Training to Get Abs

Almost everyone who trains wants a lean, toned midsection, and most want a fully-fledged six-pack. However, there is a world of difference between a six-pack and big, thick bodybuilder abs.

Revealing your abs is largely a question of diet but developing a wall of abdominal muscle takes dedication and training; the right kind of training.

If you want to take your abs to the next level, put these tried-and-tested tips into action.

1. Low To Moderate Reps  


Most exercisers train their abs with high reps. It’s not uncommon to do 20, 30, or even 50 reps per set. Got to the gym and you’ll see 30-minute abs only group exercise classes – the epitome of high-rep abs training. This is not the best way to build abs that pop. After all, you wouldn’t do set after set of 50 reps for your biceps, right?


Instead, train your abs using the same rep range you use for the rest of your body – i.e. 6 to 15. Doing more than 15 reps is pretty much a waste of time for building size and definition.


2. Increase The Load


The reason that most people do high reps for the abs training is that they don’t use enough weight. More weight will force you to use low to moderate reps and will also overload your muscles which is what makes them grow.


Choose abs exercises that you can make harder by adding weight. Doing more reps is not the answer to building abs, but increasing the load is. Use cable machines, ankle weights, medicine balls, resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, and weight plates to overload your abs and force them to grow. Increase the weight week by week as your abs get stronger, but never lose form for the sake of weight!


3. Add Peak Contractions To Every Rep


Whatever exercise you are doing, make sure you add a 1-2 second pause when your abs are fully contracted, i.e. at the top of a weighted stability ball crunch. This will increase the difficulty of your chosen exercise, and produce much better, faster results.


 
 
 
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4. Train Your Abs Frequently


How often do you train your abs? Once a week? Twice? Anything less than three-times a week is not enough. Your abs respond best to short, sharp workouts and recover quickly. If you use a variety of exercises and planes of movement, you could conceivably train your abs every day. If you are serious about developing thick, strong abs, prioritize them in your training by working them more frequently.


5. Use A Variety Of Movements


To fully develop your abs, you need to hit them from a variety of directions and with a variety of exercises. This will not only improve how your abs look, but how they function too. It will also help keep your spine healthy and avoid overuse injuries from doing the same thing over and over.


Include the following movements in your abs training:


  • Flexion (upper) e.g. crunches, cable crunches etc.  

  • Flexion (lower) e.g. hanging knee raises, reverse crunches etc.

  • Lateral flexion e.g. side bends, side raises etc.

  • Rotation e.g. cable woodchops, Russian twists etc.  

  • Extension e.g. hyperextensions, back extensions etc.  

  • Bracing e.g. Pallof presses, planks etc.


Don’t try and do each type of exercise every day. Instead, just choose 1-2 per workout.

6. Use Periodization


Periodization means following a predetermined plan that evolves over time. One way to do this is to create a series of four-week progressive training blocks. Each block should use different exercises and set/rep schemes to ensure that you keep getting stronger.


For example:


Block 1 – bodyweight exercise, moderate to high reps, low frequency (preparatory phase)

Block 2 – cable exercises, moderate reps, moderate frequency

Block 3 – freeweight exercises, low reps, high frequency

Block 4 – active deload, reduce abs training by 50%

Block 5 – start over


Such an approach will reduce your chances of overtraining, while ensuring you make continual, linear progress.


7. Go Easy On The Oblique Exercises


Overdeveloped obliques can make your waist bigger. This will detract from your abs. You still need to train your obliques with exercise like side bends, cable woodchops, and side planks, but you should not overemphasize this muscle group. Think of your obliques as a picture frame that surrounds your abs. Don’t let the frame overpower the main subject in the picture.  


8. Use Giant Sets To Work Your Abs More Effectively


One of the most effective ways to work your abs is to hit them from a variety of directions one exercise after another. For example:


  1. Hanging leg raises

  2. Weighted crunches

  3. Windshield wipers

  4. Planks


Take each set to failure, safe in the knowledge that the next exercise will hit your abs from an entirely different direction. Do 3-4 sets in total, and rotate exercises from one workout to the next.


9. Avoid Using Your Hip Flexors Too Much


A lot of abs exercises involve heavy amounts of hip flexion – sit-ups and leg raises for example. In most instances, more hip flexion means less effective abs training. The key to making abs exercises productive is flexion of the spine, and not flexion of the hips.


When doing exercises for the rectus abdominus, the muscle at the front of your abs, make sure you curl your spine, and don’t keep your spine straight. This is especially true for all types of crunches and leg raises. Also avoid exercises that involve anchoring your feet as that significantly increases hip flexor activation.


If you want toned abs that really pop, you need to train them like you train the rest of your body – hard and heavy. That means no more high-rep sets of easy exercises, and more heavy weights and low to moderate weights. Train for increased abs strength, and size is sure to follow.



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