If a ripped midsection is your goal, you need to adopt these 10 rules right now.
As I wrote in Part 1 of this story last issue, achieving an impressive set of chiseled abs isn’t an easy process, but it’s not as difficult as some would have you think. Like most fitness goals, it involves knowledge of how your body works, a little common sense, and a healthy dose of self-discipline.
Here’s my second set of 10 tips for impressive abs. Use any or all of them, but for the best results, combine them with the first 10 I gave you.
1. Avoid Stress
We all know that stress can trigger the release of cortisol, which can hinder lipolysis and promote fat storage, especially around the midsection. What you may not realize is that even minor stressors can trigger cortisol release. A study from several years ago showed that even the stress of monitoring caloric intake was sufficient to raise cortisol levels in dieters. In that same study, it was determined that insufficient sleep also contributed significantly to increased cortisol in the system.
This is why we need to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night on a regular schedule. I recommend setting a daily time by which you’ve turned off your e-mail, cell phone, and TV so you can wind down and be prepared to get proper rest. I also suggest taking thee to four minutes each morning to remind yourself of the good things in your life. It helps keep a positive mindset throughout the day.
2. Split Your Workouts
Instead of a standard one-hour workout, split it into two 30-minute sessions. This not only helps by breaking up the monotony, it also allows you to hit a higher intensity level because you’re getting some recovery time between bouts. Besides, with a 60-minute session, it’s too easy to force your muscles into a catabolic state, as well as triggering cortisol release. Splitting your workout will lessen that risk.
3. Measure Portion Sizes
There’s an old saying: “What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed.” It’s important to measure your portion sizes somehow, whether by weight, volume, or just eyeballing it (which takes some practice). I’m pretty good at estimating portions with the eyeball method, but I still use my food scale because I think weight is the most reliable metric.
I make changes in my diet gradually. For instance, as I become leaner, I’ll increase a portion of fish from eight ounces to 10 ounces. On the flipside, I also gradually reduce my carbs as I lean out. I might cut my 12-ounce portion of sweet potatoes down to 10 ounces. I rarely bother to measure my vegetables because I try to consume as much as I can, at least a cup at each meal. But for the rest of your diet, I’d say that not measuring your food with a scale is like trying to save money without ever checking your bank balance; it won’t be very effective.
4. Add More Volume
If you want to see real gains at building new muscle, you need to get some volume workouts in. You can split these, but be sure you hit a minimum every week or you’re not going to see the best results. I recommend at least 45 to 75 minutes, five times a week.
5. Do Some HIIT
When it comes to cardio for burning body-fat reserves, high-intensity interval training can’t be beaten. It’s not for wimps, but nothing strips fat off your gut faster. Twenty minutes of high-intensity interval training three times a week will yield more results than an hour or more of steady-state cardio. This can make it a lot easier to fit a workout into a busy schedule.
6. Indulge Rarely
There’s nothing but sugar and empty calories in alcohol, and the same is true of most desserts. And here’s a shocker for you: Studies have shown that a Friday night of heavy drinking will suppress your testosterone level until the next Wednesday. Are you sure you’re prepared to throw away 60 percent of your efforts for the week?
There’s nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but the key word here is “occasional.” I suggest you avoid the sweets and alcohol except for very special occasions. You need to decide whether a six-pack of beer is more important than your six-pack abs.
The good news is, after a few weeks without the sweets and alcohol, your cravings will subside, so you won’t want the sugary stuff as often. And when you do treat yourself on a special occasion, you won’t want nearly as much.
7. Take Supplements
Personally, I think a person should get most of their nutrition from whole foods, but there is some evidence that indicates that because of depleted soil, we’re typically getting only around 40 percent of the nutrients in our food. That’s a big hit to take, so I think supplements are a good idea for making up the difference. There is more to supplements than protein and pre-workouts, though. You can keep your digestive system tuned up with probiotics, and promote overall health and fat anabolism with magnesium, vitamins C, vitamin D, and fish oil.
8. Bulk Cyclically
Cyclical bulking—shorter periods of alternate cutting and bulking—helps keep your hormones at the optimum levels for both cycles. You can take advantage of the hormonal balance present after each transition point to make your efforts most productive.
During a shorter bulking phase, you’re taking advantage of the increased anabolism caused by the preceding caloric deficit. (Bodybuilders call this the “rebound effect.”) Then, as your system becomes accustomed to the increased calories, you can shift to cutting.
On the shorter cutting phase, the increased insulin sensitivity caused by your bulking diet, as well as the optimized ghrelin and leptin levels, will aid your cutting. Again, when your system begins to acclimate, you’re ready to shift back to bulking.
My favorite strategy is utilizing 21-day blocks. If you’re under 12 percent body fat, then perform two weeks of overfeeding (20 calories x bodyweight) and one week of underfeeding (10 calories x bodyweight), and then repeat for one or two more cycles. If you’re over 12 percent body fat, then complete two weeks of underfeeding and one week of overfeeding, and repeat for one or two more cycles.
9. Set A Deadline
Break your goal of chiseled abs into smaller goals, like losing one percentage point of body fat each week or by upping the intensity and volume of your ab exercises. Then assign a deadline for each, because you’re more likely to achieve something when you’re held accountable.
A training journal is critical at this point, in my opinion. You need to have a structured plan, with accountability, as well as a way of tracking your progress. Without the numbers on clear black and white, you’re flying blind, and any progress you manage will be by pure luck.
10. Get Help
If you’re not seeing the progress you want and you’re serious about ripped abs, stop designing your own program. A trained professional can prepare a fully periodized program for you, providing progressive phases and continuity to yield the best results.
You can hire a coach or you can sign up for the program that IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Ben Pakulski and I created to-gether at HypertrophyMAX.com. Do whatever is necessary to stop spinning your wheels,
By Vince DelMonte