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Muscle Growth

How to Get Shredded Abs

By Darren Nuzzo on Mar 29, 2024 9:00:00 AM
3 Minutes Reading Time


The mantra “Abs are made in the kitchen,” carries some truth – but it doesn’t tell the whole story. If low body fat were the only requirement for having abs, David Bowie would have been in fitness magazines. Instead, he settled on the cover of Rolling Stone. Poor guy.

So why is it that even at low body fat, some people don’t have visible abs? And why do some people have visible abs even with moderate body fat? Well, it comes down to how large their rectus abdominis muscles actually are.

If you wanted more visible biceps, you wouldn’t just lose weight, would you? No. You’d focus on doing things to grow your arms. You have to do the same with your abs. You need to grow them like any other muscle, and then you can worry about losing weight to make them pop.

How do we train abs?

Exercise selection is often where people get this wrong. You need to choose lifts that move through a stretched phase and a contracted phase. Notice that some of the most popular abdominal exercises don’t even lengthen our abs! That’s not to say an exercise like a plank is useless, but it certainly doesn’t meet the criteria for an effective hypertrophy exercise.

So which exercises do build bigger abs?

Instead of assigning you a workout, it’s important that you understand how to choose exercises yourself. When a movement puts your spine in flexion, it contracts your abs. When a movement puts your spine in extension, it lengthens your abs. So an optimal movement would allow for both of those things to occur under load. This includes movements like machine crunches, hanging leg raises, and suitcases.

How heavy to lift?

Despite what you might have learned from that 8-minute abs video on YouTube, abs don’t need to be trained exclusively in the high rep ranges. In fact, for most people, they’ll see more results from training in the lower rep ranges. After years of high rep training, your body is itching for a new training stimulus. Low-rep work might be exactly what it needs.

How often to train them?

A common myth is that you should train your abs every day. While high-frequency training is a valid approach to building muscle, it’s not necessary—especially at this extreme.

The most important factor is total weekly volume. Whether you split your 15 sets of abs up over the course of four days or two likely won’t make a difference. Play around with what works best for you.

If you want better abs, they need to be a priority.

People treat abs like an afterthought. If you want to develop a muscle group, it should be the first thing you train.

Too often, abs are just tossed in at the end of the workout as a cooldown. While that’s a totally fine tactic for general fitness, it isn’t the most effective way to grow a lagging muscle group.

Wrap up.

If you want to get serious about building abs, train them first, train them through a full range of motion, and train them in every rep range.

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Darren Nuzzo

Darren Nuzzo is a writer and performer from Huntington Beach, California. When he’s not authoring works of literary fiction or bombing at open mics, he returns to his roots of health and wellness, teaming up with Mind Pump to bring a new voice to the fitness industry.

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