These are both great questions that get asked all the time! Here are my thoughts on the subject:
Advice for beginners
Start off your training program with 2 effective abdominal training sessions per week. Do 4-5 sets of crunches for each session. Slowly add more sets or additional exercises when you notice you’re getting stronger and less sore.
How many sessions per week?
Work your way up from one weekly session to 2-3 weekly sessions. You can include exercises such as crunches and hanging knee raises (3-4 sets of each exercise). Always aim to train the muscle effectively (I’ll talk a bit more about this soon). Don’t overtrain, this will slow down your progress. Include cardio sessions, start eating clean and stay hydrated and (with a lot of work!) you’ll see your abs pop.
How often should you train?
Be mindful of how you feel after your workouts and are you progressing (getting stronger). If you get so sore you don’t recover until tomorrow, there is no point in training your abs again tomorrow (or even two days later) because the muscle didn’t have enough time to recover properly. Always tweak your workout session to maximize your results! If I get sore for more than 3 days, I usually rest my abs for the rest of the week and continue training them next week.
Train effectively – what does this mean?
I already mentioned being mindful as one strategy that makes your training more effective. Another, more “technical” strategy is to have perfect form (or to perform your exercises until your form breaks down – after this point, it’s better to rest than to force it). What does this mean? If you’re doing crunches, crunch up as far as you can go, and come down only a couple of inches (don’t touch the floor). Performing all of your exercises correctly ensures that the muscle fibers in your abdominal region all activate, meaning you’ll gain more from your workout. Yes, this is what causes the infamous burn! Push through, maintain your form and train until failure.
One last note – where are abs made, again?
The answer is – in the kitchen! Your diet is a definitive factor in your journey to visible abs, maybe even more so than when it comes to other muscle groups. Eat lean meat, plenty of leafy greens and cooked vegetables, don’t hold back on healthy fats and drink plenty of water and those V lines will shine through.
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