Those who made bodybuilding famous are probably the best people to ask when it comes to shaping your abs. If you want to have abdominal muscles like the icons of lifting, you’ll have to train like a pro too! Your abs are crucial for your balance and performance, they’re not just to show off your lean physique, and as any crucial muscle, they’re built by two things – nutrition and exercise. You need to combine these two approaches to experience any results, but once you do, you should have no trouble getting to the top with enough persistence.
Your abs do a lot of work already, and this makes them hard to train and improve. Every day, you activate them for pretty much every movement you make, meaning that in order to work on them, you have to overload them. These are some of the best kept secrets of the lifting legends of the past on how to pack more meat on these muscles. This workout can be combined with any other workout for any other muscle group, but you can also do a specific ‘abs day’. It doesn’t matter, because as long as you do this routine at least once a week, your abs will start changing and becoming more and more defined and shredded.
OLD-SCHOOL AB WORKOUT
1. Stomach Vacuum – Hold your stomach in for 20 seconds after every set of every other exercise.
2. Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise – 4 sets to failure.
3. Spell Caster – 4 sets, 12-15 reps per side per set.
4. Press Sit-Ups – 4 sets, 10 reps each.
5. Oblique Cable Crunches – 4 sets, 12 reps per side per set.
Let’s look at these exercises more closely and determine what makes them so successful.
#1. Stomach Vacuum
The legendary bodybuilders from the ‘golden age’ of lifting used this technique to keep their waists thin and trimmed, but the stomach vacuum is coming back as a very important exercise for abs building.
To do this exercise, exhale as much as possible and draw in your abdomen. Hold this position and visualize your belly button going towards your spine. If you can do 20 seconds without issue, try 40 or even 60 seconds! You should do stomach vacuums after every set of every other exercise in this workout, holding each for a minimum of 20 seconds. This will get harder and harder as the sets go by, but isn’t that the point?
#2. Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise
Getting awesome abs is easier when you hit every angle of your abdominal muscles, and you can do this more easily with leg raises because they hit the lower abs, which are often neglected.
Lie on your back on a flat bench and extend your legs in front, off the end of the bench. Put your hands under your glutes with your palms facing downwards, or grab the bench to your sides. This is the starting point for any leg raise. Keep your legs stretched out as far as possible while bending your knees and locking them in place. Raise your legs until they’re perpendicular to the floor. Exhale as you bring your legs up and make sure to lock them in place and hold the contraction at the top for at least a second or two. Inhale and lower your legs down to the starting position.
#3. Spell Caster
You need some space to perform this exercise, just so you don’t hit someone while doing it. The spell caster isn’t an isolation exercise, which means you’ll feel it all over your body. Grab two dumbbells and take a shoulder-width stance. Twist until both dumbbells go to one side of your body along with your arms, and rotate your torso with them. The torsion won’t let you go all the way, of course, so swing your weights up and return them to their original side. Take a breath and swing them in the opposite side. Keep changing sides until you’re through the set.
You don’t need to use really heavy weights here. The entire point of this exercise is to strengthen your abs by exercising control over that weight, not lifting for show. This activates your midsection in a unique way, and to top it off, you can use anything instead of dumbbells – a triceps bar, kettlebells or any random concentrated weight. Take a minute of rest between sets for best effect.
#4. Press Sit-Ups
You can go a bit heavier with this exercise but make sure that the weight is controllable. If you don’t have any experience with press sit-ups, try the movement with no weights first, putting your arms up until you feel comfortable doing it.
Take a barbell and have it rest on your pecs while sitting on a decline abdominal bench. Squeeze your abs and curl your torso upwards, pressing the barbell overhead while exhaling throughout the whole movement. Lower your body back slowly, but every time you start the movement again, make sure to explode upwards while completely controlling your body. If you aren’t comfortable with performing this exercise with a barbell, or if you don’t have a gym buddy to hand you the weight, use a heavy medicine ball or some dumbbells instead. Take a one minute rest between sets for best effect.
#5. Oblique Cable Crunch
Oblique exercises are often avoided because people think it’ll expand their waist, but this isn’t valid – your oblique muscles should be as defined as your six pack. When this exercise is performed correctly, the oblique muscles won’t actually widen your waist, and you don’t even have to use heavy weights to feel them burning. This comes in handy if you’re worried about your taper.
Use a high pulley and put the mat in front of you, on the floor. Grab the rope with both of your hands and kneel one or two feet away from the column. Put the rope behind your head, which should bring your hands near your ears. When you want to pull the weight, just crunch downwards, and as you flex your backbone, twist until your elbow touches the knee opposite from it. Switch sides as you prefer, or do all the reps on one side before doing them all on the other one – whichever way you think works best. In reality, they all work pretty well. Take 45 second rests between sets for best effect and keep on pumping!