Building The Core: 7 Rules For Better Abs
Building The Core: 7 Rules For Better Abs
It seems like every fitness instructor, professional athlete and compulsory gym-goer has a different idea about what constitutes a good way to improve your midsection. That leads to a lot of confusion when it comes to training your abdominals, we might be recommended to do something, only to be forced to change it later. Then there are all the supplement peddlers, some of them legit, some of them snake-oil peddler-ish. But whomever you’re inclined to trust, one thing is nonetheless true – training your abs is different from training any of your other muscle groups.
There are many approaches you might try to obtain that chiseled look you’ve seen in body-building magazines. Here we’ll try to pitch 7 basic rules to obtain a better midsection. Unlike many others, we try to keep it simple, so you might find that you can use these rules no matter what training regiment you might be following right now.
Let’s get started.
1. Get a plan, stick to it.
The pool of exercises you can do to train your abdominals is huge. That does not mean you can or should do all of them though, you’ll find that messing around with obscure exercises and doing them once or twice will definitely not improve how you look. Choose 6-7 exercises you really like, preferably include some crunches and some static exercises. Do 2 or 3 of those exercises on ab day, do the rest on your second ab day and vary, you’ll find it helpful.
2. Keep an eye on your diet.
You know the old idiom “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it’s a lie. Abs are definitely made in the gym. “But?! But?!” you say? Calm down, we’re saying that if you exercise your abs regularly, you’ll have them… Now whether they are VISIBLE is another topic entirely.
Body fat percentages affect the abdominal muscles the most. Nobody’s biceps are going to disappear if they put on a few pounds, their abdominals? That’s another story altogether. We’re far beyond recommending a specific diet, be it keto, general low-carb or a bulking diet depends on what you want to achieve overall.
3. Don’t forget cardio.
This is the dreaded one. Who likes cardio anyway, right? Well, you better start liking it then! This ties in with recommendation 2, nobody is going to compliment your abs if they’re covered up by your belly fat.
When it comes to cardio high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to go! It’s been proven to keep burning calories long after your workout is done. The ratio of work to rest varies by what a person can tolerate at a time, there’s been growing popularity around the so-called Tabata training, which in essence is just HIIT with 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. Do note, when we write “rest” we don’t mean you literally rest, “off” would be a better word for, that is returning to a lower setting or slowing down a bit.
4. Do your abs first.
We’re all guilty in a sense. How many times have you left abs as your last exercise and simple walked away or cheated? Too many times to count I’d assume. This goes especially if you don’t like training abs or have weak abs to begin with, do them first!
5. Don’t substitute.
There are a number of non-abdominal exercises which, nonetheless, put strain on your abdominal muscles - think deadlifts or military presses. These are NOT proper abdominal exercises, and you should never think of them as substitutes to proper abdominal training.
Most of these other exercises involve the abdominals in isometric contraction, while this does have its benefits, it’s not going to cause muscle hypertrophy, so get back to those crunches!
6. Train heavy and use resistance.
People generally assume, that when it comes to abs, more is better. I’ve seen countless gym enthusiasts do dozens or hundreds of reps, and honestly, it drives me insane.
I’ll reiterate, there is nothing beneficial about doing a hundred reps of some exercise with zero resistance and zero weights. Ideally, you’ll be doing around 10-12 reps per exercise if you really want to see those abs come out. Use heavy weight and/or resistance, you should feel the burn in your muscle when you’re finished. When you see those little cubes popping up, send us a thank you.
7. Don’t overdo it.
Keep to good form to prevent injury. Don’t push your head, this might cause spinal damage. Definitely try to relax your other muscles, especially your hips. If you use your hip muscles, there will not be enough abdominal contraction to force muscle growth. Try not to keep your back completely flat, curl it. Chronic abdominal flexion with forced back extension can seriously damage your nerves and ligaments, don’t do anything stupid!
Also keep it spaced out! There is no point in training your abs every single day, do 2 or 3 days a week. This will ensure your abdominals can recover in time, pay homage to the old saying “you gain muscle when you sleep”, it has a lot of truth to it. We wish you a good workout.