Table of Contents for Abdominal Training

 

 

It’s the million-dollar question: How can I get a flat stomach, washboard abs, and a 6-pack in my midsection?

Finally, I will unlock the secret to training your abdominals so you can know, once and for all, what it takes to achieve a rock-hard midsection that everyone at the beach will admire.  The answers to all your questions are finally revealed in this Ab Training Secrets manual. These are the nuts-and-bolts facts about training your abdominal muscles correctly to achieve the hard, sculpted look you want.

Let’s start with basic anatomy.

Before we even begin discussing how to train your ab muscles, you first have to understand some basic anatomy.

Inner Core/Transverse Abdominals

Chances are you’ve heard tons of hype about your core.  Don’t get me wrong — this underlying musculature is extremely important, so much so that if your core does not function correctly, you most likely will never achieve great abdominals.  The inner unit (core) consists of many small muscles, but the most important ones are the transverse abdominals (TVA).  Your TVA acts like a girdle, or belt, keeping your body stable when external forces are placed on it.  The TVA works as a stabilizer for the internal organs, in a girdle-like fashion.  The TVA also acts to stabilize the back through the thoracolumbar (spinal) fascia.

Internal and External Obliques

Next are the internal and external oblique muscles, which wrap around the body for protection, allowing you to freely twist and rotate your spine.  When it comes to spinal rotation, the obliques are the body’s most important muscles.  The internal and external obliques work as trunk rotators and flexors.  For example, when the torso is turned to the right, the external oblique on the left side works synergistically with the right internal oblique; and vice versa for leftward rotation of the torso.  The internal and external obliques assist the rectus abdominus to flex the abdominals as they simultaneously contract to flex the torso.

Rectus Abdominus

The rectus abdominus is actually an 8-pack of muscles that is separated and innervated into the upper and lower abdominals.  Modern research indicates that the upper abdominals are innervated starting above the belly button, while the lower abdominals are innervated by a different set of nerve fibers, making these two completely different muscles, as opposed to the old belief that both sets of abs belong to one muscle.  The rectus abdominals primarily flex the torso, but they also work as a shield to protect the internal organs from outside forces, such as getting hit.  In the event of an external trauma, the rectus abdominus braces the body and protects the organs from damage.  These are the muscles that, when fit, give a person a great-looking midsection — the proverbial 6-pack.

This sums up the simple anatomy of the abdominal muscles.  To properly work the abs, the whole body must function correctly — you cannot just focus on the rectus abdominals to obtain the beautiful washboard abs you want.

There is NO shortcut to a killer 6-pack.

I know, I know . . . let’s cut to the chase.  Just tell me how I can get rid of the beer belly to achieve that awesome midsection, a killer 6-pack — more correctly known as an 8-pack.

Simple answer?  Begin by dumping your other 6-pack, the one in your fridge.  Really.  Even the so-called “light” stuff.

You say you want a real answer.  Then let’s cut the BS.  You will never see tight abdominal muscles if you have too much fat on your body.  And there is no abdominal exercise on the planet that will remove the fat from your midsection, exclusively.  “Sport reducing” is a myth.  It is impossible to perform any single exercise or set of exercises to lose fat from one specific area of your body.  The only way to lose fat from one specific area of the body is to cut it off surgically — in other words, go have some liposuction.

So how many crunches is it going to take to get great abs?

Hello?  Hel-loooo!!!  You’re NOT LISTENING.  So we’ll go through it again.

Abdominal exercise don’t get rid of the fat around your midsection.  The only way to get rid of fat at your abs is to get rid of fat on your whole body — and to do that, you must perform proper weight training and regular cardiovascular exercise, as well as eat a healthy, nutritious diet that works for you and your lifestyle.  We’ll go into these in more detail later, but let me reiterate one point: There is no such thing as spot reducing.  You can exercise until you turn blue in the face — I don’t care if you do 1,000 crunches — there is no such thing as spot reducing a certain area with a particular exercise.  You must burn the fat from all areas of your body — and studies show that weight training is the most efficient method of burning fat.  Combine it with cardio training and a proper diet to see huge successes in shedding those calories and fat to get a lean, rock-hard abdominal region.

Weight Training

To burn the most fat and shed the most calories through weight training, you must perform many free-weight exercises that will elevate your body temperature.  This alone will shed fat and calories.  To learn which are the most effective exercises for getting ripped abdominal muscles, click HERE.

Cardiovascular Training

Aerobics vs. anaerobic cardiovascular training.  Which is which, and which is more important?

Anaerobic exercise is of much higher intensity than aerobic work, using up oxygen more quickly than the body can replenish it in the working muscles.  Anaerobic literally means “without oxygen.”  Anaerobic exercise is necessarily done in short blasts because it causes the body to build up a significant oxygen debt that forces you to quickly end the exercise session.  Anaerobic exercise burns up glycogen (muscle sugar) to supply its energy needs.  Short bursts of all-out effort, such as sprinting or weightlifting, are examples of anaerobic activities.

Moving the most body parts at the highest intensity possible burns the most calories and ultimately sheds the most fat to turn those abdominals into a rock-hard 8-pack.  This means it’s important to do more anaerobic training than aerobic exercise.  Shorter bursts at a higher intensity sheds way more calories and fat than working at a longer, steadier pace.  To learn more about how weight training works for weight loss, click HERE.

However, cardio exercise is essential to the weight-loss process.  Performing aerobic exercise will get you better conditioned as well as accelerate the fat burning.  There are no two ways around the fact that the higher the intensity at which you perform any exercise, the more calories you burn.

Regardless of your conditioning or how long you’ve been training, cardio should be performed for no longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time.  But just because it’s only 30 minutes — and not an hour — doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself hard for those 30 minutes!

Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition is one of the most complicated subjects when it comes to getting fit and healthy, and I’ll tell you why.  Nutrition is a science.  Your body is a complicated, unique structure, and many of us forget that we are unique and vary in so many ways.  This includes which specific foods we should eat — determining which ones will function with our personal metabolism to keep us super-lean year-round.  Because everyone is different, there is no single diet that will work for everybody.

Discovering which foods your body needs to function optimally so you can be and stay lean year-round is simple, when you know the right things to look for.  Click HERE to learn more about proper nutrition for your particular metabolic type.

Fighting Bacteria

One last important consideration when putting together your weight-loss regimen has to do with your level of bacteria.  It’s possible that your body has too many unfriendly bacteria, or yeast overgrowth.  The scientific name for this is candida ablicias.  This problem afflicts most people without their even being aware of it.  Candida, or yeast overgrowth, causes the intestines to become inflamed, which in turn shuts off the overlying muscles (your abdominals).  Bottom line?  If your abdominal muscles don’t work, you won’t ever achieve great looking abs.

Typical symptoms of bacterial overgrowth include yeast infections, athlete’s foot, dandruff, bloating, cramping, and excessive gassiness.  There are good products you can buy to help you fight these bacteria and get your internal environment functioning properly.  To learn more or purchase these products, click HERE.

Is there a specific order in which I should train my abdominal muscles?

It is extremely important to develop all of the abdominals, especially the lower abs, which in most cases haven’t been used in a very long time.  Underactivity of the lower abs is why many women (and men) have that nice pouch hanging out below their belly buttons.  When strengthening the abdominals, you should always begin first with the lower abs, followed by the oblique muscles (sides), and finishing with the upper abs. Like all muscles, the abdominals should be strengthened over their full range of motion (unless there is a limitation due to injury or other factors).  Core work is very important, as well, to enable your abdominal muscles to function correctly.

Which is the best exercise for training my abdominals?

The human body is remarkably adaptable and will easily acclimate to the demands of any given exercise.  In order to see measurable and consistent results from your exercise regimen, the muscles — including the abdominals — continually need different stimulus.  Therefore, there is no “best” exercise that will specifically work the abdominal muscles.  The main point of ab training is to twist and flex the abs in a way that targets all the different abdominal muscles.

Lower Abdominals

Internal and External Obliques

Upper Abdominals

Core Abdominal Training (Transverse Abdoninus)

What about side bends — will they help tighten my abs and remove my love handles?

AAAARRGGGGHHHH!!!  How many times do we have to go through this?  There is no such thing as spot reducing, unless you’re talking stains — and in that case, I’d  refer you to the Queen of Clean.  No.  Side bends will not reduce your love handles; in fact, they can actually make your oblique muscles bigger.  Think about it.  When you lift weight to target any given muscle, the muscle responds by getting bigger.  This means exercises targeting your obliques (side muscles) will make your sides bigger.  Exercise, proper diet, and a regular cardio routine will help you lose the fat from your sides.

One thing about side bends — they can be beneficial to strengthen up your oblique muscles, thereby strengthening the whole body.

Which is the best regimen (sets, reps, and rest periods) to follow for an ab workout?

Abdominal muscles such as the rectus abdominals and internal and external obliques are mainly fast-twitch fibers.  This means they work best when performing explosive movements.  The body uses them for things like throwing, jumping, and sprinting.

Ab Exercise Regimen

l       Use fewer reps (6 to 12 per set) and more weight.

s         More reps is not better.

s         When performing 6 to 12 reps, you maximize the benefits for developing larger abdominal muscles, defining them so you can see the abs better.

l       Add more sets, not more reps.

s         It is less beneficial to perform thousands of crunches in a row.  Completing your sets, and adding more, if you desire, will work better every time than doing more reps in one long set.

l       Add more weight, not more reps.

s         The goal is for the abdominal muscles to hypertrophy (grow).  This is best accomplished by using heavier weights and performing fewer reps.

l       Rest for between 30 and 120 seconds to fully recover the muscle.

l       fewer reps (6 or less) will develop greater abdominal strength — although this isn’t the best method for developing larger abdominals.

l       Use perfect form for your training cycle.

Proper form when training the abdominal muscles is essential.

Good abdominal exercise includes proper training and form.  You must always maintain good form throughout your training cycle.  This means doing each exercise correctly while bearing as much weight as possible for the rep.  The best way to ensure you are performing each exercise correctly is to hire a professional trainer.  A secondary option is to buy a good-quality video.  Abdominal Training would be a great choice.

If your psoas (hip flexors) are taking over the bulk of the work during your abdominal training, you typically have a faulty recruitment pattern which you need to correct in order to start achieving great-looking abs.  It’s essential to asses you abdominal muscles to determine whether they are recruiting (turning on) in the right order.  Your muscles are supposed to activate in a particular sequence.  If they do not follow that sequence, your abdominals and other muscles are compensating, creating a faulty recruitment pattern that will overdevelop certain muscles and leave others undeveloped, making your physique less symmetrical.

Remember, though, it’s actually possible that you do not need to do focused ab work, so be careful before beginning any exercise program.  I suggest finding a qualified professional who can suggest appropriate exercises to get your abdominal muscles working correctly.  Quite often, I see people performing ab exercises incorrectly.  And not infrequently, these individuals are working under the guidance of a personal trainer — albeit an extremely uninformed one!  Make sure the person evaluating and/or training you is properly qualified, so that training your abs doesn’t actually worsen you posture or impede your results.

No matter what, make sure you do the exercises properly.  Doing them incorrectly will cause far more harm than good.  It is recommended that you receive at least a periodic assessment to see if your abdominal muscles are functioning correctly.  To find a qualified Corrective Exercise Kinesiologist who can assess your abs and TVA, click HERE.

Don’t forget, though: Losing the fat is your quickest way to a tighter, slimmer waistline.

How often should I perform ab exercises?

Abdominal muscles are no different from other muscles in that they need rest, recover, and then build back up.  You should work your abdominal muscles 3 to 4 times per week.  Then, it’s a good idea to give them one to two days of complete rest.  If you train your abs one day but they are still sore the next time you’ve scheduled to train them, skip the ab workout that day.  Rest until they are no longer sore.  You should never work out the muscle if it is sore.  Allow it to fully recover before you blast your abdominal muscles again.  The last thing you want to do is have your muscles inhibit (shut themselves off) because they’re experiencing pain when you try to use them because you have not allowed enough time for rest.  Rest and wait until the soreness passes.

An alternate pattern would be to separate out each set of abdominal muscles.  For example, you would work your lower abs on Monday, obliques on Tuesday, and upper abdominals on Wednesday.  Following this pattern, you would rest each set of abdominal muscles for two days — so that on Thursday, you could work you lower abdominal muscles, beginning the cycle again.

Is it possible for me to do all these things and still not get great abs?

No.  With proper exercise and diet, you can obtain these great results, although you must do the work and exercises correctly.  For optimal results, hire a professional to ensure you are on the proper diet and the right exercise program for your body type.  To achieve the best results and avoid injury, it is very important to consult with an expert.

You say you’ve tried all this before and still are not seeing results?  It is possible that you are performing your ab exercises incorrectly or participating in an exercise program that’s not designed to get you hard, super-lean abdominals.

It’s also possible that you are following the wrong diet for your body.  The diet that’s right for you should make you feel great, with lots of energy, and enable you to lose fat easily. 

Your best bet is to consult with a professional who knows how to assess which of these factors could be holding you back.  Once you begin doing things correctly and your body’s environment is on the right track, you will reap the benefits and obtain that lean, rock-hard 8-pack of abdominal muscles.

I hate doing ab exercises — is there any other way to work out my abdominal muscles?

Abdominal exercises aren’t always necessary when developing a slim, trim waistline.  The major thing performing abdominal exercises will do is help build the muscles up, so that you can see them.  However, you still can achieve a lean, nicely toned abdominal area without doing any specific abdominal exercises.

Any time you move, you generally activate your abdominals, so there are many other “non-ab” exercises that do work the abs.  The rate and degree of activation depend entirely on the type, range, and length of the movement.

l       Explosive sprinting, jumping, throwing, and kicking movements are great abdominal exercises.

l       Yoga, Pilates, and belly dancing are great lighter activities that help develop strong abdominals.  Any of these would be a great form of ab conditioning during pregnancy or for beginners.

l       Any exercise using Swiss balls, balance and wobble boards, or any other form of balance stabilization equipment are great for working the abs.

l       Sports that require a ton of abdominal control and strength are:

s         Gymnastics

s         Sprinting

s         Wrestling

s         Dancing

s         Football

s         Rugby

s         Basketball

s         Volleyball

s         Golf

s         Track and Field

Just about every sport that requires you to move explosively for short periods of time is a good form of ab exercise.

Is doing all this abdominal training good for the back?

Abdominal training can help correct back pain, but it also can contribute to back pain.  Abdominal exercise is very important if you have a goal of achieving a 6-pack (or, more precisely, an 8‑pack) with your abdominals.

With regard to the back, though, working out the back extensors is a very important component of ab training.  If you train only your abdominals without spending any time strengthening your back extensors, you will become out-of-balance and develop poor posture.  Poor posture can lead to many injuries, aches, pains, and other difficulties down the road.  Maintaining a proper balance between flexors and extensors throughout the whole body is extremely important.

How should I train my lower and upper back muscles in order to keep my whole back healthy, strong, and free from aches and pains?

Performing exercises like the prone cobra and the horse stance is vital for developing a strong, stable back and core musculature.  Developing strong, stable lower back muscles is essential to ensure flexibility and movement throughout your entire body.  Sure, it’s great if you can squat or deadlift 1,000 pounds, but if it hurts to bend over to brush your teeth, you’re facing some serious pain and problems.

Learning the elements of proper lifting is essential.  You must train the strong, primary movers, as well as focus on the small postural muscles that are so often overlooked.  Inattention to these muscles is one reason back pain is so prominent in today’s society.

Focus on stability exercises to strengthen your back muscles.  Performing the horse stance complex as well as the prone cobra will benefit your back, as well as improving your squat and increasing the weight of your deadlift.  In addition to the horse stance and prone cobra, exercises like squats and deadlifts are important for strengthening the back.  For pictures and instructions about correctly performing the horse stance, prone cobra, and others click HERE.

Is there an ab machine I can buy that will work wonders for my midsection and get me a-6 pack?

Hmm . . . let’s see.  I think we’ve established that spot reducing doesn’t work.  But most machines target one only one muscle group.  So, is there a miracle machine that will get you flat abs quickly?

No.

The best abdominal training tool available would probably be a Swiss ball, which allows you to work multiple muscle groups, including the abs.  Other than that, no ab machine or gadget on the market can possibly promise you a quick fix, spot reduction, or flat abs in 7 days.  I hate to break it to you, but if you ever bought one, you got hosed.  Nothing will benefit you as much as performing daily exercise and increasing your functional movement.

You may already own some anti-gadgets that will work on your abs.

Don’t misunderstand me: abdominal machines can be of some benefit to your ab training, but nothing beats getting on the floor, or even better, on a Swiss ball or other balance stabilization tool.  Such devices are designed to develop a full range of motion while training your abdominals.

Swiss Ball

The Swiss ball is an excellent piece of equipment with a wide array of functions.  Use it in place of your regular chair; sitting on it all day will help you develop and maintain good posture, and it will burn 300 to 500 more calories than sitting in a regular chair.  A Swiss ball also allows you to employ your natural curve on the ball to get a full range of motion for your abdominal muscles.  The versatility of Swiss balls make them excellent for ab training, as well as for many other exercises which are great for burning more fat and calories.  An added benefit is that while you’re performing any exercise on the Swiss ball, you are simultaneously strengthening your core.  Swiss balls are required equipment for any gym or regular workout regimen — but be certain to buy a quality Swiss ball, and not one of the cheap one.  PURCHASE a Swiss ball now.PURCHASE

Blood Pressure Cuff

A blood pressure cuff can be used for more than just measuring blood pressure.  A blood pressure cuff with an extension cord is an excellent tool for assessing core and lower abdominal function.  You may use this device as a biofeedback mechanism to see if you (or your client) are correctly activating your abdominals.  For optimal abdominal training, invest in a blood pressure cuff today.  Click HEREto learn more about using a blood pressure cuff to assess and correctly perform abdominal exercises. PURCHASE A BLOOD PRESSURE CUFF

So you’re saying all abdominal devices are bad?

Although you may see some results from the various ab devices on the market, these abdominal machines typically deliver nowhere near the results they promise.  In fact, they actually often compromise your body’s mechanics and contribute to back pain and poor posture.

Muscle Stim Machines

You’ve heard that old phrase, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  Muscle stim machines are a case in point.

Let’s hook up electricity to our muscles, as we sit watching the big game while eating pizza and guzzling beer. The machine does nothing but stimulate the muscle in a nontraditional manner.  Exercise works when your brain causes you to contract your muscles — not so with some electrical stimulating machine.  Since the device causes your abdominal muscles to contract, work, or move minimally, the only benefit this machine may offer is in building a minimal amount of strength.  Mostly, as you sit and do nothing — sorry — I mean, as you watch intelligent, informative programs on your television in the comfort of your own home, this device does nothing but make your fat jiggle.  And, voila — the results are . . . nonexistent.  Are we really surprised?  This machine does nothing, in terms of spurring fat loss or muscle gain.

Certainly, it’s your choice whether or not to buy one — it’s a free country.  Just know ahead of time that you will most likely be disappointed if you think you’re going to get awesome abs with this device.

Abdominal Roller Devices

One of the biggest selling points of the Ab Roller, and similar devices, is their promise to protect you from neck pain.  There’s one small problem with that claim.  If you neck fatigues while you’re exercising your abdominals, it means you have an imbalance in your flexor chain, meaning that you need to work on strengthening your neck.  Bottom line?  You don’t want to buy a device that promises to hold your head up.  Rather, you want to strengthen your neck by performing crunches, stopping when your neck fatigues.  As time goes on, your neck will get stronger, as will all of your ab muscles, and you will be much better off than you would by purchasing or using this machine. 

If your goal is to trick yourself into thinking you’re training your abs as you continue to weaken and destabilize your neck, buy this machine and work it, baby.  Down the road, you can also look forward to making bad posture, aches,

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