The title of this article is a little ironic, isn't it? Since when did skinny guys have a hard time getting a six-pack? Are not all skinny guys like 2.1% body fat and less than 150 pounds soaking wet? Why in the world would a skinny guy need an article on how to get a six-pack? Isn't that why skinny guys are afraid to bulk up – because they are paranoid about losing their treasured abdominals? I asked the same thing until this question almost earned it's own email account!
The volume of interest I receive from skinny guys who wish to build their mid-sections is more than enough evidence to disprove the false reality of, “I should be able to 'see' my abs if I have low body fat.” I'm sure you know of a friend who is completely scrawny, yet, without a shirt, on he has zero abdominal definition! To me, that would be salt on an open wound.
Abdominals Are A Muscle, Too!
You want your arms to be bigger, your shoulders to be broader and your chest to be fuller, correct? And what is the solution to making these muscle groups increase in size? High intensity weight training, overload, consistency and a healthy surplus of calories. Starting to sound familiar?
The same goes for your abdominals. Your abdominals are a muscle group that requires the same formula and attention and are not any different. For some reason many consider abdominals to be a 'special' body part that requires a different set of rules and a completely different formula for training. Abdominals were not given a 'secret code' to crack. To get thick, dense abs – those ones that 'pop' out - you must train them with intensity and overload. Here are some practical tips you can apply to your program so that you can be the 'man' or 'gal' at your gym with a ripped and muscular six-pack!
Prioritize By Sequence
If your abs are your worse body part, then why do you keep training them last, at the end of your workout? Which muscles groups will receive the highest priority when you train? The ones done at the start of your workout or the ones done at the end of the workout? Of course, the ones done at the start of the workout while you have the most energy and focus. If abdominals are the muscle group you wish to prioritize, then don't be afraid to disagree with the 'experts' who say “Never train your abdominals first because you'll weaken your core muscles for the rest of your workout...”. I completely disagree with this and often reply, “Show me the evidence.” The typical response is “Nobody does abdominals first...”. That is pure BS. This just supports the notion that many people who work out don't ever question what they hear or do. They want to be spoon fed answers and follow the trends of others without thinking for themselves. I ALWAYS train abdominals first in a workout if they need the highest attention.
Prioritize By Frequency
What's going to receive better results? A muscle group that is trained one time a week or two times a week (assuming you are recovered prior to the second workout commencing)? Of course, the muscle that is trained 2x a week. The more stimulus on a muscle, the more growth. That is why professional athletes are professional athletes. They have conditioned their bodies to such a high amount of stress that they are able to train more frequently.
How often you train your abdominals is based on the inverse relationship of intensity and volume. The harder you train your abs, the more rest they need. The less intense you train your abs, the more frequently you can train them! If your goal is rehab or injury prevention, then you will be able to train them often with more frequent and lower loads. If your goal is to make your abs more muscular and dense, then a higher load and less frequency would be ideal. If your goal is maintenance, then a medium load and frequency would be ideal. Refer to this table:
|Injury Prevention||5-7x a week||Low||1-4 sets||20-30|
|Hypertrophy||4x a week||High||6-12 sets||8-12|
|Maintenance||2-3x a week||Medium||3-6 sets||10-20|
If building a sexy six-pack is on your 'to do' list for 2008, then start training abdominals 2-4x a week. I will teach you in a moment how to split your abdominals up into two different days based on movement.
Divide Your Abdominals Into Two Separate Workouts
To train your abdominals safely and effectively you must know the basic movement patterns of your abs and train them within all sub-categories:
• Truck Flexion (upper abs)
• Hip Flexion (lower abs)
• Rotation (obliques)
• Lateral Flexion (obliques)
The majority of books and articles you have read revolve the bulk of the ab exercises around trunk flexion that is better known as 'upper ab' exercises. A full sit up is a perfect example of this.
Bill Starr in his 1976 classic 'The Strongest Shall Survive' wrote that the abdominals “...can be strengthened in a wide variety of ways. Sit-ups of all types, leg raises, truck rotation movements all involve the abdominal muscles to a different degree...”
I wouldn't be surprised if the abdominal program you are following right now is based on one movement - trunk flexion. I am guessing that your primary goal is actually to have a well-defined and sculpted six-pack, so I have provided a sample abdominal program to break it up into a four day program:
|Trunk Flexion||Rotation||Trunk Flexion||Rotation|
|Hip Flexion||Lateral Flexion||Hip Flexion||Lateral Flexion|
Even though you are training each movement twice per week, you will perform different exercises for each workout.
Use A Variety Of Functional Exercises
The Top 3 Hip Flexion Exercises:
- Lying Hip Raise
- Incline Hip Raise
- Hanging Hip Raise
The Top 3 Trunk Flexion Exercises:
- Swiss Ball Crunch
- Weighted Swiss Ball CruncH
- Weighted Cable Crunches
The Top 3 Rotation Exercises:
- Russian Twist
- Weighted Russian Twist
- Weighted Cable Crossover
The Top 3 Lateral Flexion Exercises:
- Lateral Flexion on back extension machine
- Lateral Flexion with medicine ball over head
- Lateral Flexion with medicine ball and twist
Each of these exercises progresses from basic to intermediate to advanced. I suggest you master the first exercise of each before commencing to the next.