What do great abs look like?
The unfortunate thing about abs is that you can have technically defined ab muscles and still not quite have that ‘eye popping’ look. Many people will know this all too well. If you’re the kind of person who has a six pack… technically… then you’ll know that just having the lines there isn’t really enough. To really have what people would call a six pack, to really get people’s eyes to pop and to really stand out when you take your shirt off, your abs need to be three dimensional and high contrast. They need to cast shadows on themselves and that means they need to be… well… ‘block’ really.
So how do you encourage your ab muscles to really pop out? Here’s how…
To really build abs you should be training them much more regularly than your other body parts. The abs are working all the time to keep your body stable and upright and are comprised mostly of slow twitch muscle fiber. To get them working then, you need to hit them more frequently than say your biceps.
Specifically, try to train your abs four times a week and split your ab training sessions into rectus abdominis and obliques.
As with any other muscle group, the abs respond to microtears. Your aim is to increase your weight as much as possible and to thus create the tears that cause hypertrophy. This is just the same as doing a bicep workout or any other kind of workout. Volume is fine, but for really hypertrophy it doesn’t beat weight.
Finally, there is speculation as to whether or not you can really target just your upper or just your lower abs. Some people will tell you that the rectus is all one sheet of muscle (which it is) meaning that you can only train it as a whole. Most actual bodybuilders though will tell you this isn’t the case. You feel the movement where you engage the muscle and this is where growth occurs too.
With all that in mind, here are some movements you can include. Together, these will help you to get some great abs.
Ab Pull Down: Grab elastic bands or a cable machine while on your knees, then curl the weight downwards and in towards your knees.
Dumbbell Knee Raise: Perform a knee raise while holding a dumbbell between your feet or using ankle weights. This can also be performed on a dip station.
Ball Passes: Lying on the floor with an exercise ball between your feet, pass to your hands and then back to your feet – never letting it touch your feet. You can also do this with a medicine ball. You can also crunch with a medicine ball.
Weighted Medicine Ball Crunches: Hold a weight plate in your hands behind your head and crunch while balancing on an exercise ball.
Woodchopper: Using a cable machine or bands. Try using it from different angles (high and low).
Dumbbell Leans: Hold a dumbbell in one hand and lean either left or right away from the weight.
One Arm Presses: Single armed presses involve holding a dumbbell and pressing over your head with just one hand. You’ll need your obliques to counteract the imbalance and this is what gave the ‘old time strongmen’ their insanely large obliques.