Whether they admit it or not, every guy in the gym wants a better midsection. For some, that simply means losing belly fat. For others, greater core strength is the goal. But for most gym rats, the ultimate achievement is a rock solid, shredded six-pack.
And here's the funny thing about it: Getting a six-pack isn't rocket science, but people always seem to make mistakes in the gym that hold back their progress. You want some action-hero-like abs? Then don’t make these common blunders:
1. You're not hitting your abs with any resistance
Abs are muscles just like your pecs and lats, so why not train them in a similar way? Endless crunches aren't going to build impressive abs any more than bodyweight pushups will develop a Schwarzenegger-sized chest. Don't be afraid to perform weighted abdominal exercises that limit you to just 12-15 solid reps if you really want some “deep boxes” in your midsection.
2. You're not getting creative with routines
So many guys work under the false notion that all it takes to create a truly wicked 6-pack are a few easy sets of crunches and leg raises at the end of a workout. But abs are muscles just like any other, and if you really want to build bricks into your belly, you have to train them the same intensity you devote to other areas of your physique. Don’t be afraid to put a serious hurting on your abs, whether via heavy resistance or novel exercises that hit your muscles in unusual ways.
3. Your range of motion sucks
We all know that guy at the gym who brags about ripping through 1,000 crunches each day. More often than not, when you catch a glimpse of his routine, you realize those "crunches" barely constitute any movement at all. He might have a huge rep count, but he's got no range of motion.
If there's any muscle group that should be exercised with slow, controlled reps, it’s your abs. Pay careful attention to achieving a full range of motion from stretch to contraction, with a tight squeeze at the peak. Fast reps will do nothing to overload your abs and will more likely just result in injury.
4. You're doing the wrong moves
Just like you hit the quads or triceps with various movements that work the muscle through various planes of motion, the same needs to be done for your abdominals.
- Begin your ab training with a movement that focuses the most tension on your lower midsection, like leg raises with bent or straight legs.
- Next up should be an “upper” ab movement, preferably using resistance, where the trunk is “curled” toward the knees, such as with situps.
- Finally, a rotational exercise like a Pallof press or a cable rotation will be necessary to develop the external obliques and intercostal muscles.
5. You wear a weightlifting belt
Lots of big-time weightlifters wear a belt while training to help stabilize their torsos as they move heavy weights. That's perfectly understandable, but one unintended side effect of wearing a weight belt is that these guys forget to tighten their abdominal walls during seated, standing, and bent-over compound lifts.
If you train other muscles and neglect your core strength, that could lead to eventual injuries. The solution? Make sure you work some compound motions that also tax your core to ensure your body develops evenly.
6. You're anchoring your feet
Remember in junior high gym class, when you and your partner took turns holding down each other's feet as you sweated through rounds of situps? Don't do that.
Even advanced lifters at the gym have a habit of anchoring their feet under pads when doing crunches or various crunch machines. This not only shifts much of the emphasis off the abs and onto the hip flexors, but can also result in lower back pain over time.
Instead, focus on isometric holds like the plank, or free up your legs and do exercises like V-ups.