leaner abs

Ten Steps For Leaner, Stronger Abs

If lean abs are on your wish list, you've come to the right place. Even if you aren’t in the market for a chiseled six-pack, you’d surely pay good money to remove the fat, get a stronger core, and protect your lower back. Here are ten steps everyone can use to get leaner, stronger abs.

#1: Don’t Waste Time On Spot Reduction

For 99 percent of population, the most important thing to leaner abs is to lose fat from the midsection. “Ab training” with sit-ups, crunches, and planks is not the way to do this. In fact, research shows that when trainees spent 4 hours a week for 6 weeks doing abdominal training with crunches, bicycles, sit-ups, and the like, they lost zero body fat and made no progress toward leaner abs.

#2: Do Sprints

Contrary to ab exercises, sprint interval training consistently leads to fat loss of 1 to 3 kg with at least half of that coming from the midsection. Sprinting is so effective for leaning up your abs because it improves insulin sensitivity and resets the HPA hormonal axis that is involved in metabolic rate and fat burning. Novices can try a cycle sprint workout of 8-second sprints with 12 seconds rest repeated continuously for 20 minutes. Fitter trainees can try six 30-second sprints on a bike or track with 3 minutes recovery.

#3: Strength Train Using Total Body Lifts

Strength training will get you tighter abs by improving fat loss and increasing the size of the muscles that makes up the abdominals. Studies show that doing multi-joint lifts that train the whole body such as deadlifts, squats, and lunges lead to greatest activation of the core musculature. Training with moderately heavy weights ranging from 70 to 85 percent of the 1RM will also optimally strengthen the lower back and help prevent lower back pain.

#4: Always Engage The Core Muscles

Fit trainees already know that a tight core is key when lifting heavy weights, but what if you’re like a lot of people out there who don’t know how to safely engage your abdominal muscles?

This problem is more common than you might think: In one study, female athletes did not effectively stabilize the core abdominal muscles unless they were reminded to. Lack of ab stabilization may increase compression on the discs of the spine, leading to back and hip injury. Remember to consciously engage the abs on every exercise and even when moving around in daily life.

#5: Tighten Up Your Nutrition

Whether you opt for the tried and true low-carb diet or work some other nutrition magic on your midsection, chiseled abs can’t have fat covering them up. Most people will get great results from a high-quality, high-protein intake with a lot of vegetables and healthy fat.

#6: Plan Carb Intake Based On Individual Needs

Pretty much everyone can benefit from avoiding refined carbs since these foods (bread, cookies, chips, crackers, ice cream, etc.) are packed with calories and lead to irregular blood sugar and high insulin levels. But that doesn’t mean you should banish carbs entirely. Instead, plan carbohydrate needs based on your specific situation: If you’re trying to lose fat, a low-carb intake of less than 50 grams a day may be in order but consider cycling high-glycemic whole food carbs into your diet every 5 to 7 days.

#7: Never Slash Calories

Slashing calories below 1,200 a day may seem like a great way to achieve a massive energy deficit for fast fat loss, but it’s actually one of the worst things you can do. Fairly quickly, the body will downregulate your metabolism in order to preserve fuel stores and you’ll burn fewer calories daily. Individual calorie needs will vary, but the bottom line is that you should never go below your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Calculate your total daily energy expenditure here to get an idea of how many calories you need. 

#8: Cope With Your Stress

Unless you figure out a way to cope with daily stress, you can permanently say goodbye to lean, sexy abs. This is because cortisol is released each and every time you are under any form of physical or mental stress. Problems at work? You get a cortisol spike. Stuck in traffic? Relationship problems? Eating junkfood? Yep, cortisol spike.

When cortisol is chronically elevated like this, your body shifts into fat storing mode in the abdominal area. People love to overlook this fact because stress is hard to deal with. It takes a complete lifestyle overhaul for most of us, but it’s a must if you ever hope to get the abs you desire.

#9: Focus On Breathing Contractions During Training

Deep breathing during training that engages the abs can enhance the force of the contraction for greater adaptation. Seems simple, but research shows that when people perform deep breathing during basic ab stabilization exercises they significantly increase activation of the entire core musculature including the six-pack muscles and those of the lower back.

#10: Avoid Sit-Ups—Use These Superior Exercises Instead

Anyone who knows anything about training agrees that the sit-up is an outdated exercise that causes lower back injury because it places hundreds of pounds of compressive force on the spine. Instead, try these seven superior exercises  to increase muscle throughout your six-pack region, while also protecting your spine.


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