Just about everyone who enters the gym wants to build a set of solid abs, and there are plenty of theories about the best way to train your midsection to achieve that goal. But what about the rest of your body — does it matter how your train your other muscle groups if your primary goals is to develop a six pack?
Let’s look at the factors involved to figure out what kind of training for abs might be best for you.
What Are Abs?
What we usually call “abs” are a single muscle on the front of our abdomens — the rectus abdominis. Abs help us bend forward, and they also contract in a static fashion to maintain intra-abdominal pressure during any kind of full-body exertion. In this capacity, abs protect our abdominal wall from rupture and help keep our spines in the proper alignment for optimal safety. Related to this, strong abs help us maintain correct posture throughout the day.
Abs Without Training?
If you read the above description carefully, you probably realize that abs are involved strongly in major compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and chin-ups. During all of these exercises, abs contract powerfully, either in a static or active fashion, and that action can impart intense stimulation to your midsection. In fact, many power athletes have developed very solid abdominal muscles without including any direct ab work in their routines, and that’s possible thanks to their heavy training for other bodyparts.
You probably won’t want to go to the extreme of dropping ab work completely, but you should give consideration to the overall physique development that you can achieve by including major lifts in your routine. If you attempt to build great abs without giving much attention to the rest of your body, your midsection muscles will not be as thick and powerful as they might be because of the indirect stimulation from other bodypart training that they’re missing out on. What’s more, ripped abs on an otherwise puny body look very strange, and you’re asking for spine problems if your abs are stronger than your back muscles.
Putting It All Together
If we pull together the function of your abs, the strong stimulation they can get from non-abs exercises, and the need for physique balance, we can develop a solid framework for how you should be training your body if you want to build a great six pack.
In particular, you need to train your entire body with heavy, progressive resistance training. Your focus should be on increasing training poundages on major exercises like squats, dips, and deadlifts while maintaining good form. You can train your full body at each session, or you can split your body parts across a couple of workouts, but you don’t need to do any crazy split specializations.
There are plenty of training programs that fit this general description, including High-Intensity Training (HIT), Dogg Crapp, and traditional powerlifting, and you can use them all to good effect for building your abs AND your bigger bodyparts.
Before you undertake ANY training program, though, you need to check in with your doctor and get a complete physical. Decide together whether your planned training poses any health risks for you. If not, dig in and build your abs the right way — as part of a complete physique overhaul.