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How to Develop Six Pack Abs

 

 

First of all, crunches, sit-ups, etc. are ineffective for developing 6-pack abs.

So why do people insist on doing hundreds of them? Because some very effective marketers have implanted this idea in their heads in the hopes of selling them useless ab exercise products.

So why don't crunches, sit-ups, etc. help you develop six-pack abs? First we have to understand exactly what a six-pack ab is.
The muscle that makes up the abs is the rectus abdominis. And it responds to exercise the same as the other skeletal muscles. I repeat, the ab muscles respond to exercise the same as the other skeletal muscles! 
To increase the size of the muscle fiber and make them stronger, do an exercise that you can do no more than 12 reps of before failure. This is a good general rule for ALL skeletal muscles.
To do sarcoplasmic development (i.e. make them larger for bodybuilding), do an exercise that you can do at least 8 of and no more than 15 reps before failure.

Me at 7%
Body Fat
The one big (and important) difference about abs is that for most people they are covered by a thicker layer of body fat than must other muscles. Therefore, in order to see them (no matter how developed they are), you must get your body fat down. For most men with typical fat distribution, at about 10% body fat, you will start to see a "4-pack." At 8% body fat, you will see a full "6-pack." Below that, the definition starts becoming really defined.
The picture of me on my website is at about 7% body fat.

So why is doing hundreds of crunches, sit-ups, etc. basically worthless for developing 6-pack abs?
  • You can not "spot reduce" body fat (except by surgery). The myth is that if exercise your abs, you will reduce fat directly from around your abs. This simply IS NOT TRUE. Your body removes fat according to a predetermined pattern that is based on genetics, age, and health. Unfortunately, the abs are usually one of the last places that the body removes fat from. Doing crunches and situps does NOT remove fat from the midsection any more than other exercises.
  • Abs are a relatively small muscle group, exercising them burns much fewer calories than exercising the legs (a large muscle group) making ab exercises ineffective for removing belly fat (or any fat for that matter). The fastest way to exercise away fat from your midsection is by exercising the large muscles groups (i.e. the legs). This means doing exercises such as cycling, running, squats, steppers, etc.
  • Doing an exercise that you can do more than 15 reps of won't stimulate a muscle to grow larger. And I repeat, because this is important, the abdominal muscles respond to exercise the same way other skeletal muscles respond! For the same reason that doing 20 or more reps with bicep curls won't make your biceps any bigger, it also won't make you ab muscles bigger! Remember, the abs are muscles just like other muscles.

Doing ab specific exercises is not necessarily bad, but you must do them in a way that accomplishes something useful. And about the only thing useful that you can accomplish with an ab specific exercise is to make the muscle bigger - and how do you make a muscle bigger? Do an exercise that you can do no more than 15 of before failure. So if you can only do 15 or less crunches before tiring out, then that's okay. Otherwise, they are not doing much to develop your abs.



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Study Finds Squats and Deadlifts Are Better at Developing Abdominals

A study published in the January 2008 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" found that the squat and deadlift activated more core muscle than fitness ball abdominal exercises.  While there are exceptions, in general, fitness ball exercises and balance pad exercises don't stress the ab muscles enough to stimulate muscle growth.


So What's The Best Ab Exercise?
To have 6-pack abs you must do two things: Develop your abs and more importantly, lower your body fat. So what's the best ab exercise? Probably a food journal and cardio exercises such as cycling and running. But seriously, to actually develop the ab muscles, forget fitness balls and balance pads and stick with the real core exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Squats and deadlifts (when done without a belt) require great core and abdominal strength and really work the abs. The abdominals work in concert with the back muscles to hold the spine erect during exercises such as deadlifts and squats. In fact, for most people, the limiting factor in how much they can deadlift is their core/ab strength. Watch someone bend over and pick up 400 pounds and tell me they don't have core muscle. It's their core and abdominal strength that allows them to transfer the power from their legs to the arms and holds their back erect during the lift. The transfer of power from the legs to the arms is what core strength is all about. And of course a key component of the core muscles are the abs. If you want to develop your ab muscles, do dead lifts, squats, and dumbbell rows. If you want your ab muscles to be visible, lower your body fat.


 


Summary

  • The abs aren't magic special muscle, they're muscles just like your biceps. To make them grow, follow the same rules for training as you would your biceps. Low reps, heavy weights.
  • Doing high rep ab exercises does little to strengthen your abs or make them larger.
  • To see your abs, you must reduce your body fat. Diet and exercise are the best way to reduce body fat. To burn the most calories per hour, you must exercise your large muscle groups, such as legs.
  • Doing high rep ab exercises burns very few calories, and therefore, will do little to reduce body fat.

References:

 

Squats and Deadlifts are regarded as the Best Ab Exercises for
overall abdominal development for Six Pack Abs.
http://www.body2shape.com/Best-Ab-Exercises.html

When you are lifting heavy during your squats, lunges, deadlifts, and the bench
press, you will be using the ab muscles to a great degree
http://www.hulsestrength.com/ripped-abs-ripped-abs/

Deadlift heavily taxes the abdominals and obliques
http://ezinearticles.com/?Five-Reasons-Why-You-Should-Deadlift&id=2398753


 

   
doctorAs with any nutrition or exercise program, always review them with your doctor to ensure that they don't interact with or are contraindicated by any medications or medical issues you may have. If you haven't trained for a while, start out slow and go easy. If you are pregnant, have diabetes, blood sugar problems, or any heart issues, you shouldn't do this program as it is very strenuous.
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