How to have great abs, #2
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Most people think that if they do hundreds or thousands of sit-ups, they’ll eventually have great-looking abs. Other people think using one or another machine at the gym will give them great abs. The truth is sit-ups are not very helpful in this regard and they increase the risk of back injury. Most “ab machines” are similarly useless and potentially harmful.
So, how do you get great abs? There are four components:
Notice the repeated use of the word “proper.” This is key. For great abs—the kind that make you look better than a Greek god—you need all four elements and you need them to be at a certain level of quality. Let’s talk about what each one is, and how to get it:
Very few people stand erect. Take a look around, any time you are in public. Look at the shoulders hunched forward, for example. This is very common. You aren’t going to learn the details of obtaining proper posture in an article. But you can learn about it from a chiropractor and get professional advice on straightening your back. Unless you can stand tall with your shoulders back, you aren’t going to be able to correctly “frame” your abs. The look will be spoiled by bad posture and probably a sloping belly. You’ll look fatter than you are, and you don’t want that.
Proper abdominal positioning
You can build very muscular abs and still have a pot belly. To prevent this, you must shorten the connective tissues that run across your belly. Their main function is to hold your guts in the proper position, so this shortening is very beneficial. The classic exercise for this purpose is the vaccum (it goes by other names, also).
If your chiropractor will show you how to do these and help you do them correctly, that will be a big help. If you don’t have a chiropractor, then here is how you do them. Such your gut in and up, as though you are vaccuming your belly up from the inside. Pull in and hold for about 30 seconds. Exhale while you are doing this. Then, breathe normally for about 30 seconds and repeat the exercise. Really focus on bringing that belly button in and up. Do about 8 repetitions, and see how you feel the next day. Do this exercise a couple of times a week, adjusting the intensity (how hard you vaccum) and the number of reps.
More about great abs, below....
Proper abdominal development
Sit-ups tend to work the hips and only the upper part of the abs. Hanging leg raises work the entire abdominal region. Pelvic tilts and crunches are also good exercises. But the mother of all ab exercises is the front squat. Done correctly, this builds killer abs. See our article on working your core.
Proper fat to lean mass ratio.
This is one hurdle most folks just can’t seem to jump. Several self-appointed exercise gurus have published books saying body fat of 15% is “ideal” for a man. That’s not true—it’s about twice where you should be if you want decent abs, and it’s a bit high if you want great abs. These people spout these numbers because that’s where they are stuck. Whatever their problem is (maybe a lack of knowledge or a lack of discipline?), don’t let their delusions keep you from reaching your goals—or being healthy. At one time, cigarettes were marketed as health-enhancing. Some people are just self-serving and they don’t really care about the consequences to you.
Then we have all the whackos spewing stupid diets or hawking supplements that don’t help you with the problem we’re trying to solve here. Most of the diets simply do not make sense—the Atkins diet is one of the “classics” in this regard. To lose fat, you have to take in fewer calories than you expend. Period. And burning 100 calories with an hour of running on a treadmill is not going to compensate for that 300 calories extra you should not have hade earlier. Nor is it going to make much of a dent in a pound of fat—when you need to burn 3500 calories to get rid of it. Do you really want to run 35 hours on a treadmill? What about having a life?
Basically, you need to do these things to be at the 7% body fat that is healthy for a male (women can’t go by a strict percentage, due to varying body fat distribution):
If you follow the advice here, you can have great abs. More importantly, you will be healthier. Consider the looks a bonus.
The articles on this site are authoritative, because:
Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.
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