RNT Body Part Series, Part 9: Two Tips Double Your Abs Gains
Focused abs work is essential in today's sedentary life style.
16 Jan 2018
In this final instalment of the ‘RNT Body Part’ Series, we’re going to be talking abs! If you’re new to the series and have missed out on any of the previous articles, scroll down to the bottom to view the previous nine.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more clients come to me with ‘shallow’ abdominal development.
What I mean by this is that even when their body fat is low, their stomach just appears ‘flat’ as opposed to having a six-pack.
I think the main reason for this is the increasingly sedentary lifestyle we’re all living. As a result, the need for proper direct abdominal training is essential for almost everyone.
If you’re someone who can relate to the ‘shallow ab sydrome’, the tips we’ll unravel in today’s piece will be a game changer for your development and overall physique.
1. Control Your Breath
The most bang for your buck technical cue to immediately improve your abdominal training is to learn how to control your breath.
The best way to breathe during ab training is to take a deep breath when you extend the spine, and breathing out when you flex.
For example, during a Swiss ball crunch, you’ll want to breathe in as you go back over the ball, and then forcefully exhale slowly as you crunch up.
As you come up, push every bit of air out of you. Once you think you’ve exhaled fully, exhale more. You’ll be surprised how hard your abs contract when you do this.
2. Slow Down
If you take a look at the average gym-goer perform abs, they’ll often be lifting their legs up and down or crunching at a rapid pace.
The problem here is the abs get no real stimulation, and much of the workload is taken up by the hip flexors.
Instead, you want to slow the movement down, be deliberate with your execution, and aim to make your abs cramp. If you’ve never experienced that twitching ab cramp, chances are you haven’t established a strong enough mind-muscle connection yet.
To improve the connection, start using a 2121 tempo on all your ab exercises. This means taking 2 seconds to lower, 1 second to stretch, then a full 2 seconds to raise up (which is the real killer), and a second at the peak contraction.
By slowing the movement down, you’ll keep tension on the abdominals and be able to bring your abs to failure at a much earlier point. While most ab workouts are typically super high in reps, we actually want to keep them trained in the 8 to 15 rep bracket. They’re like any other muscle group and so if we want them to develop strength and muscle, we want to apply progressive overload over time.
Bonus Tip - Learn To Brace!
I’ve always believed that once you’ve done a few solid blocks of direct ab training, you can maintain all your development from the indirect stimulation they get from compound lifting.
When you overhead press, squat, deadlift or bent row, your ‘core’ works extremely hard to maintain spinal integrity and keep you stable.
In order to maximise this benefit, you need to learn how to brace and breathe correctly when performing the big compound lifts.
To breathe properly, you should be inhaling into your stomach and lower back first, and thinking about creating 360 degrees of pressure around your mid section.
You want to try recreate your own ‘belt’. You should NOT be breathing into your chest. This is a mistake nearly everyone makes, and can put you at risk of injury.
Once you’ve taken a big belly breath, you should lock it in and brace hard. Think about tensing up like Mike Tyson is about to punch you in the stomach.
This will be a hard skill to learn at first, but will pay dividends in allowing you to continuously overload your compound lifts while training the abs and keeping you injury free.
Shallow Abs No More
There’s nothing worse than dieting down to a low percentage of body fat and having little to show for it.
If you want a solid set of abs to reveal when you’re lean, you need to make sure you’re training them properly so they get the stimulation they require.
Slow your movements down, and focus everything on your breath. You’ll be surprised just how powerful forceful exhalations during a leg raise or crunch can be in creating intense contractions for your mid section.
Once you’ve mastered these tips, treat your abs like any other muscle and apply progressive overload – your shallow abs will soon thicken up into the 6 pack you’re after!
For an example ab workout, check out this article here.