Summer Ab Blast
One look at your calendar and you realize that it’s around the corner…summer! With hot weather comes the beach, pools, bikinis and swimsuits and, of course, tighter, more revealing clothing. The first bodypart that most of us think about when all those images come to mind are the abs. Call them a six pack, a washboard or whatever else you wish, but male or female, everyone wants abs.
A great set of abs is a function of two things, abdominal muscle and low bodyfat. While your no-frills ab routine will work wonders for your abs, bodyfat levels must be low enough to see that hard-earned muscular middle. The reality of abs is that you can have a thickly-muscled, incredible six-pack, but if your bodyfat is too high, no one will ever see it. Although we won’t be going into diet and cardio in this article, make sure that you pay close attention to both so that you, and everyone else, will see the results of your ab work.
The two major muscle groups that make up your six pack are the upper abdominals and the lower abdominals. Sure there are also the serratus and intercostals muscles at the sides of your midsection, but I wouldn’t do any direct work for them. When you train muscle tissue it can grow, whether it’s in your bicep or on the side of the waist. Do you really want to risk thickening the side of the waist and actually making your body look less tapered? Me neither!
I’ve given you two movements for the upper abs and two for the lower abs. Choose one upper and one lower movement per ab workout and do three sets to failure of each exercise. I’d train the abs three to four times per week to have them ready for the summer.
Lie flat on the floor and place your feet over a bench so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and never place your hands behind your head. The temptation to pull the body forward with your arms, thereby taking the focus off the abs, is too great and the chance of injuring the neck region increases. Once in the proper starting position, simply raise your upper back off the floor very slowly and roll forward until you reach the end point of the movement. Done properly, your lower back should never come off the ground. Hold the finished position for a second or so and squeeze the abs. Also pay attention to the negative portion of each repetition, going from the locked endpoint back down very slowly.
Sit in the machine and grasp the overhead handles. Arch your upper body so that your back is erect and against the back pad of the machine. To begin the movement, slowly move your upper body forward very until reaching the endpoint of the movement, again squeezing hard for a second in the final position. As you return to the starting position, make sure to keep control of your speed and reap the benefits of the negative portion of the exercise. Don’t pull the machine forward with your arms—make sure to pull the upper body forward using your abs.
Lying or Decline Leg Raises
Lie on a flat bench or, to make the movement more challenging when that gets too easy, lie with your head higher than your feet on an angled bench. Keep the legs straight out with a very slight bend at the knee. Hold on to the bench with both hands behind the head. From this position, raise the legs straight up, but don’t allow them to go more than about twelve to eighteen inches off the bench. If you go much higher than that, the stress will come off the lower abs and shift to the back, creating a greater risk of injury. Bring the legs back down in a slow and controlled fashion and repeat until failure.
Lying or Decline Knee Raises
Follow the same directions as with the leg raises above, but instead of raising the leg straight up, bring the knees to your chest and back down to the starting position. You’ll find this is a bit easier than the leg raise and is particularly well suited to those who may have lower back problems.
That’s it. Simple, common sense ab training. Combine this with proper diet and don’t be a stranger to cardiovascular work and you’ll be proudly displaying those abs this summer. Have fun!