An Incredible Abdominal Routine

Abdominal Muscle Not Everyone Has

t is becoming more and more prevalent: everybody wants a "six pack" of abs. I'm not talking about just having a bodyfat level low enough to allow your abs to be visible to the undis-cerning eye. No, what I'm talking about is the fixation our culture has for very well-developed abdominal muscles. The abs are, after all, skeletal muscles, and they respond to the same stimulus for development as all other skeletal muscles—high-intensity training!

In the past, many bodybuilders could get by on muscle mass alone. These days, to really look impressive, a bodybuilder must not only display good muscle mass but also be highly defined. Today's bodybuilder must combine muscular massiveness with an element of refinement, which means that every muscle group must be chiseled distinctly separate from its neighboring muscle groups, with the body's fat stores reduced to the point where the abdominal development is actually detectable. Someone whose abs are obscured by fat is not a bodybuilder but is just someone who trains with weights.

True bodybuilders look the part, which means their fat stores are at a level low enough to reveal their abdominal development—or lack thereof—at all times. This is not meant to imply that unless your abs appear to be as sharp as those of the current Mr. Olympia 365 days a year, you're deluded in considering yourself a bodybuilder. That is an unrealistic and, more important, unnatural level of muscularity that even Mr. Olympia cannot maintain for more than a couple of weeks per year.

Rather, you should always be able to see your abs—all three layers (like Steve Reeves or Bruce Lee). Then diet down even more strictly to bring out the deeper cuts when zeroing in for a contest. Allowing fat to accumulate on your body is always a negative factor. As my late friend Mike Mentzer, a former Mr. Universe winner, often pointed out: "Whenever fat is allowed to accumulate, it is going to have to be eliminated someday through undereating and overtraining—a combination that leads to the loss of muscle as well as fat."

To maintain a visible abdominal musculature, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet that contains only enough calories to maintain your existing degree of muscle mass. We are not concerned with maintaining your existing degree of bodyfat, as that is only excess baggage that will one day have to be gotten rid of.

Most of us are sporting too much adipose tissue. How, then, can we maintain our status as bodybuilders without sacrificing our hallowed muscle mass? Or, better yet, is there a way to actually increase our muscle mass while simultaneously decreasing our bodyfat stores? Well, fortunately, there is a way, owing to the fact that muscle cells and fat cells are two entirely different entities and respond to two entirely different stimuli. To increase your bodyfat stores, all you have to do is live a rather sedentary existence and eat at every opportunity. Increasing your muscle mass stores is nowhere near as easy. To stimulate your muscles to grow larger and stronger, you must first expose them to brief, high-intensity training sessions to encourage growth, and then allow them adequate time to both recover and grow from the exercise session—and then provide adequate nutrition to feed the growth-and-repair process of your body so that the growth can take place. As I said, the process is far removed from the business of gaining fat, but the rewards in health and appearance more than offset the expenditure of labor required to realize this objective.

Gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is accomplished via brief, infrequent, high-intensity exercise that stimulates growth in the targeted muscle group (in this case our abdominals) and marrying this training regimen to a well-balanced, calorie-reduced diet.

The reduced-calorie diet (five hundred to one thousand calories below your maintenance need of calories) will cause a gradual decrease of your body's fat stores, while the high-intensity exercise stimulates a gradual increase in your muscle-mass level. The key to developing your abdominal muscles, then, is to perform low sets of high-intensity abdominal exercises and consume a low-calorie diet. I'll provide you with the ideal exercise system to develop your abdomen, but I'll leave it to you to monitor your calorie intake.

THE ROUTINE

1. Knee-ups on chin bar:

2. Crunches:

3. Standing oblique crunches:

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