Stop and think about the cavalcade of mass monsters who have marched right off into oblivion, for no other reason than they lacked a good set of abs. They may have drawn swoons for their freaky arms or freaky legs or freaky something else, but in a lineup, elbow to elbow with a proportioned pro whose hallmark is a popping, polished and deep-hewn midsection, their magnitude draws nothing more than a yawn. Had they recognized that abdominals are the classiest of all bodyparts and, as such, need as much attention as marquee muscle groups, or if they had the guts to train them hard, they'd have a complete physique and a legitimate claim as muscle freaks. As it is, they remain incomplete.
Don't make the same mistake. If your abdominals are under par, I have a crash program that can get them sleek and chiseled in six weeks flat. First, though, a qualifier: This is not a start-from-scratch program. No matter how intense and effective the crash course, you can't expect dramatic results unless you've been bodybuilding for many months. In fact, I'd say give it a year.
A respectable foundation of muscle must already be in place, along with sufficiently low bodyfat to let your abs show when they're ready. On the other hand, time and good abs wait for no one, so dive in!
THE SIX-WEEK PROGRAM
This program is a sequence of three two-week phases. The same exercises, as well as their order, are used throughout the entire six weeks, but each successive phase becomes more difficult by adding sets and weight (see "The Workouts" chart).
- In phase one (the first two weeks), train your abs three times a week: on legs day, back day and on a third day by themselves.
- In phases two and three (weeks three through six), train abs four times a week: legs day, back day, plus two other days by themselves.
- In phase three (weeks five and six), add weight. For situps, hold a weight plate on your chest. For straight-leg raises and knee raises, hold a dumbbell between your feet.
- Train abs first in any workout, so they stretch, loosen and warm up the entire body, as well as pump your lower back to relieve pressure from heavy lifts.
- Stay in a repetition range of 15 to 20, but do not go to failure on your first set or you will not be able to complete all the reps in successive sets. I like getting in all of my reps; if I want to increase resistance, I slow the pace and get more of a squeeze out of each rep.
- Make each rep the most important rep you will ever do, as if that specific rep will instantaneously bring out the six-pack of your dreams. Think to yourself, Each rep is the only rep.
- Continuously challenge yourself with more sets and more weight. Do not stay in any phase longer than two weeks; go to the next as soon as you think you're ready.
These are performed on a decline bench. Keep your upper body straight. Place your hands behind your head, but do not use your hands to pull your head forward. Keep your elbows pointed outward. Raise your upper body as if your chin is being lifted straight up toward the ceiling. Do not bend your neck or roll your shoulders forward. To maintain tension on your abs, do not sit up all the way. Likewise, do not lower your back to a resting point. Keep your motion smooth and steady. Do not bounce or jerk.
Note that these are leg raises, not hip raises. Keep your hips stationary by lifting only your legs; do not push your hips upward. Raise your legs only to horizontal, and do not lower them all the way to the bottom; maintain tension on your lower abs. Do not swing or bounce, and do not arch your back.
Sit on the edge of a bench, bracing yourself with your hands. Stabilize your head, arms, shoulders and torso into a single bodypart that bends only at your waist, then squeeze your knees into your chest as you bring your upper body forward to meet them for a butterfly effect. Do not allow your shoulders or back to roll forward. Maintain continuous tension. As you extend your legs, do not tilt your upper body backward to the point where stress is relieved from your abdominals.
GO BELLY DOWN
If you follow this program, rep-by-rep and week-by-week, you will transform your midsection into the chiseled entity that was once but a dream.
TROY ALVES' REP PSYCHOLOGY
While performing a rep, I'm thinking about being onstage, standing there in full display to an audience of thousands, and my abs are, like, bam! - hitting everyone in the face. My abs are the first thing the crowd sees, and their jaws are dropping, and they're gasping, "Wow!" Then they're looking at the rest of my body to see how it matches up with my abs. That's the effect that goes through my mind as I'm squeezing out every rep. I'm trying to get that dialed-in detailed look, so that everything flows in my physique. Every rep, I'm thinking perfect abs - perfect abs - perfect abs. I believe that if, with every rep, you train to see it that way, it will happen.