Archive for the ‘Ab Training 101’ Category

Just a little while back I let you guys in on some of the “secrets” to getting great abs.  Within that post I pointed out that your diet is the biggest factor in achieving a flat, tight, muscular mid-section.

You can do all the ab exercises your body can handle but, without a good nutrition plan, you won’t end up with the abs you want.  Basically what you’ll get is great abs hiding beneath a layer of body fat.  That’s a start but it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. 

Now I’d like to take things a step further, and provide you with some specifics, to help you focus on your training and diet with laser like precision and almost guaran-damn-tee that you have the abs you’ve always wanted!

Find Your Calorie Maintenance Level

There’s a helluva lot of “experts” out there who say it’s impossible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.  While that’s definitely a topic I plan to tackle in a future post, soon, right now I’ll just state that I know it IS possible, because I’ve done it myself, on several occasions.  In fact, I’m doing it now.

But, for the purpose of this post, I think it’s safe to assume you’re a person who wants to shed some body fat as quickly as possible, while maintaining muscle, so you can uncover your abs and sport a smokin’ hot body on the beach this summer.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you don’t necessarily need or want to know every little detail but would much rather be given the “big picture” of what actually works so you can get busy taking action.

You don’t need to know how the sausage is made in order to enjoy it, right?  Actually, skip the sausage.  it won’t help you get great abs.  🙂

So allow me to give you the quick rundown of how to set up your diet to lose fat and uncover your abs.  And, since your plan of attack definitely needs to include correct and intense ab training, I’ll fill you in on the most effective ab training exercises and techniques I’ve ever used.  Trust me when I tell you, they will light your abs on fire.

The first thing you need to do is find your Calorie Maintenance Level.  In a nutshell, this is the total number of calories your body requires daily just to maintain your current weight.

If you were to eat more calories than your maintenance level, eventually you’d start to gain weight.  So, guess what would happen if you were to eat below your maintenance level… You guessed it.  you would lose weight!

This is honestly how simple losing fat/weight is.  So many people struggle because they complicate it to the extreme.  In all honesty, it’s not completely their fault.  There is SO much misinformation floating around out there that it has left people overwhelmed, confused, frustrated and clueless about how to lose fat.

Even some of the information that comes from sources with the best of intentions is misleading at the least and, sometimes, even inaccurate.  Add to that the seemingly endless plethora of people and companies that will straight up lie to you in order to fulfill their own agenda and it’s no wonder why lean, muscular bodies are so rare.

Well, you and I are going to put an end to that shit, at least for YOU, right here, right now.

Follow these simple steps to find your Calorie Maintenance Level:

  • Get an accurate reading of your current weight by weighing yourself first thing in the morning, before you’ve had anything to eat or drink
  • Multiply your weight by 14 and by 18
  • Somewhere between the two totals is your Calorie Maintenance Level

Just for example I think it may help if you see this in action.  This is how I found my current Calorie Maintenance Level, just this morning:

  • I woke up and, before I  even had a sip of water, I weighed myself.  I came in right at 220 lbs.
  • I took 220 and multiplied it by 14 for a total of 3,080 (220 x 14 = 3,080)
  • Then I multiplied 220 by 18 for a total of 3,960 (220 x 18 = 3,960)
  • Somewhere between 3,080 and 3,960 is my Calorie Maintenance Level

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  You’re absolutely right, that is a wide range.  But, really, you just need an estimate to start with.  The most important thing isn’t where you start.  It’s where you end that matters.

However, a little common sense can go a long way.  If you’re not very active during the day, other than an hour or so of weightlifting a few times a week, then you should stay on the lower end of the calorie range.

If you’re throwing in a few sessions of high intensity cardio on top of your weight training each week (and you should if you want abs fast) then you can stay in the middle of the maintenance range.

If you have a physically demanding job, that requires you to stay on your feet and moving all day, and you’re lifting weights and doing cardio, then you should start towards the higher end of the range.

Create a Calorie Deficit

Now that you’ve found your Calorie Maintenance Level, and decided where in that range you should start, you need to create a calorie deficit.  This is simply just a fancy way of saying “eat less food”.

When trying to lose fat a mistake a lot of people make is cutting calories too low, too quickly.  You want to hang on to as much lean muscle as you possibly can therefore it’s best to start with a slight calorie deficit of only 20%.

Purely for example let’s say that you discovered your Calorie Maintenance Level is 2,800 calories a day.  In order to determine what a 20% reduction will be you simply need to complete the following basic math.

I know… I’m always having you do math and it sucks.  Trust me, if you do this right, the abs you’ll get will be well worth it! 

  • Multiply 2,800 by .20 (2.800 x .20) and you’d come up with 560
  • Subtract 560 from 2,800 (2,800 – 560) and you’re left with 2,240
  • Start eating around 2,240 calories a day to begin losing fat

This is a reasonable calorie reduction that will allow you to lose fat at the optimal rate while maintaining muscle mass.  (Provided you consume enough Protein.  More on that in just a minute.)

And what constitutes an “optimal” rate?  Glad you asked…

The majority of people should lose anywhere from 1-2 lbs. a week.  Again, the best thing to do is weigh yourself once a week, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

If you’re losing any more than 2 lbs. a week then your calories are too low and you’ll most likely end up sacrificing too much muscle and strength.  If this is the case, bump up your calories about 250 a day, and weigh yourself again in a week.

If you’re losing less than 1 lb. a week then you can afford to drop your calories again, slightly.  I’m sure you want to speed up your results and actually see your abs before Christmas.  Drop 250 from your daily total and again, weigh yourself in a week.

Keep repeating this process until you find the ideal range and you’re losing 1-2 lbs. a week.  The key is to keep tweaking your calories until you find the right number for you.

One thing to consider if you have a lot of weight to lose (above 20% body fat for men and 30% for women) is that you may lose more than 2 lbs. a week initially.  That’s perfectly normal.  You’ll find that you lose weight fast at first and, as you become leaner, weight loss gradually slows down.

Advice on your muscle building/fat loss diet

If you’d like some guidance on where your calories should come from, check out this Master Food List, which shows you the foods that should make up the largest portion of your diet.

I’ll also tell you that when you’re attempting to cut fat and maintain muscle increasing your protein intake while slightly reducing carbs works very well.  You don’t need to go overboard with a keto diet, or be “carbophobic”, but a slight reduction in carbs can help you create your calorie deficit.

You DON’T want your calorie deficit to come from Protein.  Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass while you’re on a reduced calorie diet.

As I mentioned in the first post on abs, the diet plan I highly recommend is made up of 50% Protein, 20% Carbs and 30% HEALTHY Fats.  I’ve had TREMENDOUS success with this plan and I think anyone interested in losing fat, while maintaining or even building muscle, should give it a try.

Keep Training Hard but Don’t Overdo It

Another way of creating a calorie deficit is to do more exercise.  Ideally your deficit will come from a combination of slightly increased energy expenditure (exercise) and slightly decreased calories.

However, with training there is a point of diminishing returns.  A lot of people start doing a ton of cardio in an attempt to lose fat.  They think it’s the best way to do it.  It’s not.

While cardio can and will help, you don’t need any more than a few intense sessions per week.  This is really just an extra “boost” to help the fat loss efforts you’re making through your diet.

You don’t want to do so much cardio that you burn up all of your hard earned muscle and start looking like a marathon runner.

I apologize in advance to all of the marathon runners of the world.  I have nothing against you.  I just don’t want my body to look like yours.  Thank you and God bless.

As you begin to eat below your maintenance level in calories, keep training hard in the gym and strive to use the same weight on your exercises as you’re using now, for the same number of reps.  During periods when you intentionally reduce calories it’s unlikely that you’re going to get much stronger but you should try like hell to maintain your current strength.  Doing so will ensure that you hang on to as much muscle mass as possible and that your body uses your stored fat for energy, therefore “burning” it.

To put is simply, You should let your diet do most of the work when striving for fat loss.  Create a slight calorie deficit to lose fat.  Do 3 or 4 sessions of high intensity cardio to assist with fat burning.  And, continue to lift weights with the goal of building muscle!

Now, even though your diet is responsible for at least half of your results (or lack thereof), another key piece of the puzzle is intelligent and intense ab training.  Rather than try to explain several abs exercises here, I think giving you this link to a GREAT abs routine will help you even more.

The awesome thing about this routine is it can be used by both, beginners and more advanced people, and you can even complete it at home if you needed to.

A couple of quick suggestions to help you build your abs:

  • Believe it or not, you need to train your abs (directly and indirectly) anywhere from 5 to 7 days a week. Direct training simply means to intentionally perform abs exercises. Indirect training means focusing on tightening/flexing your midsection, or core, during exercises for other body parts. A good example is tightening your core while doing dead lifts and squats. Not only does this stimulate your abs but it also helps protect you from injury AND I guarantee it will make you stronger on any lift you perform.
  •  Use the suggested routine in the video above a few days a week and on other days focus on ab exercises that allow you to add resistance/weight to the movement. A couple of my favorites are rope crunches performed at a cable station and hanging leg raises with ankle weights or a dumbbell held between your feet. You could also do planks, and have a partner put a weight plate on your back (once your abs are strong enough).

The real “secret” is that there are NO secrets to building great abs.  Just like any other body part, achieving REAL results comes down to intelligent training, hard work, outstanding nutrition and consistency.

If you’ll address these 4 areas, and go at them with everything you’ve got, in time you’ll have the kind of abs that people who look for the “secret” wish for but hardly ever achieve.

Until Next Time,

Michael Wheeler

Hey guys, if you have any “secrets” to getting great abs, I’d love to hear all about them.  C’mon now… don’t keep ALL of the sexy to yourself.  How did you get YOUR amazing abs?

Look on the cover of any fitness magazine, at any time, in any publication, from any part of the world and you’ll find a guy, a girl, or both, with a lean, muscular body and amazing abs.

It’s the same if you were to browse through several bodybuilding and fitness sites on the internet.  You’ll find a picture of some chick with a flat, hard tummy or a dude with a washboard stomach that looks like it was carved out of stone.

Scan though any of your favorite celebrity magazines and I guarantee you’ll see images of A-list Hollywood stars with their shirt off, or sporting a bikini, proudly showing their tight mid-section while strolling down some white, sandy beach in the middle of paradise.  Usually while the Nanny watches their kiddos.

So how do people build abs?  Glad you asked…

Click through the tv channels late one night.  I’d bet a one night stand with Jennifer Lawrence that you’ll see at least a couple silly infomercials for some ridiculous gadget that claims to give you “6 pack abs” in only 30 days.  But, you must act now because this amazing price is only good for the next 14 minutes. 

And, who hasn’t seen the stupid ass commercials for dozens of different “miracle” pills?  You know, the ones that are supposed to help you lose weight, get ripped, build abs, become more attractive, find a beautiful partner, live in a bigger house, drive a nicer car and make millions of dollars…

Okay… maybe I got a little carried away.  But, I’m not that far off the outrageous claims those pill pushers make.

So, although our physique goals may be different (some people want to build huge muscles while others want to lean out and get “toned”) just about everyone wants nice, hard, defined, sexy abs.

And people know it; especially those that are looking to sell you something.  Supplement companies, “ab” machine manufacturers, infomercial producers, book authors, magazine editors, personal trainers… they’re all looking to “cash in” on your desire for a sexy mid-section.

Now, I’m not saying that ALL of these people or resources are necessarily bad.  I’d definitely be careful with any weight loss pills, and I’d recommend that you don’t waste your hard earned money on any bull shit ab contraptions shown on late night television, but educating yourself with books isn’t a bad thing and a personal trainer can help if you’re clueless about how to exercise.

FYI… If you ARE clueless about exercise, or you know some things but are willing to learn more, and you don’t want to hire a personal trainer, that’s why I’ve created this site.  I’ll be your virtual personal trainer and guide you through every step of building an amazing physique.  Check out this post on training advice for beginners.

The thing is, there’s just SO much information about how to get abs and a lot of it is conflicting.  To make matters worse there’s a shit load of misinformation floating around out there as well.

So, I’m gonna try to clear up some of the confusion, dispel some of the more common myths and put you on the path towards success.  Stick with me and by this summer you’ll be the proud owner of some sexy ass abs that turn heads and get attention!

What follows is my 2 “secrets” to great abs:

  1. Guess what… You already have abs!

Yep, you read that right.  The fact is there are already some sexy abdominal muscles, sitting right there on your midsection, just waiting to be revealed.  You were born with em’.  You’ve had them your whole life even if you’ve never done one sit-up, crunch or leg raise.

The real trick is uncovering them.  The majority of people just have too much body fat for their ab muscles to show.  So, while most people who want abs automatically think they need to do set after set of ab exercises, the primary focus should be on losing fat.

And, what does almost everyone do when they want to lose fat?  They start doing a bunch of long, boring sessions on a treadmill or stair stepper because they’ve read or heard somewhere that they need to do a lot of cardio.  But, that’s not completely true.

While a few intense cardio sessions a week can help facilitate fat loss, the primary focus should be on cleaning up your diet.  Only through proper nutrition, and being very diligent about your daily intake of calories, can you truly “build” your abs to their full potential.

Now, since this post could quickly grow into the size of a novel, I won’t go into too much detail on diet right here, right now.  I just want to make you aware that you really need to focus your nutrition towards fat loss if you want great looking abs.  In the next post, coming this week, I will provide you with specific dietary guidelines, as well as some quick muscle gain/ fat loss tips, that will help you finally uncover your abs.

However, since summer is right around the corner, and I’m sure you want to get started on your six pack, let me at least point you in the right direction:

  • With a few exceptions, like oatmeal, brown rice, frozen chicken breasts, if a food comes from a box or bag, it’s usually bad news.  Chips, cookies, crackers, cakes, white bread and most breakfast cereals are highly processed garbage that is very unfriendly to abs, so they’re definitely out.  Think whole, unprocessed foods.  A helpful trick when you’re at the grocery is to stick to the outside “circle” and avoid the middle isles.  The outside is where you’ll usually find the best food selections.
  • Eat 4-6 small meals a day.  Try to eat something every 2-3 hours and definitely don’t go more than 4 hours without eating.  Eating frequent, small meals revs up your metabolism and puts your body into muscle building and fat burning mode.
  • Protein is the cornerstone of a muscle building/fat loss diet.  Increase your intake of lean protein.  A good rule of thumb is to have at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.  Quality protein powders are a tremendous help with meeting your daily needs.
  • At each of your first 3-4 meals of the day have a portion of lean protein and a complex (good) carb.  For your last few meals, later in the day, have protein but cut the carbs.  Instead, include a fibrous vegetable.  In fact, try to eat a vegetable with at least 2 of your meals but, if you wanted, you could eat vegetables at every meal and not hurt your fat loss efforts.
  • Not all of your meals have to be whole food.  Again, protein powders are an indispensable resource.  A couple of your “meals” or snacks could be protein powder blended with frozen berries and a few tablespoons of flaxseed, for added fiber and good fats.  You could also have a protein shake and eat a piece of fruit, some Greek yogurt, or a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast.  Combining supplements with whole foods makes consuming 4-6 meals a day quicker, more convenient and realistic.
  • Believe it or not, GOOD fats are part of a healthy diet.  Be sure to consume fats from sources such as almonds, avocados, fish, olive oil and/or coconut oil at every other meal.
  • Drink a lot of water!  When you think you’ve drank enough, drink some more.  When you’re thirsty that is a sign that your body is already becoming dehydrated.  Don’t let that happen. Water is not only necessary for optimal health and muscle growth but it also has a great effect on fat loss.  It can help curb your appetite and, the more water you drink, the less likely your body is to retain water.  When the goal is to get your abs to show, you don’t want a bunch of water hanging around your mid-section and making it appear soft.

*One of the best muscle building and fat loss diets I’ve ever found is Beverly International’s 50-20-30 diet. It is made up of 50% Protein, 20% Carbohydrate and 30% healthy Fat.  If getting great abs is your goal, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.  In my humble opinion, Beverly International also has the absolute BEST line of supplements available in the world.  Their Ultimate Muscle Protein (UMP) is amazing and tastes so good you can make pudding, brownies, waffles and/or pancakes out of it! 

2.  Your abs are muscles too!

While your diet should be your main focus when attempting to build a six pack, it is still a good idea to train your abs directly.  Technically, you could lower your body fat percentage significantly and reveal your abs without doing any crunches, sit-ups, etc.  However, working your mid-section intensely a few times a week will lead to a much better appearance.

But, the problem is, most people think they need to train their abs with super high rep sets.  My question is, why?  Think about it.  It’s fairly common knowledge that muscles tend to respond with growth from the use of heavier weights and a rep range of anywhere from 5-12.  The abs are muscles too, so why would they be any different?

Plain and simple, if you want a true six pack, then you need to focus on the growth of your abdominal muscles.  And, just like any other body part, the best way to make them grow is to place them under a lot of resistance (weight).

Instead of using your body weight only, start adding enough weight to your ab exercises so you can only get a max of 12 reps per set.  I recommend things like rope crunches (using a cable pull down machine), weighted crunches (holding a weight plate, dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball), hanging leg raises (while holding a weight between your feet).  And, most gyms even have a few machines that can help you effectively overload your abs.  If there is a decent one in your gym I would recommend using it from time to time.

I can already hear some people now.  “I don’t want my mid-section to get any bigger.  Isn’t the whole point to have a smaller waist?”

Here’s the thing; it’s HARD to get really big.  In gyms all across the world, every single day, guys focus all their attention and effort into getting bigger.  They work hard and grind away at set after heavy set of weight lifting exercises.  They eat a boat load of calories to provide their muscles with the materials they need to grow.

They do all of this to force their muscles to get bigger and still there’s only a certain amount of growth they get out of it.

So, it’s VERY unlikely that adding some resistance to your ab exercises is going to cause your mid-section to become overgrown.

What IS likely from placing your abs under more weight is that you will stimulate some growth and, once you reach a low body fat percentage, the end result will be abs that “pop”.  They will look harder, more defined and just flat out better than if you were to use only your body weight and knock out 25 reps per set.

The same is true whether you’re a guy or girl.  You should be adding resistance to your ab exercises in order to get your ab’s physical appearance to their full potential.

A lean, tight, sexy mid-section is the desire of most every gym goer around the world.  But, for so many people, discovering the “secrets” of getting abs is about as elusive as finding Bigfoot in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

Far too many people never fully realize their body’s potential.  It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Hopefully this post has shown you there really aren’t any secrets or shortcuts to getting abs.  The people who have them aren’t aware of any magical tips or tricks.  Getting a six pack, and an amazing physique, comes down to proper nutrition, hard work and consistency.

Don’t wait any longer.  The time is always NOW!  Provide your body with the nutrition it needs, work hard in the gym and be consistent.

Do these things and chances are, by this summer, you’ll have abs so amazing people will wonder what YOUR secret is…

Until Next Time,

Michael Wheeler