How to really get abs, it doesn't involve crunches

People always ask me how to get a tight midsection. Even a great workout ends with “I need to do more abs, I want to get that six-pack.” The truth is, working your abs through crunches is a waste of your valuable time. The key to having abdominal definition is reduced body fat. All the crunches in the world will not get you a six-pack, unless you address your nutritional habits first.

The best way to get a six-pack you ask?

Easy, be strict with your diet, no chocolate or treats, ever. Additionally, do heavy full body workouts 5-6 times per week for 1.5-2 hours, count calories / macros and do some advanced nutrition methods like carb cycling, intermittent fasting etc. Ok, so actually, it’s not that easy. Getting a six-pack requires a tremendous amount of dedication. There's a reason why few people have one. Decide if you want to commit to this type of lifestyle for 3 - 6 month depending on your current body fat levels. In the meantime, if you want less fat body fat around your midsection, to “tone” or feel “firmer” and to look good naked, forget the crunches and follow these 3 tips instead.

Or skip to the conclusion.

1. Eat fresh food instead of pre-packaged

You’ll never have visible abs if you don’t address your food habits. Ever heard the expression “Abs are made in the kitchen”? It’s true. Convenience food has left us fat, unhappy and lethargic. If you don't understand the ingredients list, you shouldn't be eating it. Always opt for fresh food whenever you can. Vegetables, fresh meat, olive oil, coconut, nuts, seeds and water are a great place to start if you want to get lean.


Sample Meal

Breakfast: Oatmeal with almond/coconut milk, walnuts pomegranates and a side of eggs

Lunch: 1 Chicken breast cooked in coconut oil with sweet potato, spinach and avocado.

Snack: Chopped red peppers with hummus dip

Dinner: Oven baked salmon, olive oil, lemon, rosemary, brown rice (palm size serving) and 2 handfuls of colourful vegetables.


You can still enjoy treats but limit them to once or twice a week. Drink plenty of water and reduce sugary drinks. A recent study found that reducing intake of soft drinks is associated with weight loss.


2. Compound Lifts instead of Crunches

Crunches, bicep curls, tricep dips are all examples of isolated lifts, meaning that you’re only working one muscle group at a time. This is ineffective, instead do heavy (for you) compound multi-joint lifts.


By doing compound lifts you burn more calories during and after the exercise. The more demanding the exercise the more hormones are released, thus dropping excess body fat and getting in amazing shape! Incorporate lunges, variations of squats, push ups, pull ups, shoulder presses, deadlifts and pullovers into your workout routine.


3. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) instead of endless cardio

The main concept of HIIT is to train in short intervals with varying intensity/speeds. HIIT can be performed with many different exercises: sprinting, jump/battle ropes, using stationary bike, treadmill or even a punch bag. It will send your body into fat-burning overdrive.


Typically a HIIT session lasts between 10-20 minutes. HIIT is one of the most effective tools for fat burning, as it produces EPOC (excess post-oxygen consumption). Unlike traditional cardio, HIIT continues to burn calories even when you stop exercising. HIIT burns more fat and increases your cardiovascular fitness more effectively than long duration cardio.

In conclusion

For optimal fat loss and lean muscle, in order of priority:

1: Diet/ Nutrition

2: Strength Training (Compound Lifts)

3. HIIT - Interval training

Sample Workout

The workout is performed using supersets. Supersets mean performing two exercises back to back without any rest. Supersets have been shown to increase fitness and burn more fat. The supersets are A1-A2, B1-B2, C1-C2, D1-D2. For example you would perform 10 reps of squats (A1) then immediately perform 10 push ups (A2) rest for 30s - 1 min and repeat for a total of 3 sets.

A1: Squats - 10 reps

A2: Push ups – 10 reps

Rest: 30 seconds - 1 Minute

Repeat 2 more times

B1: Alternating Lunges – 10 reps

B2: Bench/Chair Dips – 10 reps

Rest: 30 seconds - 1 Minute

Repeat 2 more times


C1: Plank

C2: Mountain Climbers

Rest: 30 seconds - 1 Minute

Repeat 2 more times


D1: Side to Side lunges

D2: Shoulder Press

Rest: 30 seconds - 1 Minute

Repeat 2 more times


HIIT workout: Perform 2x per week

15 seconds work (85-90% max effort), 60 seconds rest – repeat 10 times

Warm up – 5 minutes

Outdoor sprints/ stairs or use a treadmill (set incline to 2%)

15 seconds sprint or as fast as you can go

60 seconds walk, repeat

Finish with 10 minutes of low-intensity cool-down walking


Note: If you are sedentary and don't exercise often start with a fast paced walk or jog for 30 seconds followed by 1 minute slow walk.



References

Boutcher, S. H. (2011). High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity, 2011,

1-10.

Bray, G. A., & Popkin, B. M. (2014). Dietary Sugar and Body Weight: Have We Reached a Crisis in the Epidemic of Obesity and Diabetes?: Health Be Damned! Pour on the Sugar. Diabetes Care, 37(4), 950-956


Irving, B. A., Davis, C. K., & Brock, D. W. (2008). Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(11), 1863-1872.

Vispute, S. S., Smith, J. D., LeCheminant, J. D., & Hurley, K. S. (2011). The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(9), 2559-2564

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