The rectus abdominals (abs) is the muscle known as “the 6 pack”. When training the abs it is important not to just perform trunk flexion exercises (sit-ups). The rectus abdominals are just one muscle of a whole group of muscles which is commonly referred to as the “Abs”.
The other muscles are: external oblique's, internal oblique’s and the transverses abdominus.
All movement from the extremities rely on the core for stabilization and force production, it’s the most important area of the body. As the old saying goes “you can’t fire a canon from a canoe”.
The core is the link between your upper and lower body and needs special attention, gone are the days when core training meant performing hundreds of sit-ups off the floor, there are much more effective ways to train.
Below are some general guidelines attaining to what a proper core program should look like, apply these strategies to your routine and you will have a shredded 6 pack in no time.
- Interval Training.
This is short bouts of high intense exercise broken up with periods of low intense exercise. For example sprint for 1 min then rest for 2 min, as you become fitter increase the reps or decrease the rest period. This will ramp up the metabolic rate whilst burning heaps of calories. Everyone has a six pack, it’s just that it’s usually hidden under fat.
- Wood Chopping Exercises.
The rectus abdominals (6 pack) are designed more for anti-rotators of the trunk rather than trunk flexion (sit up’s). Otherwise the ab’s would look more like hamstrings. Standing sideways to a cable machine, attach a rope to the high pulley. Pull the rope down and across your body, to just outside your left knee. Return the cable to the starting position, finish your reps and then switch sides.
- Strength Training.
By increasing your lean muscle mass you’ll burn more calories sitting behind your desk and whilst you’re asleep, you will also burn a considerable more amount of energy whilst you’re exercising through greater energy demand from the increased lean muscle. Do large compound exercises working multiple muscles working every major muscle group in the body.
By using a fit ball you’ll be increasing the range of motion from a neutral spine to trunk flexion (sit-ups), to trunk extension to trunk flexion. By doing sit-ups on an unstable surface you’ll also increase the amount of muscle fiber recruitment.
If your diet is poor, no amount of training will work. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, nut’s, seeds, wholegrains, beans, legumes. If your eating meat and dairy make sure it’s lean and low in saturated fat. Keep sugar’s and alcohol to a minimum.
- Train all Movements.
Don’t just do sit-ups, train all movement patterns. A good core program should include trunk flexion and extension, rotation, side flexion, reverse crunches and static holds. It’s not necessary to do them all in one session, pick one or two for each training session.
- Less is More.
One of the most common mistakes people make is they do too many reps. The abs are just like any other muscle ,so train them like you would other muscles. Doing hundreds of reps isn’t going to do much except give you posture problems. Add more external resistance and keep the reps under twenty.
Like any other muscle the Abs need stretching. Lay face down with your hands under your shoulders, push up until your arms are nearly straight whilst simultaneously pushing your hips into the floor. This will increase the range of motion of the muscle and increase blood flow, therefore speeding up recovery between sessions.
- Static Holds.
To develop a strong core you must incorporate exercises that incorporate the whole mid-section, including the hips. Stuart McGill (leading researcher on lower back dis-function) believes strength endurance is the most important factor in maintaining a healthy lower back. The plank is a good place to start, hold yourself in the press-up position, keeping your abs braced (tightened) and your butt squeezed tight. Start with a 20 second hold and increase this time by 10% a week.
- Train the body as one integrated unit.
Use strength training exercises that will actively challenge the core. Some of the best core exercises around are ones that are working other muscle groups. By using exercises such as squat and deadlift variations, overhead presses, bent over rows and even push ups you’ll be creating awesome core strength.