Friday, March 30, 2012

Resistance, Frequency, and Duration of Ab Training

One of the reasons that many people who spend a half an hour during each workout doing hundreds of crunches fail to ever develop six pack abs is that after a certain point, regular old crunches just don’t provide much resistance to develop your abs. In addition, all of the time wasted doing crunches or other minimally resistive ab exercises (i.e. working a very  small muscle group) could have been better utilized by working larger muscle groups which burn more calories.
By focusing the majority of your time in the gym on bigger compound movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and upper body multi-joint presses and pulls, your body is forced to work harder and burn more calories during and after the workout. Don’t get me wrong, crunches can have their place in a routine, especially for beginners, and advanced versions of crunches can even be challenging enough for well-trained athletes.
So how long should your ab training take? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to spend a half hour or more every day training abs. You can complete an intense ab training session in about 5-10 minutes during your workouts, either at the end or in the beginning of your workout, or on a separate day. I recommend doing your ab training at the end of your workouts to assure that you don’t pre-exhaust the abs when you might need their stabilization to protect your back during some of the bigger compound exercises that might make up your workout.
Based on this concept, it is important for the safety of your back not to fatigue your abs before doing heavy spine loading exercises like squats or deadlifts. The problem with saving your ab training for last in your workout is that once you get to that point, you’re frequently too fatigued and end up not training abs, or you just work them half hearted. If your workout for the day is mostly comprised of upper body exercises, you can probably get away with doing your ab training first, since you most likely won’t need as much stabilization as when doing full body or lower body routines. Another strategy is to save your ab training for a separate day, perhaps combined with a cardio-only day.
Another common misconception with ab training is that many people think they must do it every day in order to obtain ripped abs. In reality, you really should train abs like you would any other muscle group. I recommend inserting a tough 5-10 minute ab routine into your workouts 2-3 times per week. That will be more than sufficient to help you fully develop your abs, without over-training them. Remember, your muscles need enough rest to properly develop. In fact, training your abs more than 2-3 times/week may lead to over-training and bring your progress to a halt.
As I noted earlier, in order to fully develop the abs to their potential, you need to train them with exercises that actually provide significant resistance. While I stated that crunches can be a great ab exercise for beginners, once you’ve got some ab training under your belt, you’ll need to start looking to more resistive exercises to make progress in ab development.
Exercises in which you’re curling the lower body up, particularly from a hanging position, provide the most resistance and are much more challenging than curling up the upper body. This is simply due to the fact that your legs are much heavier objects to move than your upper body. Based on this principle, the core of your ab training workouts will consist of exercises that are initiated with your lower body. In any given workout, once you’ve fatigued the abs with challenging exercises initiated with the lower body, then you can finish off with the easier exercises that are initiated with your upper body.

No comments:

Post a Comment