Your Friendly Neighborhood Gym Girl: ABS For Dummies

It seems like such a simple concept, so why did I go ten years without knowing how to grow abs? I’ve wanted six-pack abs for as long as I can remember and I was lean enough and active enough in my twenties that the six-pack should have been there… or should it have? I feel compelled to write about washboard abs, because I know many people of all shapes and sizes who would love to have them. This also happens to be the perfect time of year to start building them, BEFORE dropping the excess weight surrounding New Year’s Resolution Season. So, let’s get started.

Take a look at this picture of my abs. I’m proud to have some size to my abs now, but there is a long way to go, to also be able to see them when I have a healthy little layer on me between my competitions. This past season I competed in several back-to-back shows, and walked around fairly lean from March to October — that’s not what you want to do if you’re trying to build up healthy, juicy FULL ab muscles. The key words here are BUILDING and LAYER. I’m certain this is what’s missing from most people’s attempt at developing a chiselled midriff.

Abs For Dummies has only one tip: BUILD. 

Just like you would build large biceps or quads, the abs must be built-up in size to be seen before you lean out. I see many friends and fellow gym rats trying to bring out their abs via crunches and planks and sit-ups, while they increase their cardio to insane levels – attempting to lose the layer that’s hiding the muscles. Everyone’s body is different and I TOO used to think the washboard was achieved by simply doing crunches and losing fat. If you would like to see dramatic results and more permanent results, consult a professional for a building program. (I’ve mentioned in past articles about the value of a properly designed building program so I won’t indulge this topic TOO much).

In a nutshell, if you’re abs regimen consists solely of 200 crunches before bed every night, the 1980s called and they want their technique back. BEFORE you go about increasing cardio and crunches and shedding fat to see your abs, start lifting heavier with them. While you have a healthy layer of fat on you, and are taking in more calories (*ahem* as in RIGHT NOW approaching the holidays) create more complex ab workouts involving plenty of heavy weight-bearing exercises too. Both weighted and non-weighted exercises are recommended for superior ab development. I stress consulting a professional because nobody should switch to extremely heavy weights over night. The point is to work up to challenging yourself with the weight-bearing exercises while ensuring your core is treated kindly. Feed your muscles and incorporate timely rest days to aid in muscle-growth during the repair stage. Some athletes swear you can train your abs every other day, as these smaller muscles tend to repair fast. If you aren’t making nutrition a priority, chances are that’s too much training and not enough repairing taking place. A good starting point is two times per week, and then increasing to three times per week if you are prepared to take care of your body consistently.

Some weight-bearing building exercises to try:

– All of those thrilling and ergonomically correct ab machines in your gym.

– Exercise ball crunches (holding a plate on your chest or dumbbell over-head.)

– Russian Twist, (with a medicine ball.)

– Cable/Rope Crunches, (seated, kneeling or standing.)

– Weighted Oblique Hyperextensions, (I like to hold a 10-25lbs plate on my shoulder.)

I will be sure to keep you all updated on my own progress as I work to build my abs this Winter. perhaps I’ll have some dramatic before and after shots to show you in the Spring. Cheers to a happy, healthy and strong building season! Which of you are up for a 90-day ABS Challenge…hmmm? Non? Oui?


Happy Lifting!

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