Many gym goers aspire to a six-pack, or visible abdominal muscles (abs). And don’t worry, it’s not purely a matter of genetics: anyone can grow a six-pack. In this article we explain how to do that, based on four rules.
The most important principle when training abdominal muscles is that you should treat them just like any other muscle group. It is often wrongly thought that you do not or hardly need to train the abdomen, because you already train it enough with other, compound exercises, such as the squat and deadlift. But in this article you could already read that simply doing compound exercises is not enough to optimally train your abs. For example, several studies (including 1, 2) show that the activity of the abs during squats and deadlifts is limited.
And now the rules.
1. TRAIN YOUR ABS 2-3 TIMES A WEEK
Like any other muscle group, you should work on your abdominal muscles at least two to three times a week, with sufficient rest between those workouts (48 hours on average). The latter is important because it is often thought that you can train your abdominal muscles every day. Yes, abdominal muscles may recover relatively quickly, but you should still give them rest after training with two or more exercises.
2. APPLY PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
You must also apply progressive overload to the abdominal muscles to achieve muscle growth. This means that you gradually train them harder: by doing more repetitions and/or using a heavier weights. To do this, you should record the number of repetitions and the weight for each workout.
Are you having trouble adding reps/weight? Then you may need to increase the training volume by adding one or more sets.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EXERCISES
There are many abdominal exercises. We select the best for you.
WEIGHTED CABLE CRUNCH
With this exercise you mainly train the top of your abdominal muscles, or the upper abs. You need a cable with a rope for it.
HANGING LEG RAISES
This exercise mainly trains your lower abs. You need a pull-up bar for it.
With this exercise you train your entire abdomen: upper and lower abs, plus the obliques. You only need a mat for it.
With this exercise you mainly train your lower abs and obliques. You need an ab wheel for this, but you can also use a small barbell. This article provides detailed instructions.
With this exercise you train your entire core, including the abdominal muscles. The RKC plank is a more effective variant of the regular plank, more about which in this article. By strengthening your core you become stronger in the big compounds, such as squat and deadlift.
4. IF NECESSARY: LOSE WEIGHT
No, abs are not made in the kitchen, as you saw above. However, the nutrition aspect does play a major role in the visibility of your abdominal muscles. To get visible abs, your body fat percentage should not be too high, namely:
- 10-12% body fat for men;
- 14-18% body fat for women.
So far the four golden rules for abdominal muscle training. Make sure you train your abdominal muscles often enough with the right exercises, that you make progress and that you do not let your body fat percentage rise too high.