Stop doing sit ups and crunches. They’re so 1990.
I have a new magic program that will sculpt rock hard sexy six pack abs.
Let’s talk about some super advanced ab training techniques with fancy machines sold on infomercials.
Not so fast.
We’ve all been there. We read about a new program or supplement or machine and we get excited. It’s the next best thing and it works like magic. Except it’s too good to be true.
Ab training doesn’t have to be complicated but it should be challenging. It should NOT include endless sit ups and crunches either.
Please stop doing those if you haven’t already.
Once upon a time I went to the gym to get a bigger chest, arms and ripped abs. My routine consisted of a ton of bench press, bicep curls, sit ups and crunches.
My chest and arms grew but I never did achieve the six pack I coveted. Years later when I got my diet in order, they magically appeared.
When I finally got abs the only direct work they received was from planks. Front squats were my favorite exercise. Hey, add in some pushups and you have a solid workout right there.
Focus on Squats, Rows, Deadlifts, Pushups
If I could write a letter to my younger self I would say this: focus on squats, rows, deadlifts and pushups before worrying about bench pressing, curls or crunches.
Stick to free weights. Your back, neck and shoulders will thank me.
All those years of sit ups and crunches never gave me the 3d-ab look that I saw on the cover of the bodybuilding magazines, but it sure didn’t stop me from trying.
If a rock hard six pack is what you crave, you need to concentrate on diet.
Without it, you’ll be spinning your wheels. Get your body fat down to 10% or below. The kitchen is where you reveal what you’ve created in the gym.
Here are my favorite exercises to build a strong and stable midsection.
Combine these movements with sound nutrition habits and you will have the look you want and the strength that will carry over to your daily activities.
Best Exercises for a Strong Midsection
Farmer’s walks/Suitcase carries- Pick up kettlebells, dumbbells, trap bar or farmer’s walks implements and walk. Go as heavy as you can. I do these at least once a week.
Waiter’s walks/ KB bottoms up carries- Same as above, but with the weight overhead or in the rack position (beginning of Overhead Press)
Ab- wheel/barbell rollouts- The only ab tool I would pay for. Keep a straight back and start slow. These will make you very sore if you have never done them.
Stir the pot/plank and pushup variations- Stir the pot is one I got from Stuart Mcgill.
You’re in a plank position but with your forearms on a stability ball and you make circles with your arms while maintaining your body alignment.
Planks and pushups are great choices and can be loaded with plates, chains, bands, sandbags etc.
Leg raises- I like doing these every once in a while either laying on the ground or from a pull-up bar. Make sure the abs are doing the work and not your legs or momentum.
Suitcase deadlifts- These are awesome. Set up a barbell next to you and pick it up like you would a deadlift but with only one hand.
One Arm Press- One of those old-time strongman exercises that I really love.
These are tough and will humble you the first time you try them. Keep glutes/midsection tight, and explode up.
Pick a few of these, on top of a heavy dose of squats, deadlifts, presses, pullups, rows, handstand pushups, dips.
All the compound movements challenge the midsection also.
Do I Really Need EXTRA Ab Training?
If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do after a brutal session of squats or deadlifts, is isolated ab work.
But if some additional ab work will increase my control of a heavy squat or deadlift and help keep my back healthy, then I’m all for it.
Ab training can be done as part of a warm up and/or between sets. Mix it up, have fun with it.
Do a plank between every set of squats or some hanging leg raises.
Grab some dumbbells and carry them by your sides or overhead as part of your warm up.
Lower Back Health
Stuart Mcgill – one of the world’s experts on lower back health has shown situps and crunches to be harmful for the low back and neck, shoulders and posture.
Think of a credit card that is bent back and forth many times and eventually breaks. This is the idea behind repetitive spinal flexion.
Can you do sit ups and crunches and never injure your back? It’s possible but I think the risk is greater than the reward.
If you have never trained with weights I would advise a ton of bodyweight work including: bird dogs, planks, dead bugs, pushups, squats, lunges.
You Don't Need Fancy Equipment
If having a six pack is your number one goal you should do some steady state cardio every day.
Walk for an hour each day; even better if you wear a weight vest. Add in a day or two of sprints, jump rope intervals, stair running or sled dragging.
When is the last time you felt you were getting stronger in the middle?
Introduce some loaded carries into your training and you will notice a difference right away. You’ll thank me when you set a new personal record on your squat or press.
Most beginners start with sit ups and crunches to go with endless bench presses and curls for the girls. We’ve all been there. Don’t stay there.
If you are ready for a program to get your middle stronger and less bloated, TAKE ACTION HERE for my successful training program.