Let's face it, ab training can be boring. The range of motion is short, many exercises are similar, and workouts frequently focus on high-rep, low-intensity sets. B-o-r-i-n-g. What’s more, if the area is sheathed with body fat (or clothes), no one is going to see the results, no matter how many crunches you do. For these reasons, abs are too often neglected—even by professional bodybuilders. We have a solution. In fact, we have 10. When at their peaks, each of the following physique legends—from those who first competed more than five decades ago to those who are still winning today—sported a superb set of rectus abs and obliques. This isn’t exactly an “all-time 10 best” list. A person or two here might surprise you. The following “middle men” were selected not only for their ab excellence but also for the diversity of their routines. Together, they provide 10 waist workout strategies. These range from marathons to sprints and encompass a wide spectrum of set and rep combinations, exercise choices, and workout frequencies. Get ready for some things old and some things new. These 10 legends prove there are many ab-solutions.
While his chest and back garnered most of the praise in the ’70s, two-time Mr. Olympia Columbu set off his superb torso with a thickly developed ab slab. The Sardinian strongman worked his middle with mostly bodyweight exercises, and he favored one such waist worker, Roman chair situps, which are rarely performed today. As was common in the ’70s, when body parts were hit more often than they are now, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite training partner found some time to stress abs on every training day.
High frequency, moderate sets, moderate reps
Weekly Workouts: 6
Sets Per Exercise: 4
Reps Per Set: 15–25
Sets Per Workout: 12
Reps Per Workout: 180–300
Roman chair situp, crunch, hanging leg raise
Though Lebanese-born Haidar never won a pro show during his 11-year career (1998–2009), he may have had the best abs in every contest he entered. In fact, he had arguably the greatest abdominals of all time. They were earned with 30-minute sessions that always began with four sets of 100 to 150 reps of body-weight crunches. Haidar didn’t reach the endurance test totals of another abman on our list, Serge Nubret. Nevertheless, his fondness for six-times-weekly, crank-up-the-volume middle management was an anachronism in an age when too many bodybuilders neglected abs.
High frequency, moderate sets, high reps
Weekly Workouts: 6
Sets Per Exercise: 3–4
Reps Per Set: 25–100
Sets Per Workout: 14–16
Reps Per Workout: 650–780
Crunch, hanging leg raise, lying leg raise, twisting cable crunch
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