Some mottos persist because they are undeniably true. “Hard work pays off” and “abs are made in the kitchen” are prime examples of this in the fitness world.
In his latest video, Athlean-X founder Jeff Cavaliere, C.S.C.S. shows how these saying prove true when it comes to your six-pack. He shares his best nutrition tips and exercise advice for burning fat and building muscle in your abs that can be easily incorporated into your training regimen.
Since everyone’s dietary needs are different and dietitians should have the final say for advice on what you put into your body, we’ll focus on highlighting the exercise tips.
Work Out in the Right Order
“The sequence of the exercises you perform is actually more important than the exercises themselves,” says Cavaliere. He recommends starting with the bottom-up bodyweight movements that involve lifting the legs, as these require the most energy. Then save the exercises that just involve moving the upper half of body for last.
Don’t Just Count Reps—Make Them Count
Focus on the quality of your output, rather than sheer quality. “Speeding through repetitions just to reach a certain number is not going to get you the results you want,” says Cavaliere. Slow, deliberate, controlled movements produce a greater quality of contraction, and it’s really the contractions you should be thinking about.
Don’t Forget the Lower Abs
When it comes to training your lower abs, it’s all about making sure that you’re including the pelvis and moving it through space, says Cavaliere. Additionally, you can recruit more lower muscle fibers by contracting your adductors. “The additional stability that comes from the adductors onto the pelvis gives you more leverage to let those fibers do a better job of pulling,” he explains.
Get Your Shoulders Off the Ground
When performing an exercise that drives movement from the top down, such as the situp, it’s not enough to just move the head and neck; the shoulders and upper back should be fully engaged.
“Fold” Your Ribcage
Cavaliere suggests imagining (or even drawing) a line under your ribcage, and then trying to fold the upper body in half along that line during each situp rep.
Get Your Breathing Right
“When doing a crunch, you want to exhale, but you don’t want to push your stomach out as you do it,” he says. “You actually want to blow air out while pulling your stomach down to activate the transverse abdominis.” Doing this helps to avoid a bloated, distended appearance in your stomach as you continue to train.
Don’t Neglect the Obliques or Serratus
These muscles are the “frame” for your abs, and are often overlooked. To train both the obliques and serratus, Cavaliere recommends the “corkscrew,” a dip variation that incorporates a twisting movement.
It All Starts with Nutrition
A lot of people assume that cardio and/or ab training are the basis for a six-pack; and while they each have an important part to play, nutrition is the foundation. “You can’t outtrain a bad diet,” says Cavaliere.
Make the Process Enjoyable
“If you hate the process, you’re not going to get to where you want to be,” says Cavaliere. “If getting a six-pack is torture, you’re going to stop before you ever do.” In other words, it’s perfectly fine to allow yourself a treat, rather than sticking to a diet that’s 100 percent misery.
Cavaliere’s treat of choice is whipped cream and frozen yogurt; about 280 calories’ worth most nights. “Choose a healthier option that still satisfies that treat-seeking impulse you have, that’s going to keep you on track and keep you sane,” he says.