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Training the Abs

Discussion in 'Weight Training/Bulking' started by mastover, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. mastover

    mastover Well-Known Member

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    It's no secret that I've never been an advocate of direct ab training. I've trained abs several times during my competitive career, yet saw no appreciable difference when I trained them as opposed to not training them. In fact, some of my best showings were when I did not train them at all. First of all, whether you achieve the enviable 6 pack is a combination of training, genetics, and nutrition. Actually, genetics would lead the way. Over the years I've made some observations with other competitors, myself, and my competitor clients male and female.

    Here are the best exercises that hit the core and abdominals hard.
    ~ Pullups - not pull downs
    ~ Dips - not bench dips, but dips between bars. If you can do weighted dips, more power to ya. :nod:
    ~ Leg presses - akin to a reverse crunch with weight
    ~ Squats
    ~ Dead Lifts
    ~ Bent Barbell Rows
    ~ Standing Military Press
    ~ Tricep Cable Pushdowns - here's how I like doing em.... Bend over at the waist at a 70 degree angle. Do not stand straight up. Step back a bit from the cable stack, assume the 70 degree bent angle, tense the abs, arch the lower back, and do your press downs. Next day tell me how sore your abs are.... especially the lower abs.

    If you enjoy working abs, stick with crunches on a stability ball, steep incline crunches, with a weight held across your chest (if possible), and decline bench twists with a lat bar behind your head.. Avoid all ab roll outs, either with a wheel or barbell. This exercise creates the potential for tearing the lower abdominal wall. I've heard of two instances of this happening in my gyms, and have witnessed two others. A company advertising with an infomercial several years ago who manufactured a roll out apparatus was eventually sued by people who tore their lower abdominal wall. Now granted, many of these people must've been out of shape, detrained, and over weight, but the people I heard of and the two gents I witnessed, were all advanced trainers.

    Train hard. Diet hard. And your 6 pack will appear as much as your genetics allow.
     
  2. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. I know people who are huge roll-out fans/supporters. However, I always do read about it being an advanced movement and not for the untrained.

    Is your stance on direct ab work from an aesthetics/development (bodybuilding) perspective, a strengthening perspective, or both? I know certain athletic needs require a stronger core over some others, and having the "six-pack" look is secondary to core strengthening when doing direct ab work.
     
  3. chicanerous

    chicanerous Elite Member
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    The thing about core strength in athletics is that it has little to do with your ability to do crunches. Isometric strength and/or rotational strength is most often needed. You can get a lot of that isometric strength through lifting heavy weights in big compound exercises, carrying heavy things, and holding heavy things overhead. The rotational strength is more specific, but it's still not "direct ab work" in the sense that a regular Joe would think about it. Of course, it depends on the sport.
     
  4. HevyMetal

    HevyMetal Well-Known Member

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    I agree Chic..........just doing crunches might help from a cosmetic point of view if a guy has the body fat low enough...

    But in terms of 'core strength' or 'core athletic ability' just crunches by themselves won't cut it.

    For mobility core strength, the "core' has to be trained inter-connectedly from the ground up as one interlocked chain.

    Many muscles come into play for total mobile "core" strength.....

    Just cosmetically training one part of the package isn't going to do much .........
     
  5. DFS

    DFS Well-Known Member

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    Agree with you both.

    My question was more about the benefits of direct ab work in addition to a well rounded routine (that includes all the staple compound movements) if increased core strength was the prioritized end goal.

    I think mastover's OP, and he can correct me if I'm wrong, was how doing direct ab work never increased his "showings" beyond any measurable amount and thus he sees no tangible benefit to it. He was taking a bodybuilding angle. My question is from an athletic (non-aesthetic) & core strength angle, is there still no tangible benefit to direct ab work, assuming the rest of the training routine is well tailored?

    Of course, all this is predicated on what one's definition of "direct ab work" is?
     
  6. HevyMetal

    HevyMetal Well-Known Member

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    Well....I guess 'direct' ab work would be exercises specifically targetting the "six-pack"........such as the conventional crunch etc.

    Without regard to anything else.

    There are dozens and dozens of crunch variations......you see them in any infommercial hawking an "ab gizmo" etc. etc.

    Cosmetically you can get good results if your body fat is low enough.

    The actor Paul Newman , back in the day, did situps and crunches every day.....although it appears nothing else....and he had a very decent "washboard".

    I do crunches as well....but they are tied in with a package of other core exes and are not done just by themselves.

    Many of the ab "glamor" exes are designed to sell programs and equipment........many of them are actually of very little value either cosmetically or functionally.

    Some are dangerous to your lower spine.....

    Here's a clue.........

    Anyone ever checked the ab "full range of motion" when it comes to doing a crunch?

    How far can you actually contract your abs?

    That's right only so far....and then you can't bend your chest any farther.

    No matter whether you lift your legs up or do a "leglocked situp" you can't contract your abs any further in a forward plane.

    But people do hanging leglifts, beleiving it to be a superior ab ex, for example.....but it isn't because you can't get any more ab contraction out of that ex than doing a weighted crunch.
    All the leglifting is done by muscles that are not connected to abs.

    Gotta go right now but I'll be back to discuss this "ab/core" thing further......
     
  7. chicanerous

    chicanerous Elite Member
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    For the purpose of athletics, there's little additional benefit to doing crunches in an already well-tailored training routine. An exception would be if you've never done any crunches before or are just starting out. That kind of precludes the idea of being on a well-tailored training routine in the first place though.

    It doesn't hurt to train the abs "directly," of course, but you can better spend your time elsewhere.
     
  8. Robert2006

    Robert2006 Active Member

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    Twenty years ago when I hurt my back the therapist put me on a workout plan that was almost totally ab work. Believe me it didn't help aesthetics one bit.

    Why would it? 100% of what people think of in terms of ab aesthetics is either BF% or genetics.
     
  9. HevyMetal

    HevyMetal Well-Known Member

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    If you are baseball player or a boxer or an MMA'er or a hockey player....

    You need to train the core as a "chain".

    Just crunches won't cut it.


    The power in these moves starts on the ground and travels up through the body usually involving a "rotational" element from the core.

    Because it is a connected chain the brain has to "align" all elements neurally to work at max harmony in max power in max unison.

    Just working the "sixpack" does not do this.

    See how good a punch or a slapshot or a home-run hit you can pull off with your feet dangling in the air.............right......not so good at all.

    There's no solid power transfer.

    Some of the exes I like to do for core...which in turn includes abs:-


    Barbell squats
    Dumbell Step-ups and squats

    Diagonal "Woodchoppers" with resistance bands.
    Unfortunately I don't have the where-with-all to do sledgehammer strikes on a tire or other surface....but if I did they would be on my list.

    Standing Ab Curls......Grab the pulley bar about chin height and curl you body down to about parallel using weighted resitance.

    Rotational weighted twists:- use a midrange pulley, stand sideways and rotate the weight.

    Elbow Planks on a ball

    Oblique Planks on floor

    Bobbing side to side with a 5 lb weight over my head.....don't bob too far...just enough like a boxer.....this one is tougher than it sounds and can have your obliques screaming pretty quick.

    Crunches on Mat:- Lie on mat. Grab a 35lb plate (or however much you can handle) with both hands and extend your arms out overhead above your face. After this , raise both legs so they are pointing straight up toward ceiling. Now do crunches.
    After X number of crunches put plate down and move legs from side to side to as near the floor as you can get while your arms are straight out on floor on both sides.
    Then...pick up plate and do more crunches with legs pointing up.
    Repeat as needed.

    Cable Punches:- Connect a resistance band or cable to something and grab it with your rear hand. ( You will be standing as if in a boxing match with "jab" hand forward, one foot slightly ahead of the other and standing slightly sideways). Now go through a "hook " punch motion (doesn't have to be fast) with your rear hand, rotating and twisting your body feeling the power travel up from the ground and through your core to your fist.
    Repeat as needed and then change sides.

    Crunches on a Total Gym:-

    Set it up as if you are going to do Cable Pullovers. Lie on the Gym face-up. bend knees and bring them up so thighs are pointing straight out from waist. Pull cables over until they are just past halfway.
    When you do this try to do a crunch at same time (NOT a sit-up crunch.....just a torso-bend crunch). Then let cables go back to starting point.

    Simulated or real raquetball......I do "simulated" in my basement gym
    and I don't "dog" it......the sweat is coming off me freely.
    This is good core stimulation....all the diving,dipping, twisting, turning...

    All types of martial arts kicks..

    Farmer's walks with heavy dumbells

    Ball Roll-ins

    Writhing.......huh?......well what Writhing is:-
    Have a place where you put a large soft carpet or Mat.......then go down on mat and roll around all over the place doing as many whacky things as you can think of like....rolling over and raising one leg and then flipping over to your back and doing half pushups and then rolling over onto your back and doing scissors and then going onto your sides and raising one leg etc.etc.etc.etc without stopping....and then after a couple of minutes jump up to erect on one leg or two and then go back down and start all over again.
    Done correctly you can work every core muscle you own.


    I don't do all of this stuff on the same day......and I don't do the same thing every time...

    Of course, the lower your body fat, the easier it is for your abs to look good.
     

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