I’ll never forget the first time I saw NABBA Mr. Universe Serge Nubret “wiggle” his abdominal muscles. Yes, wiggle. While I’d seen thousands of bodybuilders grunt out abdominal poses, it was the first time I’d ever seen a man with so much muscle control—and a little help from Mom and Dad on the genetics—that he could seemingly make the “little blocks”—as my boys like to call them—of his abs move back and forth in a very strange and synchronized fashion. Now, I’m not talking about the abdominal “roll” of a belly dancer here. Serge moved those razor-sharp abdominals sideways—one of the damndest things I’ve every seen.
Serge was eating a chocolate bar on the day before the competition. I had just won the IFBB Mr. Universe, and feeling a little full of myself, I told him, “You’re going to get fat eating that.” Laughter from the small group surrounding him. “You want to see fat?” Serge asked. “Check this out.”
He raised his shirt and, looking me dead in the eyes, proceeded to move those abs around like a Vegas dealer moving cards around on a table. S#@t, I mumbled with a sheepish grin. Oh, and I forgot to tell you the best part. Serge was 46 years old at the time! He’s the same guy who pushed Arnold at the ’75 Mr. Olympia, coming in second. Had he not run into the Austrian Oak, Serge might have made the history books as the fourth Mr. Olympia.
Not everybody is going to achieve the wasplike waistline of a Serge Nubret, but there are things that you can do right now to improve your abdominals to the point that women will stare and your friends will be envious. Wouldn’t that be nice at the beach or by the pool this summer?
And for you gals who think six-packs are only for guys, you’re wrong. Practically all guys find a lightly muscled and toned six-pack on a female to be very sexy. For the two of you reading this article who don’t want a more attractive midsection, you will benefit from having developed abdominals, as they are extremely important for sports performance and for preventing and alleviating low-back pain.
How to get six-pack abs. Developing hard, defined abdominals is a function of diet and exercise. You must build the abdominal muscles with resistance exercise and then strip off the fat layer hiding them. That takes a nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse diet. The good news is that you can do both at the same time.
Exercise for six-pack abs. The function of the abdominals is to bring the ribcage and the pelvis together. That’s called trunk flexion. In any given abdominal exercise you are either bringing your rib cage to your pelvis (as in a crunch) or bringing your pelvis to your rib cage (as in a leg raise). Because a muscle grows more around the point at which it is flexed, it’s important to do both types of abdominal exercises. For that reason I like to do both crunches and leg raises in every abdominal workout.
Ab-training frequency. I’ve heard everything from “train abs every day” to “train abs once a week.” Both are wrong. Training abs every day is definitely wrong due to the simple fact that muscles have to recuperate in order to grow.
Training causes microtrauma and inflammation to a muscle, but the muscle responds by laying down new muscle, which equals bigger and stronger muscles. Training the abs every day would not allow sufficient time for them to recuperate between workouts. I do, however, agree that the abdominals recuperate faster than most other muscles. Therefore, you should train them three times a week on nonconsecutive days for no longer than 20 minutes.
By the way, you do want your abdominals to be bigger, but that doesn’t mean that your gut will stick out. It simply means that each “brick” within the six-pack is thicker, making the grooves between the six-pack deeper. To accomplish that, forget doing sets of 50 crunches, and don’t even think about doing those one-hour ab classes! Eight to 12 reps is optimal for building fast-twitch muscle fibers.
I’ll finish the discussion next month with a few more tips and my ab routine.
Editor’s note: For information on Labrada Nutrition products, visit Labrada.com