Let’s be honest from the outset; building up your abs can be difficult but it does not need to be overly complicated.
Yes we have all heard the saying that ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ but if you are throwing in a few crunches at the end of a work out then the word ‘futile’ springs to mind. Granted – that diet is absolutely paramount to shift the stubborn fat that sticks to your abs and for fuelling your work outs effectively.
However a solid and effective abs training program will help you to show your eight-pack off and like any other muscle group in the body it needs training properly. If you are not training your abs properly and you are on an eight or six pack quest then you really need to stop wasting your time!
What makes up your abdominals?
There are several muscles that make up the abdominal section of the core and their function is to flex, extend, stabilize and twist your trunk. The abs are located on the front sides of the lower torso and they attach themselves from the rib cage to the pelvis.
Here is a quick breakdown of the ab muscles and their corresponding function/s:
- Rectus abdominus these flex your spine and bring your pelvis and ribcage closer together
- Tranverse abdominus is a deep muscle within the core which is responsible for core stability
- Internal and external obliques are responsible for trunk rotation and stabilising your torso
Compound versus isolated exercises
Admittedly having your abs on show is aesthetically pleasing but they also serve a purpose in strengthening and stabilising the mid-section of your core during the big lifts.
Think of the major compound core exercises such as deadlifts etc. as the core straighteners/builders and the isolated exercises such as the crunches, jack knifes and twists as your abdominal definers. You need both types of exercise for your abs to appear and they are both as important as each other.
In terms of the compound exercises many of the big lifts are performed during the main parts of your work out. It is often the chiselling exercises that are left out of your regime and they are thrown in as an after-thought.
The following work outs can be used as bolt on to your existing program and should be performed at least 3 times per week if you really want to get those abs popping out for the summer.
Around 7% bodyweight is the magic number for you to start showing your abs and you may need to increase your cardio training to burn the extra body fat off.
Performing spot exercises such as crunches and twists are shapers and definers; they are not very good at all for burning body fat.
Add some Tabata HIIT into the mix
Tabata training is excellent for stripping fat and building muscle. Fundamentally you need to work at 100% VO2 max for 20 seconds e.g. sprinting and skipping and then rest for 10 seconds.
You perform this for 8 rounds which equates to 4 minutes; as you become fitter you can build up the blocks of 4 minutes up to 16 minutes. This will maximise your fat burning potential.
There is evidence to suggest that Tabata style training can burn 10 times as much fat as conventional cardio and this has been attributed to an increase in the ‘after burn’ effect.
In fact Tabata training can burn fat up to 24 hours after you stop exercising and it can also increase testosterone, human growth hormone and IGF-1 which are all powerful fat burning and muscle building hormones.
The Work Outs
As mentioned previously these work out can be used as a bolt-on to your current work outs. They follow a hypertrophy protocol which uses a higher rep range whilst using a shortened rest interval in between sets.
By using this model will definitely give you a burning sensation from your abs and this is a sign that the muscle fibres are being activated effectively.
Try to work through the ‘burn’ and concentrate on using good form throughout each of the exercises.
For this and the following workouts do 2 sets of between 15 and 25 reps with a rest of 45 seconds.
- Swiss ball Crunches
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Side V Ins
- Swiss Ball Side Crunches
- Low Arm Crunches
- Hanging Knee Raises
- 3 way Planks
- Dragon Flags
- Swiss Ball Jack Knifes
- Swiss Ball Leg Raises
- Wind screen wipers
- Hanging Leg Raises
- Russian Twists