In order to effectively work your abdominal muscles and sculpt a beautiful six-pack, you have to get the facts straight. How much do you need to focus on your diet to get a six-pack? Do crunches actually work?
There are some crazy myths about training your abs, such as: Doing ab exercises is what gets rid of abdominal fat. It seems logical, right? Wrong. The only thing that’s going to get that layer of fat off your sexy six-pack is working out recipes in the kitchen.
This is because the way your abs look is directly proportionate to your body’s percentage of fat, and your genetics, too. Not all abs are created the same, and the only way to find out how your’s look is to focus on a clean diet, then get to the gym.
These are the body fat percentage differences between men and women.
Beware: Abdominal muscles are just like the other muscle groups in your body. You shouldn’t be training it everyday, just like you wouldn’t make every day leg day (thankfully). You should still plan to target your abs or core regularly in your basic lifting plan.
The Abdominal Muscles
In order to work on that six-pack, it’s important to actually know how your abs function. The main muscle of your core is called the rectus abdominus, which is a paired muscle that’s flat and vertical along the front of the section. The two parallel muscles are divided by a thick band of tissue that runs vertically in the center of the muscle. There are smaller bands (or tendons) running horizontally through the muscle, dividing it into what we call “four packs,” going all the way up to even “ten packs.”
If you have aesthetic abs, meaning each pack is symmetrical, that means you won the jackpot of the gene pool. Make sure to keep in mind that the structure of the abdominal muscles is not like other muscles, meaning the more you work them out, they are not always going to get bigger, like your quads.
They will just get thicker and continue to develop. Even if you follow the same training plan as someone and manage to get a six-pack, your packs won’t look like theirs. Everyone has a unique abdominal development. Some abs will have thicker tendons in between the muscle packs, and others might not have any that are visible at all.
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How to Train
Your abs are used in a lot of lifts and exercises, because they’re your core muscle. Who doesn’t need a toned core to do a nice deadlift? You can’t have a proper squat without a strong core. They go together. That’s why you need to approach abdominal training with a combination of heavy and low weight, direct ab-targeting exercises and a varied amount of reps.
Make sure you know which part of your core you are targeting with each exercise: upper/lower abs, intercostal muscles (the muscles that pull in your stomach) or obliques. Effective abdominal training should include some HIIT cardio, heavy weight and low-weight lifts, specific ab exercises, and a clean diet.
Be careful, however, not to bulk up where you don’t want the bulk. For ladies, this is often the waist. By adding weight to your oblique exercises or intercostal exercises, you can add unwanted bulk to your waist. Side planks can do this also. For guys, you this is more of a benefit, as it broadens your torso.
Examples of workouts for different parts of your core include:
Lower abs: bicycle crunches, V sit-ups, reverse crunches
Upper abs: bicycle crunches, V sit-ups, standard crunches,
Obliques: windshield wipers, cross-body mountain climber
Intercostals: dumbbell flyes