of Abs Training by Rossella Pruneti
Chances are you made only ten double
leg raises and ten full sit-ups when in high school.
On the contrary, you have been doing a zillion of sit-ups in your lifetime
– but your abs aren't much improved…
Also, you may be a fitness buff who includes his/her abs work at the
end of the workout – and you always skip it altogether.
Since brief, high-intensity workouts are big nowadays, take advantage
of your saved time and make the most of it training your abs!
“IF YOU CANNOT SEE SOMETHING, IT
Since you probably haven't ever seen your
own six pack, you may believe you don't have it. You have got it – you
bet! Never think if you cannot see something, it doesn't exist.
When women began competing in body building events, in late 1980’s,
they didn't need to show washboard abs. Nowadays, with all the hoopla
about six pack, ripped abs are a must everywhere. Most remarkably, washboard
abs are big outside the narrow realm of bodybuilding stages and gyms.
Armani’s models and aerobic buffs have got their six pack too. Developing
six pack has become a real, mainstream mania.
HOW MANY MUSCLES ARE THERE IN YOUR
Let’s go through abdominal anatomy – you may find out that we have got…
Rectus abdominus: from
your sternum to your pelvic bone.
The rectus abdominus curls your spine forward and also keeps your trunk
still when you exercise other parts of your body.
External obliques: run
diagonally on the sides of your torso.
External obliques curl forward, twist, and bend your spine. Last but
not least, external obliques provide lower back and bowels support.
Internal obliques: run
diagonally on the sides of your torso.
Internal obliques have the same functions of external obliques.
it sits beneath the rectus abdominus It’s the deepest muscle in your
Transversus abdominus provide an essential bowels support.
Doing the math, we have 1 rectus abdominus,
2 external obliques, 2 internal obliques, 1 transversus – 6 abdominal
muscles in all!
Old abdominal training method and gym jargon get fitness beginner to
formulate a peculiar, quirky theory on abs. This theory may be summarized
in the following four conjectures:
FALSE CONJECTURE #1
There are upper abs and lower abs in your midsection.
Upper and lower abs are entities brought
up to existence by a linguistic ambiguity. Gym lingo – the jargon bodybuilders
use to describe their physique and their training techniques and feelings
– is a bit too prone to oversimplifications in human anatomy. In the
gym your body consists of just delts, lats, pecs, abs, bis, tris, glutes,
hams, quads, and calves. Nonetheless, gym lingo can even be such meticulous
that you have exercises for upper lats and lower lats, upper and lower
pecs, upper and lower abs.
Gym lingo doesn't want to be rocket science. You don't really have upper
and lower abs. Actually, rectus abdominus – abs, for short – is one
long, continuous muscle.
If you still like to believe in upper and lower abs, you can do two
abs exercise that specifically emphasize the upper portion of your rectus
abdominus and two that focus on the lower portion.
FALSE CONJECTURE #2
Abs aren't useful. Trim, strong abs benefit only appearance.
Abdominal muscle are a sort of natural
girdle to hold in the basic contents of your abdominal cavity – liver,
stomach, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, rectum and, if you are
a woman, uterus and ovaries. You'll understand why it’s essential to
take care of abs. A toned, strong midsection helps lower back to stand
your trunk up and partially prevents you lower back pain.
In addition, the very fact all those bowels are held in only by tissues
– peritoneum, muscle, fat, skin – explains you because your midsection
easily changes in size. If these tissues are flabby – most of all the
muscle tissue – your natural girdle is like a worn-out corset. Again,
a strong set of abdominal muscles is vital for your physical health
more than for your aesthetics.
FALSE CONJECTURE #3
Abs aren't muscles or else, if they are, they aren't like
every other muscle group.
Since abs aren't muscles, you don't need to care of their
range of motion and muscular insertions. In addition, you don't have
to train them according to progressive resistance training – that is
The previous false conjectures and corollary
urge me to approach “the logic of abs training”.
PROOFS & REFUTATIONS TO FALSE
Nowadays exercise scientists teach us sit
ups and leg raises aren't primary abdominal exercises. They also work
hip flexors. Since hip flexors arise from the lower back, sit-ups and
leg raises may give you back pain. Arnold Schwarzenegger also completely
rewrote the abdominal training chapter in the 2nd edition of his Encyclopedia
of Modern Bodybuilding (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1998) to meet
current scientific opinion.
Mistakes that are common with abdominal training are all derived by
the false assumption that abdominals aren't like all the other muscles.
Here some proofs and refutations.
1) Abs work as stabilizers even when you
do many other exercises and you do the house works or gardening. Don't
do zillion of repetitions – quality is the most important thing here.
2) Abs, like any other muscle, get bigger when you train them with overweight
and progressive-resistance training principles.
3) Abs recover quickly. It means you can work them out more often than
other body parts. You can do your abs work in every workout – whatever
from 3 to 6 days a week.
Once you have developed your six pack, relax a bit. However, be careful
since those six chiseled bulges may be a short-lived success!
4) Abs are the most ignored body part by beginners. When you aren't
conditioned, they do burn! Ouch!
Do you prefer to train your abs at the end of your routine in order
to focus better on other body parts? I do. Anyway, I'm sure not to leave
If your tummy is your pet peeve and you feel exhausted at the end of
your workout, I recommend you to train them at the beginning.
5) Abs don't get quality training: isolation, slow, and full-range movements.
Do your abs work slowly and with control. Avoid arching or flattening
your back; moving your elbows; lifting only your neck and lacing your
hand behind your neck – stressing your neck vertebra.
SIT-UPS ARE DEAD. LONG LIFE CRUNCHES!
Crunches mimic the primary movement of
the abs – to draw rib cage and pelvis together or vice versa, maybe
even the both at the same time (like in leg tucks).
Any kind of crunches is an ab-specific exercise and you can get a great
abdominal workout by focusing on crunches – and you won’t get bored
by doing crunches in all their variations.
Please, ask your trainer to teach the following exercises to you, or
refer to a good training technique handbook or a video or both. In this
article I'm not explaining the exercise basics. I'm listing my favorite
exercises together with training no-nos and special tips.
As you curl up, look at any point on the ceiling. Don't look at your
legs lest you should yank your neck and cause neck pain.
The only equipment you need to do crunches is a mat to pad hard floor–
no other odd abs gizmo. Mats are essential because if you lie directly
on the floor, your vertebra are hitting the floor and you feel a discomfort
at every peak contractions of your repetitions.
BASIC WEIGHTED CRUNCH
My favorite method is: 8 reps with a resistance (a dumbbell or a plate),
20” rest, 20-30 reps, 1’ rest. Repeat for 3-4 sets.
In my opinion, these are the best weighted crunches. Attach a rope to
an overhead pulley. Kneel down. Holding the rope, curl downward not
with your arms but with your abs.
It’s always crunch but it emphasizes the lower portion of your rectus
abdominus Make sure not to do leg raises: your legs must remain bent.
Do 3-4 sets for 15-20 reps without overweight. For advanced: superset
10-12 reps with ankle weights and 20-30 reps without overweight.
Don't forget to breathe.
Lie on your back on a bench with your legs up. Grasp uprights behind
you for balance. Lift your leg upwards and your butt two or three inches
off the bench. Hold the position for a moment, and then lower slowly.
Add overweight only in advanced programs.
Strange enough, men have a lot more of difficulties than women in doing
this movement. I guess it’s due to differences in body barycenter.
SIDE BENDS & SEATED TWISTS
Since obliques are muscles too, over weighted side bends and seated
twists may well thicken your waist. On the contrary, you need them in
order to tight your waistline and chisel your abs. Don't use overweights.
3 sets for 15-20 reps.
Don't expect your love handles disappear only by doing this exercise!
Abs stretches are easy and relaxing.
Lie on your back with your head and neck relaxed. Place your straightened
arms behind your head. Try to straighten your arms as though you were
reaching something backwards on the floor.
Give your abs a stretch at the end of each set. Hold the stretch for
10-30 seconds during each set rest.
THE TOTAL APPROACH
To be successful in health and fitness,
you need a holistic approach. Let alone the false conjectures on abs,
which else are the enemies of your six pack?
1) Problems in your spine
– e. g. swayback, flat back, and so on - can pull your belly forward
TIP: If you have a spine paramorphism, please see a specialized physician.
In case you have a simple type of bad posture, it'll suffice to gain
your right posture – standing straight and holding in your gut - and
you'll see your tummy flatten automatically. Keep your abs pulled in
most of the time.
2) Gas in the intestine
from food intolerances, carbonated soft drinks, and the contents of
your guts – constipation, at worst - can distend your abdomen and make
your stomach look big. Even chewing problems and excessive talking while
eating can introduce too much gas into your stomach and intestines.
TIP: For gas, purchase charcoal pills or tablets with simethicon at
your local health store. For constipation, check your diet. Are you
eating a good quantity of fibers?
3) Your abdominal region
can look bloated due to water retention. If you are a woman, you can
notice that before your period begins.
TIP: Drink lots of water. Dandelion root can occasionally help.
4) If you are a woman,
pregnancy may ruin your midriff. After many pregnancies or just one
pregnancy that caused you gain a lot of weight, your tummy may hang
TIP: diet and training. Last resorts: tummy tuck or liposuction.
During pregnancy, uterus – and belly - must grow. It’s a physiologic
change and growth.
TIP: Don't do anything to fight it. After the first trimester, you mustn't
place any mechanical stress on your abdominal wall. Put off everything
after the happy event.
5) Not all abs are created
equal. Having a small waist is as important as lean, hard, and strong
abs. Your abs can have less than “six” bulges and their own muscle shape.
These are all things where we can but to blame – or to thank – the role
THE ARMAGEDDON OF SIX PACK
1) Subcutaneous fat is
the worst enemy of a firm abdomen because it can hide your washboard
abs. You must work off the fat layer between skin and muscle tissue
to reveal the muscularity underneath. So, burn calories by doing whole-body
– you surely know spot reduction doesn't work - training both aerobic
and weight lifting and don't overeat. Don't make the mistake to believe
that if you cannot see something, it doesn't exist. Maybe it is hidden!