The purpose of this article is to give you the hard truth about abs in hopes that you change up your training and find yourself walking down the beach with the best looking abs of your life. Does that sound good to you?
For some reason, there is a massive misconception when it comes to the right approach while training abs. Just to make sure we're all on the same page, I'm speaking to those of you who want to get rid of belly fat and have washboard abs. I'm not here to tell you how to strengthen your core. At least for this article I'm not.
I want to begin by giving you an analogy for abs. It also uses one of my favorite hobbies, so of course I have to apply it! Abs are like fishing in murky water. The murky water is our body fat. When we catch a small fish, it is extremely hard to see the fish until it gets really close to the surface. But if you catch a large fish, you'll be able to see it earlier as you're reeling in. So what's the best combo? Clear waters AND a big fish. AKA low body fat, AND big abs. That's what really makes a 6-pack pop.
Question is, how do we get that thick wall of abs under our skin? I see so many people out there tirelessly doing sets of 50 crunches paired up with 60-second planks. If that's you, knock it off with the planks and super high crunch reps.
"But why? Aren't planks good for your core? Crunches always make my abs burn so that has to mean it's working, right?"
What are we trying to do here, build a 6-pack, or make sure your ab wall is strong enough to withstand a shin kick from your opponent in the octagon? C'mon.
If we want a 6-pack that stands out, we need to have muscles that stand out. The only way to make this happen is by forcing them to grow. And we force them to grow by training them just like any other muscle group. Yes, that's correct. Your abs are just like every other muscle group. They respond well to heavy resistance, with reps ranging from 8-20. If you wanted to build massive legs, you wouldn't do bodyweight squats for 3 sets of 50 reps and call it good would you? I certainly hope not.
In order for our ab wall to grow, we have to force it to move against resistance, fill the tissue with blood, expose it to a lot of volume, and give it proper rest. Planking and all those other ridiculous exercises aren't going to help you do that. A plank is an isometric exercise. Meaning that during the exercise, your muscle is not lengthening or shortening during contraction. In order for hypertrophy (muscle growth) to occur, the muscle must be stretched and contracted over heavy resistance. Applying volume (more time under tension, sets, and reps,) will only force the muscle to adapt and grow even more.
And once you've trained that muscle group and wiped it completely out, you absolutely need to give it proper rest. You can't train abs every day and expect significant results. You're not training other muscle groups every day, so why do the same for your abs? Fuel yourself properly with your macros, hydration, and supplementation while those fibers recover. That's the only way they'll be ready to take on the next challenge you give them. Put your abs in an environment where they are forced to evolve.
So when you're training those beach muscles of yours, stick to machines, weights, and cables. Use bodyweight exercises like crunches for a burnout at the end if you'd like. When you apply it in the gym, focus on the contraction of your ab wall, as well as the stretch. Stretch and contract. Stretch and contract. Squeeze those friggin' abs as hard as you friggin' can. Then, keep your nutrition on point and by summertime you'll be lookin' reeealllll good.
Have questions about your ab routine? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll help you out. No questions, but just want more awesome fitness content? Perfect. Follow me for everything fitness!
As always, thank you for reading.