Hands down the #1 muscle exercised in the gym or at home is your rectus abdominals (see year of the abs first edition for a refresher). Whether or not it is an infomercial on 6 minutes abs, a machine such as the ab roller and/or an electrical shock belt, it's all nonsense! Our society is OBSESSED with a nice midsection. The answer is yes if I sound cynical – I am very frustrated with all of these goofy ideas because millions of dollars are made off of peoples' gullibility!
Currently, I am working on inventing the Shake – A – Leg! I guarantee that you will get into the best shape of your life by standing on 1 leg and shaking the living hell out of the other one. I'll call this Muscle Shock! Regardless of the irrelevance of my inane theory, I am going to educate you on how to get your mid-section into its best shape ever (while I await for my patent for the Shake – A – Leg!!!)
Rule #1: Implement the previous article and stop isolating your abs so much. When you do, employ a 1-1-1 ratio and train your large muscles, you maximize your caloric expenditure. I know, I know, I read that, NOW WHAT?
Rule #2: Start using more weight when you do abs! Your core is composed primarily of type I muscle fibers. Larger, more powerful muscles are primarily type II. Ask a trainer and/or “expert” about the fiber types and if they have no idea what they are, ask for a refund. Then come on down to Show Up Fitness because my trainers are all educated and understand the HUMAN body (see figure 1.)
Begin by adding weight and stop doing so many repetitions i.e. 20+ reps. To get the “road bump” feature in your core (like the main photo in the previous article, wow that guy is ripped!) , you need to develop that muscle and doing lots of reps isn't going to do that. Try doing 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps with heavier weight on the roman chair, ab curl machine or use the rope and flex at your waist with your knees on the ground. Also, try doing weighted side bends (no you won't get a “thick” waist. Just look at the anatomy of the obliques, they are type 1 and won't grow like that) and slow motioned bike kicks so you are developing your Transverse Abdominal's – these oblique muscles are essentially playing tug – o – war with your abs and the stronger they pull, the more defined your midsection will appear! Sorry about this picture, very toolish, but it works!
Rule #3: Start doing more compound movements and add more twists (transverse plane of motion). This will begin to engage your core while working larger muscles, so you aren't isolating. Try some of the following exercises such as lunges with a twist, step-up's with a kick and a punch (hiiyyaaaaawwww) and Sumatra push-ups (this is a regular push-up, but when you get to the top of the push, you rotate one arm straight up into the air and then repeat. One last recommendation is to start performing single arm lifts at the end of your workouts. Try doing 1 arm stability ball bench presses and/or hammer strength iso-lateral presses (the actual name of the machine at your gym). If you place 1 arm on your belly button and complete 10-15 reps with the other arm, your body will force itself to engage your core and stabilize against the rotation.
Rule 4: Difficult unit exercises and proper breathing. Ever try planks on a stability ball or windshield wipers? Come on Chris, those aren't real; you're making these names up! Well sometimes I do (i.e. Chris Dips and The Chris Workout), but these are two real and very difficult exercises that engage every single core muscle. Planks are fairly common, so to make them more challenging, grab a stability ball and place your hands on it with your elbows fully extended (come back for The Year of the ABS Round #3 for the hardest exercises and also pictures of me doing them.) If this is too easy, have a buddy slap the ball to add an external force so your core has to adjust to the impact. Windshield wipers are tough and I try to do them 2 times a week (see figure 3). Lastly, if you have never taken yoga or a Pilate's class, do so! Guys, it's a great way to gawk and not get caught and also meet new, fun and sometimes smelly people. Most importantly, these classes can teach you proper breathing techniques. Such as, imagine a string attached to your belly-button and your spinal column. Every time you perform a crunch or abdominal curl, suck in your abs and pull that string towards your spinal cord. This will help proper alignment and strengthen your abdominal cavity.
Remember&Never ever ever ever (that's 3 ever's so it must be important) compensate weight for form. I know you want to impress the brunette in the corner who definitely isn't looking at you (how about you try smiling first Shrek!). But any time you twist your core under a high load, you are more likely to injure yourself (remember twisting is in the transverse plane of motion and the one caveat in trying to get into this plane is a higher likely hood of injury). If you are a beginner, I wouldn't recommend doing these exercises. If you are trying an exercise for the first time, try it without weight so your brain can recognize the movement (neuromuscular communication). If you are ever uncertain, ask a professional such as the trainers at Show Up Fitness.
CHALLENGE #1. Sign up for our 2 month package, which includes a gym membership and 16 training sessions with a personal trainer for $285 – THAT'S $15 PER SESSION! You will learn things you have never even imagined and if you are not happy with the results, I will personally comp your next 8 sessions!!! That's how confident I am. So, get your lazy ass down to one of our gyms and sign-up today. SHAKE AND BAKE!!