[Not sure what diet and training plan is best for your goal? Take our free quiz and find out in seconds!]Ok, let’s face it. Every winter season, the most of us gym goers tend to bulk (investment season) and then cut (losing the fat we’ve accumulated) once spring rolls around. By the time summer hits, we’re prepared to do physique or bodybuilding shows, go to the beach, and/or simply – show off. After all, who doesn’t want a tapered waist that shows brick-hard six or even eight pack abs? The truth is, we ALL have abdominals. Yes, that means you too folks with over 20 percent body fat! For those who say, “I don’t have abs,” that would literally mean – you are not human.
THE WORK + GENETICSBuilding a nice set of abs is part genetics and part the work you put in. There are individuals who are gifted with symmetrical abdominals that just look pleasing and then those who received the shorter end of the stick. What do I mean by this? The size, shape, or even insertion points just weren’t in their favor. However, this shouldn’t stop you from trying because no one ever became great without, trying. The purpose of this article isn’t to give you a cookie-cutter plan that will magically build you a strong core. It is rather explaining to you the concept of how abdominal muscles can be strengthened. Displaying these muscles will probably be in another article. (Stay tuned!) To begin with, I don’t exactly target my abdominals when I train. I might do a couple sets of cable crunches at an intensity I can handle, but that’s just so I can say I hit abs. However, it’s important to realize that whether it’s the bench press, squat, deadlift, or overhead press – we are working our core. Our core isn’t just our abs. It is our obliques and our lower back. As we increase the volume or intensity on a compound exercise, our abdominals (given that form is right) are being taxed heavily. Just imagine – without a core how would we stay upright or perform exercises? So, what kinds of exercise do I prefer that also target our abdominals? Squats, deadlifts, and standing presses. Why are these exercises preferred? It is simply because we must brace our core to perform the lift. It is true squats tax our legs the most. However, it is a total body exercise. Without keeping our abdominals tight (core), we would lose form and possibly injure ourselves. Next, we have the beloved deadlift. Whether we’re lifting sub or supra-maximal weights, our core must be engaged to perform the lift. The deadlift most certainly targets our hamstrings, quadriceps, and back. But, it also targets our abs. Lastly, the standing press is one exercise I prefer when it comes to any kind of pressing. Sure, the sitting overhead press might be easier, but realize our center of gravity and base of support has shifted. A standing overhead press requires the most stability from our core. Personally, I am two inches shy from six-foot and I can argue that performing a standing press is no joke! A big, deep breath in, brace the core (tighten abs), and press. As mentioned before, as the volume or intensity increases, this will directly place an effect on our abdominals. Imagine squatting 135 and then 225 pounds? Which set or rep will require the strongest bracing of the core? 225. So, there we have it. Want to build a strong core and a sexy set of abs? Make sure to include exercises that target the entire body. Performing crunches, leg raises (hanging or not), and planks will only take you so far. Indeed, they are great accessory exercises. However the biggest bang for your bucks lies within these compound lifts. Train smart.
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