Training the oblique muscles. The last area of your abdominal region that you need to train is the oblique muscles, which lie on the sides of your midsection. The obliques respond to twisting and side-bending movements. Let me give you a word of caution here: Do not train your oblique muscles with low reps, only with high reps. Remember that eight to 12 reps is the formula for building muscle, which is what you don’t want here; you want fairly thin but defined obliques. Overly developed obliques can give you the false appearance of having “love handles” on your sides. You want thick abdominals and thin obliques.
Training the transverse abdominis. Did you know that you can train a part of your abs right now, no matter where you are? The transverse abdominis is the only muscle of the abdominal area that doesn’t cause movement at the spine. Its job is basically that of a girdle—to keep the abdomen pulled in nice and tight, giving the midsection a smaller and tighter appearance. I’m sure you’ve seen people who are quite lean, and they may even have a six-pack, but they sport a belly that sticks out quite a bit.
That’s made possible by a weak transverse abdominis. Think about this: In clothes people can’t actually see your ab development, but what they can see is whether your transverse abdominis is doing its job. Training the transverse abdominis is very easy. Simply exhale all of your air, and then suck in your abdomen as far as you can, bringing your naval closer to your spine. You can also train the muscle throughout the day by simply sucking in your stomach. That may seem rather goofy, but it’s very good for working the transverse abdominis. Because you’re training the muscle for neurological development rather than muscular development, you can—and should—work it every day.
Okay, here’s my ab routine:
Crunches (knees bent at 90 degrees and
feet on top of a bench) 3-4 x max
Hanging leg raises (curling pelvis upward
as legs raise) 3-4 x max
Bicycle crunches 3-4 x max
Perform it three times a week on nonconsecutive days—for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
If you want thicker-looking abs, do the crunches and leg raises for eight to 12 reps using resistance. You can also control the tempo of the reps by counting two seconds on the way up and three seconds on the way down.
Do not train your obliques with weights, or they will become big. Always perform high reps for oblique muscles. The bicycle crunch is an excellent way to train not only the obliques but also the entire abdominal wall.
Dieting for abs. Now that you are on your way to developing your abs, let’s look at your diet. Your diet must enable you to access and burn off the bodyfat stored over your abdominals. To do that, you must burn more calories each day than you consume.
One of the easiest ways to get your calories down without an appreciable drop in the perceived quantity of food you’re eating is to minimize the high-fat foods you eat. Avoid fried foods, oils, mayonnaise, whole eggs, butter and margarine, cream and whole milk, and for heaven’s sake, read the label of anything you eat. Be sure that you select foods that are low in fat by calories not by grams. Cut the fat out of your diet in small amounts of your diet. Let’s face it, the fat calories can add up over time. Just eliminating that extra pat of butter at breakfast can save you more than 3,000 calories, the equivalent of nearly one pound of bodyfat, per month. Or replace your whole milk with skim. The idea is to reduce fats or substitute lowfat foods for high-fat foods when possible. That practice alone can drop many pounds of fat off your midsection in a short amount of time.
In addition, eating five to six small meals per day in lieu of the normal three square is also helpful and minimizes the accumulation of extra calories as fat. Small frequent meals also help to keep your stomach smaller, mitigating the potential for gut distention.
Remember that developing a hard, defined midsection is a function of both exercise and diet. Work hard on building your abdominal muscles with resistance exercise while stripping off the fat layer that’s hiding them with a nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse diet. The results will pay off with big-time dividends in the way you look and feel.
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