Training for Abs
Our aim is to make our abs thick enough that they can protrude through 12-15% body fat.
This is the same thing that happens when you contract your stomach to ‘tense’ your abs and the six pack becomes visible as a result.
At the same time though, we’re also going to be trying to burn fat through exercise in order to hasten the process of losing weight and to make it easier to maintain a calorie deficit.
An ideal form of exercise that can do both these things? Concurrent training.
Concurrent training means cardio exercise with resistance layered on top.
For example then, you might use the stationary bike but with the resistance on a high setting so that you really have to push to get the wheels to turn. Alternatively, you might use a punch bag or perhaps battle ropes in order to burn fat while keeping the muscles toned and honed.
This combined method has been shown to burn more fat than using either cardio or resistance training on its own. What’s more, is that it will also help you to tone your abs by using them (especially a heavy bag if you are throwing your hips into each punch) and it will develop more muscle to increase your metabolism.
On top of this, you should also look at resistance exercises that directly target the abs. These include the likes of sit-ups, leg raises, crunches etc.
Note though that your aim is to challenge the rectus abdominis – the sheet of muscle down the stomach that has the six pack separations we want to achieve. The purpose of this muscle is to prevent you from folding backwards and to help you when you want to fold forward.
Note that you only train the abs when you fold at the stomach though. If you do sit-ups and you are folding at the hips, then you are training the wrong body part!
While you are at it, you should also think about how to train the other important muscles in the mid-section. The transverse abdominis for example is the band of muscle that surrounds the core and supports the back. This helps to hold the stomach in to keep it flat and you can train it with stomach vacuums – exercises that involve bringing your belly button in to try and touch your spine. Plank and other exercises that require you to keep your torso straight will also train this area.
Finally, the obliques are the muscles that run down either side of the ab and that are used for twisting the body and generating torque. To develop these, try adding a twist to your sit-ups and crunches, or using movements that challenge you to move your legs in a circular fashion.
Using all three types of training is what will ultimately give you the most defined and well-rounded looking mid-section.
Of course, you can’t just focus on the abs though and you should also add in a little extra resistance training for the rest of the body. Try to use compound movements which will trigger the biggest hormonal changes throughout the body and will help you to use your body in a more functional way to utilize the muscles in conjunction with one another.
On top of all this, it’s also important to try to become generally more active. That means your aim is not just to get more workouts in your week, but to be constantly walking, running, cycling and even just going up and down the stairs.
Take a look at your lifestyle and see where you can fit a few more walks in. This might mean that you get off your bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way into work, or it might mean you make a habit of going for walks with your family at the weekend. Even work like gardening can help, as can starting a hobby that’s activities such as dancing.
Exercise that doesn’t leave you absolutely exhausted means that you can go again sooner rather than needing to wait to recover and this also helps you to keep your hormone balance a lot more even. You’ll even sleep better!
So, there you go: that’s how you go about getting into lean shape and flattening those abs.