This article is meant to highlight and expand upon this post written by our very own Zach Hudson. Zach brings up some great points that I think need to be re-introduced and expanded upon due to some of the ridiculous crap I see in the gym day-to-day. Zach also knows a thing or two about ab development #shoutout.

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That’s Zach on the far right with the cheese-grater abs

Every single person in this fitness world we live in would love to have a ripped set of abs.

I think anyone who saw the movie 300 can agree with the above statement. But what is the best way to go about sculpting an amazing six-pack?

Is it a thousand crunches per day? Maybe it’s better to do ab rollouts? Should you just focus on cleaning up your diet?

So many people have their own theories and opinions on how a nice set of abs are developed, that it often gets so convoluted that the everyday gym-goer is now worse off than before ever listening to someone else.

If we think about it, a lot of advice, albeit normally poor advice, is given in the gym. Real life examples of this are illustrated as follows: “John at the gym told me I’ll never get abs if I don’t train them everyday,” and “Jenny from yoga said I can’t get a flat stomach without cutting all my carbs.”

John and Jenny, you guys suck, and I’d be more than happy to talk with you at length about proper ab development.

The sad thing about such misguided advice is that people tend to continuously overwork their abs week in and week out with nothing to show for it. I see people all the time that put themselves through a great workout that lasts an hour and then spends an additional 20 minutes on ab work at the end. This is ridiculous.

Now, I will admit, there are methods of core training that seem to work just fine for some individuals, and that’s great. If you are one of these people who has figured out how to perfectly sculpt your midsection, then keep doing it. This article is for those that need to learn the truth about how to reveal those washboard abs and how to stop spinning their wheels in the gym.

1. Stop Doing Crunches

Look at any successful bodybuilder and you will notice they have a fantastic midsection. I’m not talking about the professionals whose stomach stick out further than their chests due to the steroids. I’m talking about the natural competitors that look chiseled and hard as a rock. Abs If one were to examine their training techniques, they would notice that the standard crunch is never among any of the exercises. Why? Because these competitors know what works, and the crunch is not something that works.

I’m sorry if I just shattered your world if you’ve been doing crunches every night to get a six-pack. But now you know why you’re not seeing results, right?

When choosing a core exercise, you want to opt for the ones that elicit the most core activation. Interestingly enough, the pike and roll out exercises on a swiss ball activate more core musculature than any other ab exercise (1).

Other good core exercises include the plank, bar roll-out, hanging knee raise, straight leg sit ups with arms spread to the side, swiss ball plank, back extensions (yes, really), farmer’s carries, and seated med ball Russian twists.

2. Train With Heavy Weights

Have you ever seen someone squat over 400 pounds with a weak core? Yeah, me either.

Heavy weight training puts such a strain on your abdominal muscles that they are getting worked the entire time you are performing the workout. If you squat and deadlift regularly with heavy weight, your abs are getting one hell of a workout. Also, if you are performing stabilization exercises such as the front squat, lunges, single leg anything, and military press, your abs are constantly contracting to ensure that your body doesn’t crumble beneath you.

Also, pull ups, chin ups, push ups, and most other bodyweight exercises incorporate a good amount of core activation.

Knowing this, excess core work simply isn’t that necessary.

3. Learn Your Abdominal Anatomy and Train Accordingly.

Let’s get this squared away, as if I haven’t been stating it enough so far; you are training your core, not your abs. If someone were to ask you which muscles comprise the entire core musculature, could you name them all without just saying ‘abs’? Let’s see.

The (major) core musculature is made up of:

core muscles

 

  • The Pelvic Floor Muscles
  • Transversus Abdominus
  • Multifidus
  • Internal and External Obliques 
  • Rectus Abdominus
  • Erector Spinae
  • Diaphragm

How’d you do? Get at least one I hope?

The point here is if you don’t know which muscles you are training, how can you train them optimally. Now, granted, I’m not too certain of the most effective Diaphragm exercise, but what I’m saying is you need to be incorporating multiple core exercises that target multiple muscles of the core rather than just stick to a select few such crunches and oblique bends. Train multiple parts of your core and you will notice a much fuller, more aesthetic core than you could have ever had by sticking to the same 3 or 4 exercises.

4. 20 Minute Abs

First off, if you ever see an advertisement for 20 minute anything, please change the channel.

A great set of abs is earned through hard work, dieting, and determination. There is no such thing as a routine that can give you great abs in 20 minutes. Now, if they changed the name to 20 month abs, it would be much more realistic. But people don’t want to wait. We’re a lazy nation and we want what we want, and we want it now. Well guess what my adoring gym junkies? This time you have to work for it, but I promise you will like the results.

Abs in 20
Just Go Away Already

So, if you are one of those people that can’t go a single session without hitting their abs, only do it for about 5-10 minutes. Work them hard for that short period of time and then call it quits. No need for overkill here. Your abs will respond favorably and they will probably look better since they aren’t being constantly destroyed. And if you add it up, throughout the course of the week, you probably trained them for more than 20 minutes. How’s that for an infomercial?

Wrapping Up

Hopefully now you know what it takes (or doesn’t take) to have and maintain a great set of abs. Work hard for your accomplishments and show that six-pack off with pride.

References

Escamilla, R., C. Lewis, D. Bell, G. Bramblet, J. Daffron, S. Lambert, A. Pecson, and R. Imamura. “Core muscle activation during Swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises..” J Orthop Sports Physical Therapy. 40.5 (2010): 265-76.