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The Fit 5: Answers for Abs

Our experts disclose the secrets to abs, even the part about it being 80% diet.

For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Facebook page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, Sean Hyson C.S.C.S., Group Training Director for Muscle & Fitness and Men's Fitness magazines, answers questions about breaking new lift records. Be sure to read up on all of Sean’s articles here on MensFitness.com or in Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness magazines each month. You can also catch Sean on Twitter

1) Training Protocol— asked by Tom Theiss What's the optimal amount of sets/reps, exercises and days per week to train abs?
“This is totally dependent on what the rest of your program looks like, but I’ll give you a general template that should work well. Pick three exercises that work the abs differently—for example, the situp, cable woodchop, and plank. Work one of them into each of your workouts. Alternate heavy, light and moderate days for the situp and woodchop. For instance, a heavy day would be 3–5 sets of 5–8 reps, a light day could be 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps, and a moderate day would be 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps. Switch up your rest periods too. For the planks, pick a total amount of time to hold them for and try to increase that time weekly.”

2) Most Important — asked by Frank Lamattina Can you rank these elements of getting abs from more important to least important? And why? (Weight training, Cardio, Diet, Supplements, Sleep.)
"1. Diet 2. Diet 3. Weight Training 4. Sleep 5. Cardio 6. Supplements Diet is far and away the most important, so I’ve listed it twice. Weight training keeps your metabolism up, and that means more fat burning. Sleep is crucial for recovery, cardio helps burn fat, and supplements can be useful as well—once all these other elements are in place."

3) Plank Alternatives — asked by Joe Stephens Sometimes after a hard workout, planks are rough on my shoulders, any other similar "complete" core exercises?
"It’s widely thought that hanging leg raises are one of the most effective ab moves. So are rollouts with an ab wheel. To replicate planks as closely as possible, you need to do an exercise that keeps your core engaged the whole time so the spine is straight. Pushup variations accomplish this well."

4) Most Effective Movements — asked by Robbie Franken Which are more effective, laying leg lifts, hanging leg lifts or "Captains Chair" leg lifts?
"Hanging leg lifts are the toughest and therefore most muscle-activating. But the other two variations are good exercises to build up to them."

5) Useless Ab Exercises — asked by Joe Sanchez What are ab exercises people should completely remove?
“I don’t think any exercise is inherently bad all the time. Some are just more appropriate for certain people than others. If you have lower-back pain, situp and crunch exercises may not be good for you. But if all you do are planks, you won’t work your abs fully. Try every exercise you can over the long haul and see what works best for you."

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