Having a six-pack is the ultimate way to show that you're committed to your fitness: You work out hard, eat clean, and do the cardio necessary to be there. While there really aren't any "hacks" or shortcuts to a great midsection, there are certainly ways to get there faster. We talked to David Larson, B.S., C.S.C.S., of Pulse Fitness in Scottsdale, AZ, for his best ab-sculpting advice.
Q1: What is the best way to get abs?
“Tension, muscular damage, and metabolic stress are the three mechanisms of inducing hypertrophy. Ab-wheel rollouts, TRX body saws, hanging leg raises, and hanging pendulums are some of the best exercises for maximizing muscular tension. For an added challenge, slow down the lowering phase of the movement. After performing the exercises listed above, performing movements that involve high amounts of metabolic stress, such as weighted V-ups, band-resisted knee tucks, and weighted planks.”
Q2: How can I make them "pop" more if I'm already lean?
“Getting lean is a great first step to getting abdominal definition. Once lean, getting the abs to “pop” comes from increased abdominal hypertrophy. As noted previously, this involves taking advantage of the mechanisms of hypertrophy, which include tension, damage, and metabolic stress. The load of the high-tension exercises must be great enough to cause failure at around 8-12 reps. For the exercises that involve metabolic stress, higher-rep sets (up to 20) can be performed.”
Q3: I do crunches all the time, eat really clean, and do tons of cardio, but my abs still don't show. What gives?
“Try replacing crunches with two high-tension exercises and two metabolic-stress exercises listed above. Load the two tension exercises to what you can do for 10 reps and load the two metabolic stress exercises to what you can do for 15 reps. Perform 3-4 sets of each at least two days per week. Unless you are training for an endurance competition, ditch the steady-state cardio and perform some high intensity interval training.”
Q4: How often should I train abs and what's the best way to do it?
“Many people suggest training abs every day, but the reality is that it depends on the intensity of training and conditioning of the individual. When performing a program as listed above, it would be appropriate to train the abs 2-3 days per week, with at least one day of rest between sessions.”
Q5: How do I get that "V" look to my lower abs?
"Aside from losing body fat, getting the abdominal ‘V’ may require an emphasis on the obliques and lower abs. Hanging leg raises, windshield wipers, band-resisted TRX knee tucks, side V-ups, and flutter kicks are some of your best bets here.”