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Core and Abdominal Training - Great Abs!
Likness of naturalphysiques.com
training is very misunderstood. Many people place a lot of emphasis on abs
without understanding how the abs function or why they are even training in a
certain way. Lets explore the correct way to train abs for the results
that you want!
appealing abs - the so-called six-pack - has almost nothing to do
with training abs! The key to seeing your abs is low body fat. Someone with
very muscular abs who has high body fat will not see any definition, and
someone who has not trained their abs at all with low body fat will see plenty
of definition. In order to see abs, most men have to reach at least 10% body
fat or lower, while women must reach 14% or lower.
muscle is a large slab of muscle. The shape of the six-pack is due to tendons
that stretch across the muscle. You cannot change a tendons size,
position, or shape through training, so the shape of your six-pack will not
bulge in their relaxed state. The abdominal wall is pulled flat when it
contracts. If you improperly train abs, either by training to add significant
mass and/or by neglecting other supporting muscles, your abs will protrude. You
can see this in certain sports, such as professional wrestling - certain
athletes is so lean that you can see their six-pack, but their stomach
protrudes as if they have a beer gut! While it is possible to store fat
internally (i.e. beer gut) and still have little fat underneath the
skin, this condition is more than likely due to overtraining the abdominal wall
while neglecting supporting muscles.
The pelvic girdle
is a group of internal muscles that support your internal organs. When you
perform abdominal work, your internal organs can shift and change your center
of gravity. This is most evident when someone is performing hanging leg or knee
raises and begins swinging. By engaging the pelvic girdle during abdominal
training, you not only strengthen your center of balance, but force more
tension on the abdominal wall. The pelvic girdle is tightened by clenching your
insides - squeezing your rectum or performing the same action as cutting off
the flow of urine. This exercise is known as the Kegel, and men as well as
women can perform these. By performing a Kegel during abdominal work, you
ensure not only that the pelvic girdle is strengthened at the same time, but
also that you are building a strong core or center of balance. A proper hanging
knee raise or leg raise will result in no swinging whatsoever - the torso will
remain still and movement will be only around the pelvic area and through the
The transversus is
another internal muscle that serves to pull the abdominal wall back. The
transversus is contracted when you suck in your gut or try to pull your belly
through your lower back. If you work your abdominal wall without working your
transversus, the abdominal wall may increase in mass and begin to bulge or
protrude. By keeping your stomach pulled in and tight during abdominal
training, you strengthen the transversus at the same time. You can also perform
an exercise known as the vacuum frequently to further strengthen
the transversus - vacuums (where you simply pull in your gut and keep it pulled
in while breathing slowly) can be performed while driving or even standing in
line at the supermarket.
The obliques are
muscles that run diagonally across the abdominal wall and are attached to bone
at your sides. Increasing the size of your obliques can increase the width of
your waist, but not necessarily the circumference. These are muscular
love handles. Some people avoid training obliques for that reason. There
are many sports-specific applications for working the obliques - contact sports
such as football require the ability to maintain balance while twisting, and
strong obliques are critical for this. Because obliques cross over the
abdominal wall, having strong obliques means that your abdominal wall will be
pulled flat (as with the transversus). Therefore, while training obliques may
increase the width of your waist, it can also serve to pull your stomach
The spinal erectae
are a group of muscles that support the lower back and spine. They work in
conjunction with the abdominal wall, obliques, and transversus, similar to the
way that the biceps and triceps or deltoids and lat muscles work together.
Neglecting your spinal erectae can result in an imbalance that will pull at
your spine and cause lower back pain. Effective back exercises that should be
balanced with abdominal training include good mornings, hyperextensions, and
The abdominal wall
and supporting muscles are not special in the sense that they
require constant training. Because these muscles form your core strength and
stabilize your torso, almost any activity will work these muscles - from a
bench press to running. Therefore, the notion that they need to be trained
every day is flawed. Training your core once or twice a week should be
sufficient. Because the core muscle group does contract constantly to stabilize
your torso, these muscles typically contain more endurance fiber -
this means that higher repetition training may be beneficial. By higher rep
training, Im referring to the 12 - 15 rep range. Performing 50 - 100
crunches simply means that you are using other muscles such as the hip flexors
and not isolating the core muscles appropriately. When you isolate the core
muscles, perform a vacuum and a Kegel, and balance training of the abdominal
wall with the lower back, you can build strong, functional core strength using
only body weight and moderate reps.
well-balanced nutrition and 2 - 3 cardio sessions per week, and youll be
well on your way to a well-defined six-pack!
I recommend a
standard core strength routine that fits itself to almost everyone. The reason
this fits most people is due to various levels. You begin with the first level
and work your way forward. Most people will not get past the first few levels
for several months. It can take a trained athlete months and possibly years to
reach the final level, depending on their existing core strength.
table is a "key" to each level:
Level 1: 3
sets of crunches
Level 2: 2
sets of crunches, 1 set of hanging knee raises (knees remain bent)
Level 3: 1
set of crunches, 2 sets of hanging knee raises
Level 4: 1
set of crunches, 2 sets of hanging knee raises, 1 set of parallel leg raises
(legs remain straight)
Level 5: 1
set of crunches, 1 set of hanging knee raises, 2 sets of parallel leg raises
Level 6: 1
set of crunches, 1 set of hanging knee raises, 2 sets of parallel leg raises, 1
set of full leg raises (you are inverted at the end, legs over head)
Level 7: 1
set of crunches, 1 set of hanging knee raises, 1 set of parallel leg raises 1,
set of full leg raises 1 set of inverted scissors
are simple. Begin with level 1. Attempt to perform 15 repetitions for each set.
You rest exactly 1 minute between sets. For level 1, you attempt 3 sets of 15
floor crunches. If you succeed in completing the entire level, then you advance
to the next level.
Only when you can
successfully complete 15 continuous reps of each exercise prescribed do you
advance to the next level. This may seem simple. In practice, however, it is
Here are a few
guidelines for performing these exercises:
- Practice pulling your stomach in and
keeping it in. Imagine pulling your belly button through your lower back. This
will be referred to as a "vacuum". This is very important, because it engages
the transversus muscle, a muscle underneath your abdominal muscle. Without
engaging this muscle, which is responsible for pulling your stomach flat, your
abs will begin to protrude!
- Learn what a Kegel is. In simple terms,
this is the contraction you make when squeezing your insides or stopping the
flow or urine. While it is commonly known amongst women who have given birth to
children, men can actually perform this exercise as well. When you clench your
insides, you stabilize your pelvic girdle, which holds all of your organs. This
will stabilize your center of balance.
- Maintain the vacuum and Kegel throughout
the duration of every set! If you cannot hold both for the entire time, make
sure you "reset" or start a new vacuum and Kegel with every rep (i.e. if you
lose one or the other during rep 5, reset them at the beginning of rep 6 and
You can easily perform these exercises
hanging from a pull-up doorframe attachment instead of using the ab-straps -
this will actually improve your grip strength. If you find that you have
trouble holding on, i.e. your wrists fail before your abdominal muscles do,
then you might consider investing in a pair of wrist-wraps to help you maintain
your grip. These are very inexpensive.
You may have seen individuals performing
hanging abdominal work. They were swinging wildly and possibly had someone
holding their back still. This is incorrect form and is mainly working the hip
flexors. If you follow the simple steps outlined above, your torso will remain
still and vertical; the only movement will be from your abdominal muscles. You
will curl up, bringing your pelvis towards your sternum, and hold this. The
tempo for all exercises is 211 (one second to contract upwards, 1 second pause,
then 2 seconds to return to the start position.
When you have completed the entire workout,
you should consider your lower back. The best exercise to perform for lower
back is a "hyperextension". This can be done with a hyperextension machine or a
Swiss workout ball.
You lie on your stomach with your hips
supported. Your torso hangs down, inverted, with your legs parallel to the
ground. You then bend at the waist and raise your torso until your entire body
is parallel. You can perform 3 sets of 15 reps of this exercise then begin
adding weight as needed. To add weight, either use wrist weights or hold a
plate behind your head.