abs are divided into 6 or 8 “packs” by tendinous inscriptions. These are the horizontal lines that subdivide a 6 pack. Genetics will determine the configuration. Some of us have 6 packs, some of us have 8 packs, some abs line up evenly, some don’t…not a whole lot you can do about any of that except love it and embrace what your momma gave you.
That’s the rectus abdominis.
The other power player of the 6-pack world is your V. The sex-V. The arrows that point to your Herman von Longschlongstein or your Lady Garden.
This is where the most inferior portion of your external obliques meet up with your inguinal ligament. Remember that ligaments attach bone to bone. The inguinal ligament attaches the anterior superior iliac spine to the pubic tubercle (just incase you cared.) The internal obliques are also hanging out in there (as the names imply, the internal obliques sit underneath the external obliques.) Because even the slightest amount of body fat tends to preferentially be stored in the lower abs, ultra leanness is necessary for the sex-V to pop (which is why it’s so coveted.)
Rectus abdominis and your sex-V. Got it. Okay, so how do we train them to make them beautiful?
First of all, we DON’T train them everyday. Overtraining our ab muscles 1) can make them hypertonic and 2) simple isn’t the most effective approach.
Hypertonic adj. – having a greater degree of tension.
This means that our ribs are constantly being pulled down and our pelvis is constantly being pulled up. We lose your lumbar curve (no bueno), we tend to develop some degree of kyphosis (rounding of the upper back) and pretty soon we’re dealing with back pain or an injury.
The muscle fiber makeup of our abs also tells us that they shouldn’t be trained everyday. Our rectus abdominus is roughly equal parts fast and slow twitch muscle fiber, just like our arms and thighs for example. With proper training, they’ll need time to recover.
All of this is to say…don’t overtrain your abs. Did I mention that? Don’t overtrain your abs. Oh, that’s right. I just did. Five times. Depending on our phase that means training them once or twice per week on non-consecutive days.
The composition and general complexity of our abs also tells us that they’ll responds well to a variety of training. The idea that abs only response to high repetition, high frequency training is a misunderstanding of, you know, everything.
So when you do train your abs, be sure to include a variety of stimulus. Clarification: this does NOT mean every-movement-every-workout…this means your OVERALL routine should be well balanced.
A nice way to categorize ab training:
- Upper flexion (a weighted crunch.)
- Lower flexion (hanging knee raises.)
- Double flexion (row boats.)
- Rotation (Russian twists)
- *Anti-movement/stability – (planks, Pallof Cable Press)
*Stability exercises are often neglected but from an athletic perspective, a primary function of the abs is to help maintain the relationship between the pelvis and the rib cage, even under enormous force. If you want to be a badass, don’t neglect stability.
Additional ab considerations
The simplest and most effective way to develop the ultra coveted lower abs is to concentrate on full range of motion training. For example, if you’re doing an incline leg raise, initially the exercise is going to work the illopsoas, tensor fascia lata, and rectus femoris (of the quad) – all hip flexors. In order to work your abs, you have to change the relationship between your pelvis and your rib cage. In other words, you have to curl your ass off the mat. As you contract into an absolute full range, you’ll feel the infraumbilical portion of your abs (the abs that are below your belly button) really start to engage. The take home message: Make the exercise easy enough that you’re able to perform a full range of motion in the prescribed set and rep range.
You should also know that your upper abs and lower abs are an extension of the same muscle. That means they work together. Always. More than likely, your lower abs are not underdeveloped. They just have more fat on top of them. If you want to see your lower abs, you need to get leaner.
So, despite the piles and piles of mis information out there, having an outlandish 6 pack really comes down to a few simple steps:
Step 1) Get lean by focusing on big money methods – nutrition, full body metabolic resistance, rest and recovery.
Step 2) Don’t overtrain your abs (1-2 time per week, non-consecutive.)
Step 3) When you DO train your abs, make sure your training program is balanced and intense.
Perhaps you prefer to watch my talk about this stuff? Wonderful…’cause I made a video too: