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Secrets To Ripped Abs
Want ripped abs? Hell yeah, ya do! That’s why you have to read this. World renowned bodybuilding contest prep guru, Chris "The Technician" Aceto, lets you in on the inside secrets to developing a jawdropping, chiseled six pack.
KEEP IT LIGHT
If you want ripped up, rock hard abs, you have to forget what you know about training. Abs are different. It’s that simple. Ask any physiologist how to build muscle, and he’ll probably tell you out of routine: Keep the weight heavy, train to failure, and keep the reps in the 6-12 range. Good advice for nearly every muscle group – quads, hamstrings, and everything in the upper body – except the abs. You can’t go heavy to failure with abs because to get to failure is nearly impossible. Why? Well, when you try to overload the abs, regardless of what exercise you’re doing, different muscles, particularly in the lower back or hip flexors, come into play and take over. In other words, when you try to overload the abs, other muscle groups run to the rescue and interfere with true overload.
SLOW DOWN & SPEED UP GROWTH
While large muscle groups respond to fast training, whereby a greater number of muscle fibers come into play as you push the weight along with velocity and speed, abs seem to respond in a completely opposite fashion. The muscle fibers that comprise the abdominals usually come into play with a slower cadence, and there’s far more deliberation in the movement. For example, muscle fiber recruitment is maxed out on pecs when you “drive and force” a weight up, although fiber recruitment among the abdominal muscles maxes out when you maintain a steady stress on the fibers. Therefore, jerky, fast, or explosive motions on any ab exercise is likely to take the tension off the abdominals, creating an inferior workout with lackluster results. When it comes to abs, constant tension during both the “concentric phase” when the abs “flex” is key as is the “eccentric phase” when you fight or control the weight down to any starting position. Just doubt, go with “slow & steady” reps to maintain optimal tension on the abdominal region.
MORE IS BETTER
There’s another exception to the “training rules” when it comes to ab development. Whereby most body parts can effectively be trained once every 5-7 days, abs can be trained on a daily basis. Yes, you read that correctly! One reason has to do with recovery. Large body parts like back, quads, and chest are often subjected to immense poundages – or not so immense if you’re a beginner. Because the total amount of stress is negligible compared to the larger parts, abs not only require more frequent training, but they can recover faster. Less stress requires greater training frequency, while huge amounts of stress require less training frequency. That should make sense. If you trained legs with Richard Simmons (less stress), you could come back and do them again the next day, if not immediately after. Try hitting legs with Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. You won’t be able to train for 2 weeks! So to make the most of ab training, you can target them daily. Yes, daily! On an anecdotal note: Every bodybuilder I know who radically improved his ab development did so by training them every day.
PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE, PRIORITIZE!
Let’s face it. Nearly everyone who trains abs throws them in as an afterthought, training them after having already beat themselves up from chest and shoulders or back and biceps. What happens? An abs workout doesn’t just suffer. It simply stinks. That’s just the way it is. By the time you get to abs, it’s either “This is better than nothing” or “Why bother? I’ll do them tomorrow.” And that’s a big reason why people become frustrated with a lack of ab development. It’s kind of like studying all night for an important history exam and then, once your brain is fried, devoting some secondary time to another subject. By the time you get to the latter, you’re just too wiped mentally to get anything out of the study time. Same with abs: When they’re an afterthought, they look like, well, an afterthought. The remedy: hitting them first. Before you waste energy doing other body parts, job one is to get in there and give them 100% focus before any other body part. This alone will make a remarkable difference over a 6-8 week period.
CORTISOL & ABDOMINAL FAT
Cortisol is the stress hormone that rises with hard training, but it also rises from being chronically overweight or from eating a diet that emphasizes fast foods and refined foods. There’s a link between elevated cortisol levels and body fat packed disproportionately around the abs and stomach area. One benefit to training is that the body becomes far more effective in dealing with cortisol levels. The individual “getting in shape” will, over time, produce less cortisol and facilitate chemicals in the body that combat cortisol. Nutritionally, there’s some decent evidence that taking 1000 mg of vitamin C after training can keep cortisol levels lower and taking another supplement called phosphatidlyserine (PS) can also keep cortisol levels in check. The combo of daily ab training coupled with an effective supplement regime to keep cortisol in check, along with a solid diet that’s devoid of refined carbs and excess dietary fat and high in protein, can give you the abs that are not just pretty good, but rock hard!
Yet another reason training abs everyday is effective: It creates a lower localized glycogen (stored muscle fuel) status. When glycogen falls, generally a muscle group tends to look somewhat denser because glycogen traps water, and when there’s less glycogen sitting in the ab muscles, then rest assured, they can take on a tighter appearance. Some bodybuilders dismiss the idea of spot reduction; that working a specific area will result in a harder appearance in that area. But the fact is, when you train your abs daily, the ab muscles don’t pull and use up glycogen reserves located in the shoulders arms and back. They run through the stored energy in the muscles that are being targeted. When glycogen levels run chronically low in a muscle group, and you continue to train that area, the back up fuel source is body fat. So, there is some validity to the idea that you can spot reduce and drop fat and water from a specific area.
THE BEST AB EXERCISES
World’s #1 Best: Hanging Leg Raises
Leg raises beat the pack. They kill it actually. When you put a slight bend in the knee and raise the legs all the way up where the feet rise above your head, every part of the ab region, the upper, mid, and all important lower region come into play. The raising is not a “kicking” or “heaving” of the legs, but a deliberate raise whereby there is no swinging. At the top, you should pause (No way will beginner and intermediates be able to hold and pause – but that’s the ideal.) and then lower the legs back down. Rep wise, when you do them right, beginners probably won’t be able to hit more then 8 good reps. Ideally it should be the aim to move up, in time, to 20-25 reps. As for sets: 4-5 will do. If you can only get 8 reps as 5 sets, that’s fine to start, but strive to eventually get to 5 sets of 20-25 reps.
Second Best: Hanging Leg Raises off a Bench
Lots of folks do traditional leg raises whereby they lie at the end of a bench and raise their legs up. It’s sort of a lazy man’s version of hanging leg raises. To make the exercise more effective and target the hard to get lower abs, scooch down on the bench so the glutes are off the bench, and the tip or end of the bench is approximately at your tailbone. Then proceed to lower the legs; then raise them up. Keeping the glutes off the bench createsa far greater range of motion to include lower, mid, and, to a lesser degree, upper abs. On the other hand, when the glutes remain on the bench, the lower abs are almost completely knocked out of the picture, which means you only get partial development. When you can only get a 4-pack, not the elusive 6-pack, 5 sets aiming for 20 reps are ideal here. For advanced folks, using a 5- or 10-pound dumbbell and holding it between the feet can result in greater stress on the muscles and better development.
A Close Third: Machine Crunches
If you can find a good crunch machine, you can usually add enough weight to overload the muscles more so than with crunches on the floor. So how do you know which crunch machine is better than another? Typically, the one that doesn’t allow you to come to a completed “sit up” in the chair position is best. When the back remains slightly rounded in the start position, it’s a good indicator that the designers of the machine knew what they were doing. Some machines allow you to come back and sit straight up, which removes the tension from the abs, making the exercise easier and less effective.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Building a great set of abs doesn’t have to be as elusive as you may think. Use these training secrets to your advantage, and you’ll develop thick, granite-like abs that get noticed!