By: Laanna Carrasco
Summer’s here and one of the best things you can do to enhance performance and aesthetics is to build a strong, lean core. Here are four steps to building killer abs.
Train the Best Ab Exercises: Multi-Joint Free Weight Exercises
Ab training is best achieved with movements that train all the key muscle groups of the core. For example, a study done on athletes found that the greatest activity of the core musculature comes from multi-joint exercises that use the deltoids (shoulders) and the muscles of the glutes and hamstrings (back of the legs and hips).
This makes free weight exercises such as squats, dead lifts, overhead presses, lunges, pull-overs; all top ab exercises. Train them with moderately heavy weights that you can lift 8 to 15 times. Try circuit training with 3 or more sets and short rest periods of 60 seconds or less.
Tighten Up Your Core with Ab Stabilization Exercises
A big obstacle to killer abs is not being able to stabilize the core safely. This is very important because it will reduce any lower back pain and improve force transfer through the body, enhancing performance at outdoor sports.
Here are two exercises to get you started:
Incline Garhammer raise with knees bent—Lie on your back on an incline bench with knees bent and arms overhead to stabilize your body by grasping the bench. Lift your knees toward your chest on a 1-second count and then come down under control on a 3-second count.
Hip raise on a flat bench—Lie on your back on a flat bench with legs straight up and arms overhead to stabilize your body by grasping the bench. Lift your hips straight up on a 1-second count and then come down under control on a 3-second count.
Start training these exercises with just body weight for 12 reps for 3 sets. To progress the Garhammer raise, increase the incline or do hanging leg raises. To progress the hip raise, hold the contraction for longer—work up to a 6-second count. by Laanna Carrasco
Lose belly fat with sprint intervals
Chances are you need to lose some fat if you want visible abs. A few sprint sessions a week will start the fat removal process from your middle. Studies show sprinting consistently produces fat loss of 3 to 5 lbs, with at least half of that coming from the core.
Here are sprint protocols that you can match to your conditioning level:
Try the 30/20/10 model in which you jog for 30 seconds, run at a moderate intensity for 20 seconds, and sprint for 10 seconds. Repeat for a 5-minute interval. Do four sets with 2 minutes rest in between.
Try a 1to1 interval-to-rest program. Do 30 seconds of high-intensity intervals (90 percent at full speed) with 30 seconds of jogging recovery. Repeat this four times for a total of 4 minutes—that’s one set. Work up to doing 3 to 4 sets.
Abs Are Made On Vacation
The real secret to chiseled, visible abs is to manage your stress. True stress management is an everydayapproach that includes proper nutrition, getting enough sleep, deep breathing, careful prioritization, and an optimistic outlook on life. Because stress hormones like cortisol are released each and every time you are under any form of physical or mental stress, stress management is a priority
You skip a meal—you get a cortisol spike. Problems at work? Stuck in traffic? Relationship problems? Eating junkfood? Yep, cortisol spikes.
When cortisol is chronically elevated, your body shifts into fat storage mode in the abdominal area. People tend to overlook this fact because stress is hard to deal with. It takes a complete lifestyle overhaul for most of us to not be under stress, which is the reason we say, “Abs are made on vacation.”
Here are a few tried and true ways to reduce stress:
- Play with your kids.
- Clean up your nutrition.
- Do yoga. Meditate.
- Sleep better.
- Always train hard but recover smart.
Laanna Carrasco is a science and fitness writer for Poliquin Group in East Greenwich, RI. She has a background in personal training and is currently pursuing an MS in exercise physiology at the University of Central Florida.