Midway down your body lies an essential area which will reveal if you've been "naughty or nice" with regards to your workout and dietary regimen. Of course I'm speaking of your midsection. A tight lean midsection is something we all would like to possess, but few of us ever fully complete the mission. This month we'll assist you in acquiring a leaner, trimmer, and tighter midsection.
First things first. If you have excess body fat and wish to have an attractive midsection, drop the extra fat. There are numerous diets on the market that many individuals have utilized with success. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- eat 5-6 small meals per day instead of 2 or 3 larger meals
- drink 8-10 glasses of filtered or bottled water daily and avoid juices and sodas (yes, even diet sodas)
- limit your fat to 20% of your total caloric intake while increasing your protein intake to approximately 40%
- limit the majority of your carbohydrate consumption to fruits and vegetables and avoid breads, pastas, and simple carbohydrates
This workout is structured to target the upper abdominals, the lower abdominals, and the oblique or lateral abdominal muscles and utilizes three exercises. The first exercise, cable crunches, are exception for developing the abdominal muscles, especially the upper region of the abdominal muscles. The second exercise in our workout is knee rock-backs which place more focus on the lower abdominal muscles while minimizing stress to the lower back. Our final exercise is alternating side crunches. This exercise helps focus on the oblique muscles of the midsection.
Blasting your abdominal muscles with constant high intensity exercises for a brief period of time will reap maximal benefits. For this reason we will perform giant sets with the three exercises previously mentioned and repeat the sequence twice. So after completing the first exercise immediately proceed to the next exercise, and then immediately to the final exercise. Once you have completed this "giant set", take a 1-2 minute breather and repeat the sequence two additional times. The entire workout should be completed within about 15 minutes. Perform this routine twice weekly as suggested in our "Weekly Workout Routine" after training shoulders/traps during Workout 2 and after training legs during Workout
Exercise 1 - Cable Crunches
This will be the only weight resisted exercise we perform in our midsection workout. To perform this exercise you will need the "rope" handle for the cable pulley machine. Grab the ends of the rope firmly and keep your hands against the top of your head. Kneel on the floor while facing the weight stack and simply hunch your upper body towards the floor until your elbows are a third of the way to your knees. Think of a fulcrum at the bottom of your sternum and avoid pivoting at the pelvis. When you pivot at the pelvis and hips you activate your hip flexor muscles and minimize abdominal musculature activity. So be sure to focus your efforts on squeezing the abs while imagining your pivot point at the bottom of your sternum/top of your abs. Perform 15 repetitions with a weight that provides your abs with a real burn during the last few repetitions.
Exercise 2 - Knee Rock-Backs
This basic abdominal exercise helps to target the lower abdominal musculature. On a clean floor or mat lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands under the buttocks with your palms facing down. Roll your lower body towards your head so that your knees touch your chest and your lower back slightly lifts off the floor. Keep your arms and hands flat on the floor to provide you with support. Lower your legs to the starting position in a controlled manner and repeat for a total of 15-25 repetitions (depending on your current conditioning). Again, the only muscles you need to concentrate on squeezing are the abdominal muscles.
Exercise 3 - Alternating Side Crunches
This exercise is an all time favorite. A common mistake I find people making is they perform "ab sprinting". When you view these people performing crunches all you see is a blur because they're crunching so fast. There's no need to look as though you suffer from a neurologic disorder especially when there are minimal benefits involved performing this exercise at ultra-speed. Crunches should be performed very slowly to minimize momentum which can rob your muscles of the work they need to perform in order to successfully develop and grow.
Start by lying on a mat, floor or specialized abdominal bench. Place you calves on a bench or padded rollbar so that your midsection to thighs and thighs to calves each make a 90 degree angle. Next, interlace your fingers of both hands and place them behind your neck (not head). Begin the movement by raising your shoulders, upper back, and right hip of the floor/bench as you twist your trunk to the left and bring your right elbow towards your left thigh. You need only lift your shoulder blades off the floor/bench to complete the movement. Once your shoulder blades are just off the floor/bench, squeeze the abdominals and hold the position for a count of two. There's not a need to touch the elbow to the opposite thighs. This only results in the activation of your hip flexor muscles and places excess strain upon the neck and lower back. The number of repetitions you are able to successfully perform will vary greatly from person to person. For most people, perform enough repetitions to produce an intense burn within the muscle.
Just be sure as you perform the exercise to avoid the tendency to actively flex the neck. If you find this exercise problematic for your neck or already have neck problems you can alter the placing of your hands. Instead of placing the hands behind the neck, place the palm of each hand on the opposite shoulder. Your arms will form a cross and this usually minimizes the tendency to forcefully flex the neck as you perform the crunches.