On Sunday Nick and I discussed Ab training on episode 12 of the Mighty Cast. It was a late decision as far as we’re concerned, I came to it when I saw a guest in the gym I run (not Darkside) do some pretty tough cardio followed by a few sets on the Ab Crunch machine; what he was expecting from this I have no idea but I had my moment of clarity and I knew what we’d be talking about.
This is how “Abz” became the first of what will probably be many podcasts we do on body-part training; here is a quick summery of what we covered.
What Most Trainees Do
They believe in the “spot reduction” myth; this states that if you train a specific area then you will lose fat from that area. This is untrue; the body uses energy (calories) when it is in a calorie deficit, as in calories in < calories out. The body will also use the fat which was last laid down first – last on, first off so to speak. In simple terms this means if you’ve always had a bit of a gut but your legs have gotten fatter recently then you will lose fat from your legs first so long as you are in that essential calorie deficit, not from your abs just yet.
What They Should be Doing
If a trainee wants great abs then their primary goal is to eat in line with that goal. Abs should be trained but only as part of an overall programme.
The Secret to Strong, Powerful Abs
The secret is… Well, I call it incidental Ab training. Look at the following video and ask yourself the question – “what is working?” Skip to about a minute in to actually see the lift.
OK, it’s a Squat so it’s working my legs right? Well yes but it’s a supra maximal lift, which means it’s more than the maximum weight I can Squat. There is tremendous stress throughout the whole body, including the abs. Do you think if all I’d ever done were Crunches that I’d be about to move that weight?
The message is that if you train using the big exercises – Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Good Mornings then you’re on the right track for getting strong abs. Once you’re advanced enough the use of accommodating resistance helps too:)
Direct Ab Training
This should usually be done at the end of your session; why? Because you need strong, and stable abs for all the other big exercises, the ones listed above, which you should be doing because in the pursuit of your goal of having great Abs; those exercises are the most important. Anyway, I think you should have that message by now – if you don’t then I can’t help you.
So finally we get to direct ab training; with this I prefer what I call Traction Weighted Ab Training or TWAT for short; TWAT is a semi rude word in the UK – what a devil I am! This group of exercises, simply pull the spine apart (traction) while working the abs hard. TWAT exercises are –
Overhead Ab Pulldowns – the easiest to perform in this group.
Hanging Knee Raises – either with slings or holding a high bar.
Hanging Leg Raises
A TWAT doing TWAT!
Tony doing what only Tony can! These are kinda super pikes!
There are many other ab movements you can do depending on what you’re trying to achieve. The TWAT exercises above are frontal flexion movements; other exercises in this group which are worth doing are Roll Outs, Roman Chair Sit Ups, and many Plank and Quasi Plank exercises. There are also side flexion movements like all the variants of Side Bends, and Rotation / Anti Rotation movements such as Pallof Presses, Russian Twists, and even Farmers Walks could fall into this category.
If you need any more information then listen to the Mighty Cast you Meathead.