For a stunning set of abs, you have to add some weight to your workout
By Eric Broser
In my 27-year career as a trainer and contest prep coach, I have never come across anyone who wasn’t interested in making significant improvements to their midsection. For some that simply means losing belly fat and achieving a flatter tummy. For others greater core strength is the primary goal. However, for most serious gym rats the ultimate achievement is a rock-hard, shredded six-pack. While many “gurus” out there might claim that great abs are not manifested in the gym, but rather via diet and some cardio, let me assure you that in order to present a truly impressive abdominal wall, each “brick” must be built—both thick and deep. With that in mind, here are three of my favorite exercises meant to do just that.
Exercise 1: Parallel Bars Straight Leg Raise
Stand in between a set of parallel bars and lift yourself into what would be the starting point for performing dips. While holding your torso locked in this position raise your legs to just above parallel by flexing the hips. Hold at the top for about one second and then slowly lower your legs back down while keeping your abs tight throughout.
Tip: Try your best not to focus on your hip flexors, and think to yourself, “Lift with the abs.”
Exercise 2: Barbell Push Crunch
Sit down on an abdominal incline bench set between 30 and 60 degrees, making sure to secure your feet under the pad before lying back into the starting position. Have someone hand you a moderately weighted barbell, which should be held with an overhand, shoulder-width grip and positioned at arms’ length over the chest. Flex at the waist to raise your torso while keeping your arms locked in position. Do not allow your lower back to rise off the bench. Squeeze your abs hard at the top for a second or two before lowering carefully back to the starting position.
Tip: Pick a spot above you on the ceiling and remain fixated on it throughout the set. Pretend the goal is to touch the barbell to that spot on every rep.
Exercise 3: Cable Twists
With both hands, grasp a stirrup handle set at about shoulder height on a cable pulley. Your far hand should be placed over your other with fingers interlocked. Facing sideways to the weight stack, step away from the pulley until your near arm is both horizontal and straight. With your feet spaced just beyond shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees slightly and lift your near heel off the floor, resting on the ball of your foot. While keeping the arms straight, rotate the torso to the opposite side (across your body) until the cable makes contact with the shoulder. Hold this position for a moment and then return to the starting position.
Tip: Attempt to initiate the movement by using abdominal power and not by pulling with the arms.
- Parallel Bars Straight Leg Raise: 3 x maximum reps
- Barbell Push Crunch: 3 x 12-15 reps
- Cable Twist: 2 x 16-20 reps per side
*This workout can be performed two times per week, with two days’ rest in between.
Why Don’t I Have ABS?
Okay, so your body fat is now in the single digits and you are in the gym hitting abs two to three days per week, but yet, your stomach looks nothing like the dudes in the magazines. Let’s take a quick look at a few possible reasons why.
No Resistance: Abs are muscles just like your delts and triceps, so why not train them in a similar manner? Doing sets of endless reps of leg lifts and crunches are not going to build jaw-dropping abdominals any more than bodyweight push-ups will develop an Arnold-like chest. If you really want some deep “squares” in your midsection, you should not be afraid to perform weighted abdominal exercises that limit you to just 12 to 15 slow and controlled reps.
Quick Choppy Repetitions: If there is any muscle group that should be exercised with slow-paced, meticulously performed reps, it’s the abs. Pay careful attention to achieving a full range of motion from stretch to contraction, and make sure to get an intense squeeze at top. Fast reps will do little to overload the abs and will more likely result in injury or inferior results.
Lack Of Intensity: So many lifters are working under the false notion that all it takes to create a truly outstanding six-pack are a few easy sets of crunches and leg lifts at the end of a workout. But and if you really want to carve bricks into your belly, you have to train them with similar intensity to all of the other muscles on your body. So don’t leave the gym without putting a serious hurting on your abs!