You can say what you want about arms and v-shaped backs, but nothing really quite sets the tone like a prized set of defined abs. You know immediately when someone has busted their arse just by the appearance of their midsection.
How does this relate to you? Well, you may think you have a good grip on defining your abs, but there is always room for more tricks in your magic hat. To get you pointed in the right direction, see the five pro tips listed below. But be cautioned! You don’t want to get too ripped because the ladies won’t be able to keep their hands off you when you’re trying to get some work done.
1: Focus on tension
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes in the pursuit of ab definition is doing really high reps of exercises. It may seem fashionable, it might make you feel cool and it could even boost your confidence. But the sad reality is, it just doesn’t work well for definition.
During the span of 20-plus reps, you are only getting very short-term contractions. Muscles need excitation to grow and become pronounced. You are better served doing exercises where you have to squeeze your abs hard for an extended period of time. And these exercises are not the obvious crunches, sit-ups and side bends. In fact, those exercises are overrated.
Include exercises like pull-ups, clean and presses, kettlebell Turkish get-ups and renegade rows in your program. All of these drills require you to contract your abs forcefully for stabilization and power output. This has a transfer effect that helps you build a slab of chiseled armor across your midsection.
2: Use a heavy external load
You already know about the tension technique, but now you need to know about external load. Any time you incorporate tension, you’ll get work done on your abs. But, you can magnify this by using a heavy load. Be smart about it though. You never want to sacrifice proper form for heavy resistance.
When you’re doing your tension-creating exercises, aim for a load that will allow you to do 5 to 8 reps with pristine form. And always aim for low reps and multiple sets! For example, do 5 to 6 reps and 6 to 8 sets of weighted pull-ups.
3: Watch your sodium intake
Diet is just as important as weight training when it comes to ab definition. And of all the dietary tricks of the trade, sodium regulation sits pretty high on the list.
Sodium is a necessary electrolyte but if you take in an excessive amount, it can make you look “puffy.” This is because you are retaining water and that’s the last thing you need to happen if you want more defined abs.
You don’t have to eliminate it altogether, but just be careful with how much you take in. It is best to avoid or significantly reduce your intake of processed foods that are canned, bottled or bagged and high in sodium. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day too, especially if you ingest salty foods.
4: Head for the hills
You may never have given this a thought but you should… Hill sprints can have a very positive effect on your abs. Sure they’re hard and they’re not fun, but the effect is so monumental that you have to do them.
When you sprint, you get a massive ab contraction that lasts until you stop. Couple this with the fact that you burn a ton of calories and your body pumps out growth hormone and testosterone, and you have a winning combination that helps create jaw-dropping definition. Just take a look at Olympic sprinters.
Sprinting up hills magnifies the results even more so incorporate them into your practice. Start with a light warmup on flat ground then alternate ripping up the hill and jogging back down slowly. After 8 to 10 sets, you should be good and whooped, and that should be sufficient enough to reap the benefits.
5: Follow the same routine for several weeks
You are probably no stranger to the SAID Principle—Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. This means your body adapts to the stresses that are placed upon it through a duration of time. The opposite would be muscle confusion where you change your exercises every workout or after a short period of time.
To get defined abs, you want to find the sweet spot, which is right in the middle of these two areas.
The best case scenario is you follow the same routine for several weeks so your body can adapt. Then after that period, change everything up and follow THAT routine for several weeks. Keep following this pattern and you will be right on track.
As a rule of thumb, follow the same routine for a minimum of four weeks and no longer than six. This will give you time to keep increasing load and becoming better at the movement patterns. And by stopping and changing after four to six weeks, you will not plateau.
Now you have a solid set of standards to work on. Give these tips a try and always set your sights on the end goal. If you do, it will come a lot quicker and easier.