Perhaps one of the frequently asked questions I encounter from both men and women are about having toned sexy abs – “What’s the best Abs Work out?” “What’s the best way to have a 6 pack?” “What abs work out can I do to have ripped, eye-popping abs?”
Before I begin, let me clarify that to get eye-popping, head-turning 6 pack abs, you need to sort 2 things: your diet and your training. There are no short cuts to it. You can’t have a chiseled eye-popping, well developed 6 pack exclusively through exercise, nor exclusively through dieting. You must get both factors right – you’ll get optimal results if you eat correctly AND train correctly.
That said, the focus of this article is the training aspect, so here are 5 essential absolute MUST-DOs if you want to get the most out of your abs work out:
Abs Work Out Tip #1: Burn the Fat!
One pervasive myth is the concept of spot reduction. I see a lot of people at the gym doing mostly ab work outs. Sadly it’s impossible to tone just one area of your body by exercising that area exclusively. So forget about doing crunches alone. It will never work.
If you have a high body fat percentage, the abs won’t show no matter how much you work. To reveal your 6-pack abs you simply need to burn the layer of fat covering your midsection, and the only way to decrease the amount of fat in certain key areas is by lowering your total body fat levels. As you lose fat, it will come off all over your body, not just in certain spots. I’d say on average if you lower your body fat percentage to about 8% (men) or 14% (women), your 6 pack abs will show through.
The best way to burn off fat is through regular cardiovascular exercise about 3 times a week. Walk, run, cycle, swim, dance, do martial arts, play football – whatever makes you sweat while keeping your heart rate elevated for at least 30-45 minutes. If you’re pressed for time, the best cardio technique is High Intensity Interval Training.
Abs Work Out Tip #2: Quality, Not Quantity!
More crunches is not necessarily better. It’s not about the quantity of ab crunches you can do but about the quality of muscle contraction you get. So concentrate on contracting your muscles as tight as you can. This will cause them to fatigue faster.
Don’t let your efforts go to waste: train with proper technique! When doing all of your ab workouts, ensure to get as much contraction as possible. “Crunch” your upper abs onto your lower abs during each rep to maximize the tension and muscle recruitment.
If you can do too many ab crunches doing one exercise, it means that exercise isn’t challenging enough for you. Your abs should be fatigued at no more than 20-25 reps. If not, add weights to your exercise and work on contracting the muscles even tighter and “hold” it at the top for each rep. Again, the emphasis should be placed on “how hard” you can contract the abdominal muscles, not “how many” you can do!
Abs Work Out Tip #3: Variation and Progression
Remember that your body will change only if it finds itself challenged enough so that it’s forced to adapt. So regardless of what you do, whether high reps, low reps, weighted work, bodyweight work, stability ball exercises, and BOSU ball exercises – it all works until your body adapts and establishes its new comfrot zone. So you have to keep progressing and keep changing to give your body new reasons to adapt.
As with any improvement endeavor, there must be progression or else change will not occur. Same thing applies to your abs work out. Your ab training should progress from basic to more and more challenging abdominal work.
For example, you could start doing floor work with your body weight only (like crunches, sit ups and leg raises), then move on to floor work with a medicine ball and then weight plates; from there you could work on unstable surfaces like ab work outs with a stability ball or a Bosu ball. Do “front planks” and “side planks” then progress to one arm planks (frontal and side) and then progress to doing the same on a stability ball or BOSU ball for added core stability training.
The best ab workouts are those that call into play as much core muscles as possible, so unstable surfaces are better than stable ones.
For men who really want well-developed “popping” abs, the best ab workouts are a variety of weighted movements. Abs are just like any other muscle in the body that can be developed by weight training. Weighted ab crunches with cables or on a stability ball with a heavy dumbbell will do the trick.
Abs Work Out Tip #4: Work the entire Abs at the same time
A common mistake is training just the upper abs and completely neglecting the lower abs and the sides. The best thing to do is to ensure that whenever you perform any type of ab work you should work both the upper and lower abs at the same time.
Another sore spot is the problem of flabby lower abs. Good exercises to direct a little more force into the lower area are lying leg raises, lying leg raises on an incline and eventually hanging leg raises.
Even when you’re doing exercises targeting your sides, you must always aim to contract the entire abs as much as possible to get maximum gains.
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