STOP RUNNING MILES AT A TIME, STAY OFF THE ELLIPITCAL, AND FORGET THE WORD CRUNCHES! STOP FOLLOWING THE TRENDS AND TRAIN!!!
By performing sprints and a strength training program that challenges you, you will not only feel good, but look good this summer. If you’re hoping for a lean body composition and chiseled abs at the beach, forget the 15-minute ab programs in favor of a total body traditional strength program—and throw in some sprint intervals too.
Strength training and high-intensity intervals are well proven to give you lean abs, whereas programs that just train the abs have little pay off. For example, one study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effect of a six-week abdominal training program in which participants performed seven ab exercises (2 sets, 10 reps) five days a week—a fairly large number of reps, but none of the exercises used weights, meaning the metabolic effect on the body was minimal.
The exercises used were the Bent-Knee Sit-Up, Lateral Trunk Flexion, Leg Lifts, Oblique Crunch, Stability Ball Crunch, Stability Ball Twist, and Abdominal Crunch. Results showed no changes in body weight, body fat, abdominal fat, or waist circumference. Participants did improve abdominal endurance with a one-minute curl up test.
For the amount of time and effort invested in the ab program, participants didn’t get much benefit. A better training program would include deadlifts, squats, bench press, chin-ups, lunges, rows, and overhead press, with one ab exercise a day rounding out the training program. The fat burning effect would be much greater since these lift use larger muscle groups than the abs, while the squats, deads, chins, and lunges all require significant recruitment of the abdominal muscles. Plus, the added benefit of lifting heavy weights will help you lose fat that covers the abs, while improving muscle “definition.”
(Above is a picture of an Olympic lifter, and he may do 2 to 3 specific “ab” exercises per week if that, and crunches are not included in that list. The reason he looks like he does is 1. Hard work, 2. Lifts heavy weight with proper technique, 3. Proper Program Design/Exercise Selection, and 4. Proper Diet)
Another solution is to do sprint intervals to burn excess fat around the middle.
High-intensity intervals have been shown to be even more effective than strength training at burning fat fast. A recent study showed that participants who did a 6-week sprint interval program (4 to 6 sprints for 30 seconds each with 4 minutes rest) lost an impressive 12.4 percent body fat and an average of 3 kg of fat mass. Total training varied from 18 minutes when participants performed 4 sprints to 27 minutes when they did 6.
If your primary goal is lean abs, a high volume total body program with sprints is the way to go. You’ll gain strength and muscle mass in the obliques, rectus abdominus, and erector spinae, giving you better trunk stabilization and a rock hard stomach.
Reference: Poliquins Blog
Vispute, S., Smith, J., LeChiminant, J., Hurley, K.The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.2011.25(9), 2559-2564.