Bodybuilding Training Article from

10-Minute Ab Programs to Etch A Ripped and Rugged Midsection Fast! by Steve Holman, IRONMAN May '00

You’re in a deep sleep, a smile on your face as you dream. You’re on a beach. It’s the first hot day of the summer, and beautiful babes in teeny-weeny bikinis are all around, checking you out as you spread your towel and begin to peel off your shirt. Suddenly, you bolt up in bed in a cold sweat, breathing like a locomotive. Relief comes over you, and you fall back into your perspiration-soaked sheets. Thank God it was only a dream—that horrifying image of you, standing on the beach, pulling your shirt up to reveal a smooth, pudgy, white midsection. Oh, the humanity! (That’s a Hindenburg reference to go with your blimplike belly.)

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating the nightmarishness of it—or am I? Bodybuilders take a lot of pride in their condition, and a ripped midsection is a barometer of sorts. If you don’t have visible abs, most people hardly notice your physique—no matter how large and in charge you are. To the man and woman on the street, rippling abs are the badge of fitness.

So if yours aren’t sliced and diced, it’s time to get to crackin’—or rippin’, as it were—with some of the most efficient and effective ab programs around, routines that take only 10 minutes to complete and burn like the fires of hell. But first a word or two about…

Ab Anatomy

When people talk about abdominals, they usually focus on the rectus abdominis, the sheetlike muscle that runs from the bottom of the rib cage down to the pelvis. Although it looks like a number of knotty masses, it’s actually only one muscle. The ripples that you see are caused by tendons running horizontally and vertically, not by individual muscle structures.

There are a lot of other muscles in and around the midsection, but the rectus abdominis is the one you should focus on. Most of the others get trained indirectly. In fact, if you train some of those other muscles, such as the obliques, directly with resistance, you can make your midsection look worse. For example, doing heavy side bends can add muscle to your obliques on the sides of your waist, creating a wider midsection and making your shoulders look narrower. While many athletes need to develop their obliques for maximum performance, those of us who are looking for aesthetics want to minimize oblique development—and that means you should avoid side bends.

You may think that neglecting those other muscles will cause weak links that may lead to injury, but it’s not true. When you zero in on the rectus abdominis with full-range exercise, it not only makes ab training much simpler, but it also activates almost all of the other midsection muscles, keeping them tight and strong. The key is full-range abdominal exercise, something most trainees never do.

Full-Range Exercise, Fast Results

The biggest mistake people make when they train their abs is that they only use half an exercise—the crunch. It’s supposed to be the ultimate ab etcher, but once you analyze it, you’ll see that the crunch is really only a partial ab movement.

The full range of motion for the rectus abdominis is 30 degrees past the point at which the floor stops your movement during standard crunches. In other words, to train your abdominals through a complete range, you must arch your back prior to pulling into the contracted position. That full range of motion is the very reason the Ab Bench, with its arched back pad, was created and patented.

By arching and allowing your upper back to travel past parallel, you prestretch your abdominals, which can create more force in the target muscles with each rep. The prestretch helps you work the muscle more efficiently and effectively, which means you get faster, more complete development with fewer sets. You also activate more midsection muscles, such as the internal and external obliques, which keeps them strong. Nevertheless, the movement doesn’t provide enough direct work to bulk them up. In other words, the indirect effect on the obliques won’t give you a wide waist because the main focus is on the rectus abdominis. So, is the crunch with a prestretch the only ab exercise you need? It’s a darn good one, but you can get even faster results if you incorporate another movement with it. To understand the whys and hows, let’s look at the functions of the rectus abdominis.

Ab Form and Function

The rectus abdominis has two functions, and you should work both for the fastest development possible.

•It curls your rib cage down toward your pelvis.

•It curls your hips up toward your torso.

While both actions involve the entire rectus abdominis muscle, some research indicates that pulling your rib cage down tends to place more stress on the upper region, and curling your hips up puts more emphasis on the lower area. While the idea that certain movements target the upper or lower sections of the rectus is debatable, it does reinforce the fact that there are two functions, and you should always train both—if you want fast results.

Another thing to keep in mind when picking ab exercises—or exercises for any bodypart—is that while it’s important to do more-isolated exercises for the target muscle, such as crunches for the rectus abdominis, you mustn’t neglect synergy, or muscle teamwork. Movements such as hanging kneeups and hip curls work the abdominals with the help of the hip flexors—much as squats work the quadriceps with the help of the gluteal muscles. When you include compound, muscle-teamwork movements as well as isolation exercises, you get the most complete development possible as quickly as possible.

Instant-Ab Programs

Okay, the following routines won’t exactly provide “instant” results, but they will give your midsection an efficient, full-range blast with no wasted effort. Before we get to the routines, here are the key points to remember about ab training:

1) Work your abs through a full range of motion; don’t neglect the back-arched position—30 degrees to the rear of center—that prestretches the rectus abdominis and also activates other midsection muscles.

2) Train both of the rectus abdominis’ functions, including a movement that curls your rib cage toward your pelvis, which is known as upper-ab work, as well as one that curls your hips toward your torso, the so-called lower-ab work.

3) Exercises that isolate the abs are important, but don’t forget to include compound movements that hit the abs with the help of other muscle groups, such as the hip flexors. Synergy speeds development because muscles are designed to work best in tandem, not in isolation. Note that most full-range hip-curl-function exercises include synergy.

Now for the 10-minute routines that will chisel your midsection in record time. Try to train your abs with one of these programs twice a week.

Instant Ab Blast 1:

Lying hip curls 2 x 8-10; Full-range bench crunches 2 x 10-12

Instant Ab Blast 2:

Incline kneeups 2 x 8-10; Cable crunches with lower-back support 2 x 8-10

Instant Ab Blast 3:

Hanging kneeups 2 x 8-10; Ab Bench crunch pulls 2 x 8-10

Instant Ab Blast 4:

Hanging kneeups 1 x 8-10; Aftershock superset, Hanging kneeups 1 x 8-10; Ab Bench crunch pulls or cable crunches with lower-back support 1 x 8-10

Flab-to-Ab Diet

While the above routines can produce phenomenal results, you won’t see those results if they’re hidden by a layer of fat. You have to take two steps to get the fat-melting process under way:

1) Start eating six small meals a day, each providing 20 to 40 grams of protein.

2) Gradually reduce your calories.

Eating six meals a day shouldn’t be a problem. Meal replacements make it convenient to carry nutritious liquid meals in travel containers, and you can also eat trail mix and health bars to fill the void when absolutely necessary. By eating six times a day, you’ll keep your blood sugar levels from dipping, and that will prevent cravings and binges. It will also provide your muscles with the building blocks they need to recover throughout the day.

To gradually reduce calories, shrink portions so you cut 50 to 100 calories from your daily intake every week or two. Never go below 1,800 calories, however, or you could become nutrient deficient, which is unhealthy. Once you reach that lower limit, you may need to increase activity to burn more fat. [For a complete diet template that fits the above requirements, see 10 Minutes to Granite Abs or Fat to Muscle].

You can also use fat-burning supplements to help kick up your metabolism. Thermogenic compounds, such as Syntrax Innovations’ Adipokinetix, along with a thyroid booster like Muscle-Link’s Thyro Stak, can do the trick. If you have trouble melting off bodyfat, these two supplements can be a godsend.

There you have it, four quick abdominal-etching programs and a few diet strategies to whip your midsection into ripped and rugged shape fast. Don’t let the blimp-belly nightmare become a reality. The shapely humanity on the beach deserves better scenery. IM

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