Now that we have covered the foundation of core training, it’s time to pull it all together into a program that will bring you your best abs to date. Sure, it won’t come over night, but you can start to see and feel improvement immediately if you implement a consistent and balanced program of abdominal training. Quite often, I have witnessed some of the most awesome exercises executed with pristine form and control. Equally as often, those guys and gals fail to reach their goals because they train abs either sporadically or at the tale end of a workout, having neglected to allot enough time to hit a complete session.
Believe or not, ab programming is not as complicated as we make it. The key considerations for a solid ab program are quite simple:
The first element is an easy one, as it’s exactly what we’ve covered over the past few weeks. At a minimum, you need to incorporate a movement to stimulate each of the four basic target areas: 1) Lower Rectus Abdominis (RA), 2) obliques, 3) rotation/transverse abdominis, and 4) the full RA.
As you recall, the biggest challenge to executing movements for the lower region is minimizing hip flexor involvement. The hip flexors are much stronger than the abdominals and tend to take over the load we try to place on the abs. Therefore, it’s critical that you find movements that allow you to disengage or neutralize the hip flexors. In regards to the obliques, you need to control development in accordance with your desired physique. This is achieved through goal-based, targeted training designed to produce a specific result. As is the case with training any other body part, different oblique exercises and styles of execution yield different results.
The transverse abdominis is trained primarily though rotational movements. These include any exercises that mobilize the torso to pivot on an axis in a motion that is contrary to the lower half of the body, and vice versa. Remember, when trained properly, the TA pulls everything in tight, reducing the circumference of the core in general, thus creating a flat canvas upon which to present your rectus abdominis and obliques.
And finally, if you haven’t heard it enough already, with the full RA “Strike like a scorpion.” Again, it gives a very clear visual of how you want to curl your torso, one pair of segments of the RA at a time, just like a scorpion curls its tail.
Of course, you may incorporate more than one exercise for a particular area in which you’d like to see even greater improvement. However, I suggest that you add it on only after you’ve completed all of your basic movements.
Looking back at our last discussion of execution, you should be contracting your abs as hard as you can at the mid point of your movement on every rep. If you’re holding that squeeze for a second or two, you should be severely limited in the number of reps you achieve in each set. That said, you should be able to achieve muscle shredding fatigue at three sets of between 10 to 15 reps for each exercise. Again, the goal is to achieve fatigue as the result of concentrated force against resistance, not through high volumes of reps.
This one is simple. The abs are a super resilient muscle group that recover very quickly. However, they do require some time to respond to the demand that you put on them. My experience has shown that training three days a week with at least one day of recovery between workouts is most effective. Keep in mind that you can train abs everyday if you want, but you would be constantly tearing the muscle down, giving it no time for repair or growth.
Now, don’t overcomplicate things! Sometimes the simplest approaches to training yield the most complex results, especially when it comes to abs. I hope this series has helped you focus your core training. As always,
CPT NCSF, IFBB Physique Pro