Stop neglecting your abs training. These six strategies will help you retool your training to get the midsection you want
A lean, deeply-chiseled set of abs is—without fail—right at the top of every M&F reader's wish list. Quite often, the promise of a killer midsection is the only mental motivation they need to push through a tough workout or to chew through another high-protein, low-flavor meal. Yet in a recent poll conducted right here at muscleandfitness.com, an astonishing 46% of you said that abs and obliques are the muscles you tend to slack off on the most
While diet is certainly the main factor in getting that shredded look in the middle, training your abs with regularity is also important. Regular abs training not only helps you achieve that M&F cover model look, but it boosts your overall core strength, making you stronger on all the lifts that burn the most fat such as the squat, bench and deadlift
Here are 6 tips to help you conquer your abs neglect
Train abs, calves and forearms together
The big-boy lifts—the ones that build the most muscle—are quite understandably the priority for most guys at the gym. The problem is, once you're finished squatting, leg pressing and benching yourself to complete exhaustion, you probably don't want to dive into an abs session. To remedy this, M&F Fitness Director Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS recommends scheduling one session a week for abs, calves and forearms. "Training all of these bodyparts together in one session ensures that you're attacking them with the utmost intensity," he says. "No need to worry about being too tired to get to them at the end of your workout"
Do your abs at home
The good thing about abs is that they can be trained anywhere. "If you find spend some time at night watching television, promise yourself to do abs during all commercial breaks," says M&F Senior Science Editor Jim Stoppani, PhD. Cycle between reverse crunches, oblique crunches and regular crunches for sets of 12-20 reps. You can also do this at the office. Every hour drop to the floor and cycle through these three exercises. (Note: This works best if you have an office with a door, or if you're not concerned about your coworkers thinking of you as a body-obsessed lunatic)
Do your abs in traffic
Yeah, you read that right. In traffic. But how? "Do static ab contractions while driving," says Stoppani. "Simply flex your abs and hard as possible while crunching down and exhaling. Hold for a count of five, then relax and repeat until you get to where you're going." You can also work your deep transverse abdominis—the muscles that keep you from having the dreaded beer gut—by pulling your belly button in toward your spine, and holding for a count of 10. Repeat this up to 10 times
Do staggered sets
In between sets, instead of resting with your glutes on the bench, rest that muscle group while doing an ab exercise between sets. "But only use this method if working a smaller bodypart," cautions Pena. "Doing abs in the middle of a heavy workout—between sets of squats, for example—can weaken your core and put you at risk of injury"
Learn to multitask
Instead of walking out on a good abs workout, learn how to multitask. In particular, you'll want to read up on the tri-sets method, which presents an equally challenging spin on the abs/calves/forearms workout listed above, and the cardio/abs HIIT (high-intensity interval training) routine, which is guaranteed to work in no time flat
Rethink abs training
Instead of merely focusing on the aesthetic reward at the end of the tunnel, give more thought to how abs training contributes to your overall body composition. "Having a strong set of abdominals absolutely makes you stronger on all of your bigger lifts like squats, deads, benches, and overhead presses," says Pena. "And those are really the lifts that cause lasting, dramatic changes in your body because they work the most muscle. If you're skipping abs workouts, then you're not just shortchanging your abs—you're reducing your overall potential for a better look"