Disappointed by those “six weeks to shred” ab training programmes you see being marketed in fitness magazines? If you're tired of paying your dues in blood and sweat, only to receive lackluster results, why not learn the underlying principles behind effective ab training and apply them to your own training?
1. Choose high intensity interval training and strength exercises over endurance/ cardiovascular exercises.
HIIT training programmes are better for building and revealing muscle than endurance training regimens, making them a good choice for lean and strong abs. Weight training also places a greater demand on the core musculature, whose function is to stabilise the body and assist in force transfer. Utlising both approaches allow you to increase lean body mass and improve metabolism. That is not to say that you should abandon your cardivascular work entirely; aerobic exercises (like running) are good for burning calories which can help work towards creating the caloric deficit necessary for fat-loss.
2. Build accessory core muscles
This piece of advice is often an oversight, even with experienced fitness enthusiasts. However, it is extremely crucial in order to prevent uneven muscle growth. If your accessory muscles are not well developed, there might be overcompensation of these weaker muscles by another group of abdominal muscles. This might eventually lead to uneven muscle growth and might even be injurious to the overcompensating muscles. The core is more than just the abs, so make sure that your back (upper and lower), glutes and obliques get plenty of training as well!
3. De-emphasise sit-ups and crunches
The advice that sit-ups/ crunches gives you abs of steel is probably the most common misconception regarding core training today. Doing these exercises might seem easy and effective (due to the lactic acide build-up associated with the exercise), but they might be detrimental for your spine in the long-run. Considering how most people spend the bulk of the day with their spine in flexion, the last thing you would want to do is to force-feed even more flexion into that equation. Instead, consider adding some extension, anti-flexion and anti-rotation exercises to your exercise roster instead.
Keep in mind that there is no hard and fast rule to building strong abs as everyone’s body is built differently. Experiment with what works best for you and allows you to maintain a steady rate of progress. As long as it challenges you, you're on the right track!