Before we jump right into the program per se, we need to make the presentations. No, not with me, dude! You already know my old mug! I’m talking about your very own belly and soon-to-be object of beauty.
The best way to turn an enemy into a friend is to get to know him intimately. Learn how he functions and what makes him tick; that’s how you’ll win him over.
1- Know Thy Enemy:
Yes, if we want to master our core, we first need to understand how it works. Don’t panic, I won’t be long. I promise it’ll be over before your eyelids got to close completely shut, alright?
If you ever wondered where “abdominals” came from, it derives from the Latin word ab domen which in turn stems from ab do… that means “hidden.” How funny, considering their origin, that we’re actually fighting to get those suckers to show, huh?
You know, it’s no coincidence that the abs take an “s” and are almost never used in their singular form. After all, the abdominals are not made up of one but an entire group of muscles; a complex muscular network where every unit will get involved, at a different level and intensity, depending on the motion in question. Got it?
According to your position, sitting or standing, lying on your side or on your back, it’s not the same abs that will provide much of the work when you move.
And with that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the badboys:
- Obliques: they’re located on your sides and comprise both the internal and external obliques. As their name would suggest, the external obliques cover the internal which are therefore invisible (duh!) They all originate from the ribs and attach themselves to the hip. They’re the ones to give a shout out to whenever you want to turn at the waist or bend to the side;
- Rectus Abdominis: let’s keep with the Latin here for a second, I know you love it… The rectus ab dominis is THE 6-pack we generally refer to when we talk about the abs. It’s a flat muscle that is quite large and which covers the entire front of your belly (from your breastbone to your willy – if you got one.) Any time you raise your knees, get up from bed or shorten the distance between your lower and upper body, it’s the rectus which accomplishes the miracle;
- Transversus Abdominis: this one wraps around the stomach much like a weightlifting belt. But no matter how hard you work it, you’ll never get to see its curves as that muscle is buried deep in the recesses of the abs. So, why train it at all? Like I said, this program is not only about looking good but performing to our best as well, and the transversus will help in that sense. Not only is it involved in the breathing process, it also helps stabilize the spine and keep our guts nicely packed;
- Erector Spinae: I know, that one’s located in the back, so why am I mentioning it here? Well, considering that it’s part of the abdominal belt (as the lumbar muscles), it deserves a spot on this list. To be completely precise, it doesn’t stop at the lower back but runs almost the entire length of it. We only get to see the bottom part because, at the top, it’s drowned in the volume of bigger muscles such as the lats. The erector spinae is essential to extensions of the spine. That’s the set of muscles that allow us to get back up when we fall, so we had better make them strong… if you see what I mean (wink, wink)!
In short, we’ll want to work the rectus ab dominis – of course! – as that’s what will grant us our most coveted 6- pack… but we’ll also beware of paying careful attention to the other muscles that make up the abdominals.
Failure to do so would only lead to imbalances down the road, weakness and drop in our performances.
Let’s make it right from the start and cover all bases. You’ll thank me later.
From 6 to 8-Pack?
While we’re on the topic of anatomical details; I hear a lot of people asking how to go about securing an 8-pack, like it’s the next natural step in developing your abs, like Goku aiming for SSJ2 after he managed to turn into the first Super Saiyan form.
And that reasoning is not without merits; it makes sense. By pushing your abs to their limits, you force them to grow and mature. It would only seem logical, after you’ve worked your butt off for months, that new muscle would start to show.
Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t work that way. The shape – as well as the number – of your abs is predetermined; it’s 100% genetics. You could quit your job and retreat into some lost cabin in the woods to do nothing but smash your abs, Shaolin style, for the next 10 years, their number would remain unchanged.
All you can do is make them stronger and bigger. That’s quite something!
2- The REAL Secret behind Killers Abs:
Alright, this is the bit you’ve been waiting for. This is where I reveal the foolproof method for leaning down and achieving a superhero six-pack.
So, open your eyes, keep them peeled and don’t blink!
It’s All about Fat
If you’ve ever set foot inside a gym, you’ve probably been witness to this scene: a guy killing himself day after day, performing hundreds and hundreds of crunches, as if he was trying to punish himself for some horrendous sin he couldn’t bring himself to confess.
And despite his efforts, despite the sweat, the pain and the passing months, that guy remains exactly the same!
Is that person cursed? Are some poor devils destined to remain “heavy” because of their natural constitution?
There’s no need to light candles to release any evil spell. The truth is that most people simply go at the process completely wrong. It’s not always the will or the motivation that is lacking; it’s often the knowledge. People just don’t know what they’re doing! We’ve been led to believe that, to lose the gut, we need to hit it harder than terrorist groups. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
One CANNOT lose weight from the belly simply by exercising it.
I know, that seems counterintuitive, but you can’t choose where to thin down by targeting a specific area. This “spot reduction” myth is one of the most pervasive in the field and, every day, thousands of poor shmucks fall victim to it.
Of course, you burn calories when you bust your butt off with sit-ups… but in the same manner that chewing gum will never hollow your cheeks, don’t count on those movements to create the stomach of an Adonis. Training the abs with the exercises recommended by most coaches doesn’t burn that many calories anyway.
So, what to do?
The big secret to protruding abs is to reach a certain level of body fat. Simple as that. You could be the lucky owner of the most beautiful 6-pack on planet Earth, if you’re above the limit, you’ll never know it! On the other hand, if you’re concentration camp thin but got no muscle to your abs, we won’t see a thing either but your bones.
Thus, we’ll need to ensure you attain the right percentage
WITH the right stuff under your shirt!
Before we proceed with our plan of attack, let’s see how to measure your own levels, so we know what we’re facing
and exactly how much work we got ahead of us, OK?
How to Measure Your Body Fat Percentage
There’s at least half a dozen ways to calculate that percentage, with varying prices and scores of reliability.
The number one option, without a doubt, has to be the DXA (for Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry.) Sounds like a new secret weapon in development by DARPA, right? By making use of densitometry, this method allows a precise calculation of your bones, muscles and fat %, to one decimal place.
Here’s how we’re going to get our percentage then, right?
Erm, how to say this… Unless you got a Benjamin to waste on this exam, we’ll have to pass as the prohibitive cost isn’t justified. We’ll also have to forget about using the BMI, as is often recommended by doctors. Why? Because the results would be skewed; this formula doesn’t work for people with a muscle mass that’s over the average. OK but, if we can’t use those, what techniques have we left to achieve our goal?
Get out the measuring tape: here, you will get your body fat percentage by utilizing a complex equation involving your weight, age, as well as the measures
from your hips, neck, waist… If you’d like to try that method, make it easier on you and use an online calculator. But frankly, I’m not a big fan of it because, once again, the results might be skewed depending on your specific morphology (huge neck, thin waist, large hips…);
Get yourself some calipers: want to get your numbers but don’t feel like breaking the bank? For the price of a Big Mac meal, you can purchase a pair of calipers that will get the job done. Simply follow the guidelines that you’ll find with the device and take measures at specific points like the back, the arms… The reliability is only to a few percent, but that should give you a rough estimate of where you’re standing, for cheap;
Hop on biometric scales: also known as “body fat” or “bioelectric impedance” scales, these work just like your regular scales; they can tell how much you weigh when you step on them. But, more valuable to us here, they can analyze your body composition by sending a current through your body that will give out the percentage of each tissue. Although some people only swear by them, I’m frankly not impressed. I find they’re too flaky in their readings because their precision can fluctuate depending on the volume of water you’re holding, for example.
In the end, don’t go pulling your hair. Order some calipers
on the Net and take a few minutes to take the
measurements. It may not be the very best option but, like I said, calipers are cheap and we don’t need to know your body fat percentage down to the last decimal point anyway.
Now you’ve got your digits; it’s time to assess the damage!
From Steven Seagal to the Incredible Hulk
Numbers don’t lie. So, let’s man up and see where we’re standing.
You’re over 26% body fat: sorry to break the news but you’ve been going a bit too heavy on the snacks, my friend! It’s time to roll up your sleeves and acquire to work! For currently, forget all regarding obtaining a six-pack… I don’t need to sound sort of akilljoy or lecture you however we’re talking regarding your health here. Your initial target are going to beto travel below two hundredth to scale backvessel and different associated risks.
You’re between 25-18% body fat: at this stage, you’ve not yet lost sight of your toes but that shouldn’t be long if you continue to pack on the pounds. Your abs are still nowhere to be seen.
You’re between 17-14% body fat: OK, we’re slowly getting there. You don’t need much for your six-pack to start to show. This is the level of body fat of people who’re said to be “in shape.”
You’re between 12-7% body fat: great, you’re already quite
on the ripped side! Whatever it is you’re doing, continue to do it because it seems to be working. I would only suggest you implement the exercises we’ll see below to further strengthen your core. This is the range most people are targeting when they’re looking to get a six-pack. We’ll aim for 10%, as far as we’re concerned. You’ll look great at that number and you’ll be able to keep it without too much hassle.
You’re below 6% body fat: damn, dude! Put some clothes on your back; you’re going to catch a cold! This is how lean professional bodybuilders can get for a contest. It’s not advised to keep such low numbers for any length of time as your body needs a certain level of body fat to function optimally. That’s why getting so low won’t be any of our business here.
If all this talk still doesn’t ring a bell and you’d rather have a visual aid, here’s a chart to show you what each category looks like. As the saying goes: a picture is worth a thousand words, right
PS: small aside; although my guides are primarily targeted
towards men, if you’re a girl and you’re reading this, you can still refer to the numbers we just stated above. Just add 7% to any “category” to account for a naturally higher percentage of fat with women.
The Magic Formula
If, like we’ve discovered much to our dismay, driving ourselves silly with abs exercises will not be enough to force our abs out, we’ll have to combine our core training with other techniques to get that body fat down.
Ultimately, the program we’re going to put into place will not only include specific routines to develop your abdominal power and allow you to perform impressive feats of strength, but also nutrition guidelines and a few cardio exercises.
Without going into too much detail, to succeed in that sense, we’ll have to burn more calories than we’re taking in. It’s really no rocket science; it’s a simple addition- subtraction operation.
And to get there, we’ve got several options – from training with high intensity to applying low carb or intermittent fasting concepts. But in the end, whichever road you decide to embark on, the general formula will remain identical:
Abs Training + Diet + Cardio = Superhero Six-Pack
3- Tools of the Trade – What You’ll Need:
OK, now we’ve got a better understanding of what awaits us. You’re still motivated to follow through? Attaboy!
First things first, let’s discuss the equipment we’ll need to bring our abdominals up to par.
Gym or Gymless?
For those of you who like to keep an eye on the fitness industry, you’ve probably already noticed that, every week, it seems like some company has just made the revolutionary breakthrough that will forever change the face of the Earth.
Every week, there’s a new miracle device that hits the market and which promises to get you from blob to Terminator in only 5 minutes per day!
It doesn’t matter that a thousand other products made similar claims in the past with dubious results; this time, it’s for real! It has to be! Look at the shape of the guy in the ad. He sure seems to know what he’s doing. So, that machine has to work, right? Yes, this time, thanks to this baby, your wish will be granted: you’ll get a sexy stomach without breaking a sweat or even getting winded. You know what? You’ll even get to eat potato chips while you’re at it!
The big joke!
Miracle abs devices are like Santa. At one point, even though it’s hard, you’ve got to admit they don’t exist.
To tell you the truth, I’d go as far as saying that you don’t even need a machine or weights to train your abs. As long as you’ve got a floor to lie down on, you should be good to go. You can invest in a rubber floor mat for a few bucks if you want, to protect your back. And a pull-up bar, as we’ll need something to hang from for the more advanced variations of our moves… But, like I said, nothing is compulsory.
That’s why, if you don’t have a gym membership yet, I won’t have you cough up the money. Now, I’m not saying that gyms are completely worthless as they do have their use. For example, they can be good to keep you accountable in the beginning as you’ll want to get your money’s worth, every month. It would suck big time to have them take our hard-earned dough and not benefit, wouldn’t it?
Also, going to a gym gives you access to barbells to work on your squats and other beneficial lifts… but, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s absolutely not needed to accomplish our mission here. Your own bodyweight will suffice.
In fact, training with your bodyweight instead of free weights or machines is the superior option on a lot of levels…
The Many Advantages of Bodyweight Training
When you see all the beefcakes who’ve made the gym their home, it may seem stupid not to rush there as well if you want to look a quarter like them. Why change a winning recipe?
Before I answer this, let’s go back to our goals for one second. What are we trying to achieve with this program?
First, we’re looking to lose weight so that our abs become noticeable. Two, we want to turn them into an indestructible armor while keeping our speed and explosiveness intact. In other words, we’re not really trying to end up looking like the Mountain in GoT… not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’re rather aiming for an athletic physique. We want to look ripped, sharp and muscular – yes – but not overly so. In short, we want to strike the perfect balance between all those attributes.
And for THAT type of objectives, bodyweight training just has no rival.
Here are some of its main benefits:
- Completely free;
- Not limited by time or place;
- Natural movements (vs mechanical); Explosive;
- Works the balance;
- Fun and challenging;
- Prepares the joints = injury prevention; Comprehensive;
You might be reading this list and go: “OK, I can figure how
it would work in the beginning to strengthen my abs… but how can my sole bodyweight provide enough stimulation in the long run to keep my abs on edge and force them to grow?” In other words, is this method effective even for more experienced athletes?
Well, allow me to introduce you to a neat principle that’s called “tweaking the mechanical advantage”: as we gain strength, and the exercises become too easy for us to still gain (muscle and strength), we will modify them in such a manner as to decrease our leverage.
We’ll make those movements harder and harder by changing the position of our limbs and trunk so that our muscles are now at their weakest.
Take the example of a simple plank: you’re in a push-up position and you can hold the movement for quite some time. What happens now if you move your head forward (while keeping your arms locked) so that your shoulders are a few inches in front of your hands instead of right above? Yes, there will be extra pressure/torque on your
pecs, shoulders and abdominals, and it’ll be harder to hold
the position the further away you stray from the vertical.
By changing the angle at which the strength is applied, you put yourself at a greater mechanical disadvantage.
Our training program will make full use of that principle. We’ll be starting every exercise with an easy variation and progress towards positions where our abs will get the crap beaten out of them.
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