Get better abs with a complete fat-burning, muscle building approach. Many people struggle to see the results they desire in their abdominal area because their training and diet aren’t effective, or they have plateaued with traditional rep protocols. Get results by training the whole body, eating correctly, and managing the stress hormone response.
A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reminds us how ineffective targeted abdominal training is. This study compared muscle activity in the rectus abdominis during a traditional crunch and a basic jackknife performed with the Ab Lounge machine.
Results showed that the traditional crunch used the upper and lower abdominals more than the Ab Lounge, but neither one has much utility in the Poliquin world.
To truly strengthen and hypertrophy the abs, including the obliques, perform a periodized training program that includes squats, chin-ups, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts. Research shows that because the abdominal fibers are predominantly fast-twitch, they respond to intense overload and lower rep prescriptions.
Sure, you can strengthen your abs by doing thousands of reps a day, but it won’t be as effective as training hard and heavy, and then cutting fat with sprints, a smart diet, and minimizing stress. Here’s how to make it happen:
Perform sprint intervals for conditioning to lose fat and reveal those abs once you’ve got ‘em. A variety of protocols work, but if you’re pressed for time do ten 35-meter sprints at maximum effort with 20 seconds rest. Or if you want a slightly less painful protocol, do six 200-meter sprints with 2 minutes rest.
Eat a high-protein diet, but make sure you get adequate fiber. Research shows that individuals who eat more fiber have less visceral belly fat and intestinal inflammation than those who eat less. Shoot for at least 25 grams a day of fiber, primarily from indigestible sources, such as vegetables and resistant starch.
Managing stress is the third piece of the puzzle for leaner, harder abs. The hormone cortisol is released when you are under physical and mental stress. When cortisol is chronically elevated—as it is for many of us in this high-pressure world—it shifts the body into a fat storage mode in the abdominal area.
Do whatever works for you to minimize stress: try meditation, yoga, walking, martial arts, mental imagery, and play with your kids, etc. If you can minimize stress in your daily life, get adequate rest, and train regularly, you will get the sustainable six-pack you want and never have to try the “new abs diet” or the “best abs workout” ever again.
Nelson, G., Ben-Forsythe, D., et al. Electromyographic Activity of the Rectus Abdominis during a Traditional Crunch and the Basic Jackknife Exercise with the Ab Lounge. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26(6), 1584-1588.
Sitilertpisan, P., Pirunsan, U., Puangmali, A., Ratanapinunchai, J., et al. Comparison of Lateral Abdominal Muscle Thickness between Weightlifters and Matched Controls. Physical Therapy in Sport. March 2011. Published Ahead of Print.