Posts Tagged ‘progressive resistance’

Bodybuilding Secrets, the drop set

By STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT

You wanna start at this end?

Drop sets (also known as strip sets and staged sets) are a great tool to incorporate into your strength training routine. For one it is a great way to change up an existing exercise routine that has hit a plateau. But mainly it is a great way to work on muscle endurance and strength. The idea here is to start with a heavy working  weight for a low rep count (4, 6 or 8 for instance) then immediately lighten the weight and continue with reps and so on, this could mean three drops of 6 reps making a drop set of 18 reps, these are the basics of a drop set. Drop sets place extra demands on the cardiovascular system so aerobic fitness is a factor. In a small way you are getting an interval cardiovascular workout while strength training. In order to get the most benefit from drop sets in your workout you should have a personal trainer or even better two training partners to take off the weight, normally while you’re in an extended position, for you as quickly as possible so that you don’t have time to rest between reps. You should not rest until the set is done, there should be nothing left to give.

Example of a drop set
Bent over barbell rows
25lb plate, 10lb plate and 5lb plate on each side (5lb plate on inside)
6 reps with all weight on both sides; no rest
take off the 25lb plates on both sides
8 reps with 10lb and 5lb plate; no rest
take off the 10lb plate on both sides
10 reps or to failure; end of set, then rest, then repeat

You can do this with nearly all exercises, both with free weights and even easier, with machine based exercises. The idea is that you will build muscle using weight of around 80% of your max, muscle endurance is improved due to the high rep count (the example set laid out above accounts for 33 reps in one set). Make sure you rest 1-2 minutes between sets to insure maximum strength gains. Also you are burning fat by cycling your heart rate throughout the set.

Your muscle doesn’t know what weight’s written on the dumb bell

Don’t do drop sets every single day for weeks at a time, you will overtrain. You would typically take  one week out of the month do drop sets for every body part then go back to regular sets for 3 weeks and so on. The rationale behind all this only works if you allow adequate time for recovery, remember recovery is different for everyone and influenced by many different factors. I know one doorman who used to claim that steroids allowed him to recover the same day, whatever. That said, if you break down your muscles with intense exercises techniques and do it right, with correct recovery and diet you WILL see results and fairly safely too!

MY TIP? If you are ready for your third set of an exercise and the previous two were shit,  finish things properly with a heavy drop set, you will know what I mean.

By STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT

 

BODYBUILDING SECRETS REVEALED #7  Six secrets of  the champions

 Edited by STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT

STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT


Six Muscle Building Secrets From The World’s Best Bodybuilders!
By: Daniel Przyojski Oct 11, 2006

The difference between having a well developed physique or looking like a guy that ‘works out once in a while’ is in your applied training knowledge. Here are 6 training secrets from the best. Apply these and see if they work for you!

In my earliest days of being an aspiring bodybuilder, I trained too often and too hard. Believe you me; I trained harder than most top bodybuilding stars. I’m not saying this to brag about myself; in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’m saying this to point out how ignorant I was when it came to applying real life training methods that actually build muscle and not just tear it down. The difference between having a muscular, well developed physique or looking like a guy that “works out once in a while” is in your applied training knowledge. At first I reasoned that going to the gym 5 or 6 times a week was a sure path to building an outstanding physique. After a few fruitless years of weight training at the University of Futile Methods, I discovered 6 powerful muscle building secrets from the WORLD’S BEST BODYBUILDERS. Once I applied this scientifically sound training knowledge to my bodybuilding lifestyle, in 12 month’s time I built more muscle size and strength than in the previous 3 years.

Check and see how many of these 6 secrets you’re applying to your bodybuilding lifestyle!

Secret #1: Stimulate The Muscle Don’t Annihilate It!
This has to be the granddaddy secret of them all. If I had just a dime for every person who gave up weight training because of over training, I would quite possibly be the richest man in the world. I learned this secret from Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman. Here was one of the best bodybuilders that ever lived, and I was doing more sets and reps in my weight training than he was. Ronnie Coleman believes that you should strive to, “Stimulate the muscle, don’t annihilate it.” Once a muscle has been thoroughly stimulated, more sets and reps will just retard growth. Great bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman limit the number of sets and reps per workout, this makes it easier to target your specified muscle and enhance its overall potential. Too many bodybuilders are guilty of “over training.” Most weight lifters just go into the gym and do countless exercises per muscle group and never give a thought to the whatifs or whyfors of the training regime they’ve adopted. It’s that type of approach to training that leads to insignificant gains in muscle mass and overall fitness. To stimulate muscle growth pick 1 or 2 basic exercises per muscle group and perform 4 to 6 all out hard work sets for each exercise. Rep range should be between 6 to 20 reps with all the weight you can safely handle.

Secret #2: Heavy Basic Exercises Build Big Muscles!
Countless sets of concentrated dumbbell curls, preacher curls, cable curls and incline dumbbell curls will not produce half the results that a 6 set weight pyramid of all-out 6 to 20 reps Olympic barbell standing curls will.  My training partner and I were guilty of this crime. The same can be said for the Squat. All out barbell back squats for 6 to 20 reps will produce more muscular size and strength than 50 sets of leg extensions, leg curls, and even leg presses. I learned this important secret from Lee Priest; a man whose training methods of using heavy squats will put slabs of muscle on the most hopelessly skinny guys you have ever seen. Champion bodybuilder Jay Cutler is also a big advocate of big weights with basic exercises. The biggest, strongest, and best-built champions of both past and present always incorporate the squat, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press and bent over rows into their training. You cannot build mighty muscles lifting mini mouse weights. End of story!

Secret #3: Eat Like A Bodybuilder To Look Like A Bodybuilder.
This sounds simple and actually is simple, yet most trainees screw it up

1. Protein. The most important element to the bodybuilder. Protein is for growth, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. One to one and a half grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is recommended. The highest quality proteins are from animal sources i.e. eggs, fish, poultry, and meat and dairy products.
2. Carbohydrates. Raise the blood sugar level and supply the muscles with energy. Best sources of carbohydrates are potatoes, oatmeal, stone ground whole wheat bread and cereals. You should also consume several servings of vegetables every day.
3. Fats. Fats are essential to a good diet as they heat the body and lubricate body parts. They also provide a necessary base for carrying vitamins A, D and E. You can get ample amounts of good fats through your daily diet of fish, eggs, and if needed a tablespoon of olive oil. If you’re trying to build new muscle and keep your body fat at 10 percent or less, you’ll wind up looking like a well defined scarecrow. As Gunter Schlierkamp says, “Eat big and grow big!”

Secret #4: 7 To 9 Hours Of Sleep At Night.
You cannot and will not grow bigger and stronger if you ignore this rule. 7 to 9 hours of sleep is required for the total recuperation and growth of the entire body. Muscular bodybuilders like Chris Cormier and Markus Ruhl are big believers in proper rest. Rest time is when the combination of proper training and eating come together and morph into making bigger, stronger muscles. When you’re at the gym heaving the weights around, you’re actually tearing down the muscle tissue not building it up. When you’re eating the proper amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water, you’re feeding the muscles for growth. But when you’re sleeping the actual growth is taking place. Get your rhythm down, improve your sleeping habits! The average, healthy individual needs to live on a 25 hour cycle, but of course our planet is on a 24 hour cycle. So instead of switching planets, let’s look at what you can do to better understand this.    The body is at rest and can do what it’s meant to do at sleep time, GROW. Power naps throughout the day (15 to 45 minutes of sleep) are also a great way to build up extra energy and give the muscles time to repair and grow. Just remember this, cut your sleep short and you’re cutting your progress short! You have to decide what you want most, late nights out partying with friends or a bodybuilder’s physique that turns heads wherever you go!

Secret #5: Have A Master Plan.
This secret could arguably be the number one ingredient needed to be successful. I learned this secret from the all time bodybuilding great Arnold Schwarzenegger and have never forgotten it. What are our goals and why are we training? Without a master plan you’ll be like a ship at sea with no defined destination and without a rudder to steer yourself. Here is what a master plan consists of. First off, what’s your goal?

1. End Goal. What do you want to be or accomplish? Do you want to win a state or national bodybuilding championship? If so then that is your end goal.
2. Goal Map. This is where you plan out the ways and means of accomplishing your goal and how long it will take you to achieve it. How will you cycle your training, how will you cycle your diet, what supplements will you take, what will you have to give up in order to realize your dream?
3. Take Action. Now this is really the hardest part, taking action and sticking to your plan. You must stay the course until you reach your desired outcome. Neither Arnold nor any other champion bodybuilder would have been successful if they abandoned their master plan after their first setback or failure.

Secret #6: A Winner Never Quits And A Quitter Never Wins!
Remember this very simple phrase and make it a part of your life. When Gunter Schlierkamp defeated Ronnie Coleman some people said he just got lucky. A lucky break or successful event in life is nothing more than being physically and mentally prepared to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes your way. Think and act like a champion and you’ll be one!

Power Health Always,
Dan Przyojski
Email: dan@powerhealthproducts.com

BODYBUILDING SECRETS REVEALED #7  Six secrets of  the champions Edited by STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT

Is Functional Strength Training Rubbish?

MODERN TRENDS IN PERSONAL TRAINING

By STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT Qualified

Is functional training a viable addition to traditional strength training?

Over recent years functional training has been touted as the gold standard for developing strength and athleticism. Unfortunately, a lot of this is due to some misguided theories and assumptions rather than actual results. Some would have you believe that in order to be a disciple of functional training you must:

1. Exclude most single-joint exercises
2. Avoid split routines
3. Avoid the use of machines
4. Have a strong dislike for bodybuilding!

Functional” coaches promote the delusion that progressive resistance methods are only useful for aesthetic purposes. However, this stance is not supported by research or empirical evidence. The word “functional” in the strength training arena is vague and causes much confusion for trainers and clients alike. We can define the word functional as:
*Of or serving a function
*Designed or intended to be practical rather than attractive
Resistance Training manuals generally define “functional” exercise as:
*Exercise that improves one’s tolerance or performance of work, daily life or sport.

Eliminating single-joint exercises has become commonplace with functional trainers due to an incorrect assumption that they and or machine exercises will ruin performance. It is programme design and loading parameters of training that determines the benefit of an exercise.

“A client who participates in rowing requires great pulling strength. Top strength coaches agree that the limiting factor in a primary movement like pulling, is a weak link; a weak muscle. If the biceps are weak in comparison to the lats, then incorporating arm flexion (single-joint) exercises into the programme will improve pulling strength and thus performance in the sport. Select exercises based on the client’s goals and needs, not on the genre of training you support.”

Below, Erik Minor challenges the arguments created by the functional training establishment.
Argument 1:
Functional exercises are natural and single-joint (isolation) exercises are unnatural.
An exercise is natural if it obeys the laws of joint mechanics, neurophysiology, and the limits of soft tissue. All exercises have risks and benefits, it is imprecise to label any exercise as “good” or “bad”. The risk is determined by how far you stray from optimal joint mechanics, how much load is used, and how often. An exercise is valuable if it contributes to the overall improvement of a desired motor pattern. For example, let’s say you’ve recovered from a hamstring injury and now you want to strengthen the weak leg. The most efficient way to recover the lost strength and muscle mass on the injured leg is to perform unilateral single joint exercises. You will achieve more motor unit activation by isolating the movement pattern. Once the hamstring is at a desired strength level, bilateral exercises can be added. There really is no such thing as isolation exercise because single joint exercise requires isometric stabilization of the support muscles. So, single joint exercise could be called iso-metric or iso-kinetic exercise. During a standing biceps curl, the shoulder girdle and core musculature must contract iso-metrically to maintain body position.

Argument 2: Functional exercises are better than single joint exercise for injury prevention.
Other than acute trauma caused by impact, muscle imbalances and faulty movement patterns are major causes for muscle and joint injury. When an individual has weak muscles within a movement pattern, the body will compensate by avoiding the weakness, especially during complex movements such as running, jumping, squats, Olympic lifts, chin-ups and shoulder presses. Repeated exposure to faulty movement patterns can result in pain and joint dysfunction. It has been said, and I agree that you are only as healthy as your joints. The best way to address faulty movement patterns (not caused by a medical condition) is to pinpoint the weak muscles, strengthen with single-joint exercises, and then re-educate the muscular chain with compound exercise. Greg Roskopf, founder of the soft-tissue therapy called Muscle Activation Technique, states, “Functional Training will only reinforce the bad compensatory patterns if the weak links are not first identified and eliminated.” Functional training can be especially problematic for athletes since most have experienced injury during their careers. Correcting muscular imbalances and weakness should be the first priority when training anyone.

Argument 3: Functional exercise is more sports-specific than single-joint exercise.
Unless you are a weightlifter, power lifter, or strongman, there are no sports-specific exercises. The only sports-specific training is the actual sport movement, also known as practice. The sports-specific move for shot-putters is shot putting, for a rower it’s rowing and so on. The real question is whether the strength acquired will transfer to the prime movement of the sport. Transfer of strength is a better indicator of an exercises value. All strength training performed in a gym is “artificial,” but even “artificial” exercise can contribute to improved performance. Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. performed several studies on the effects of machine based strength training on golf driving performance. All 77 participants improved their driving power (average 3.4 mph increase). This reinforces the fact that even machine-based strength can improve performance. Take two individuals with equal skill, body structure, size, and experience; make one athlete 25% stronger in the prime movers of their sport. The stronger individual is now the superior athlete.

Conclusion
A trainer must utilize the best tools available to achieve the goal. Don’t eliminate exercises because they don’t fit into a particular genre. Evaluate every exercise, piece of equipment, and gadget for its efficacy at achieving the desired result. Be practical in your approach and recognize the complexity involved in manipulating the human body.

Adapted from The “Functional” Training Delusion By Erick Minor
Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 | Dynamic Barbell Club

It’s not called personal training simply because it’s one on one. It’s supposed to be personalized to suit the individual, and personalized training has to be so much more than exercise selection and program design.

SIX WEEKS TO A BIGGER CHEST

(I would recommend waiting till you’re an intermediate or veteran before using pyramid sets because the stress to your system can be challenging and overtraining can become a real issue. STEVEN MILNER IIST VTCT Qualified)

Grow your chest in six weeks with little more than heavy weight and basic tools
By Jim Ryno

When your goal is to build bigger pecs as soon as possible, getting creative with exercise selection is not only unnecessary, but in most cases counterproductive. Machines certainly have their place in a hypertrophy routine, but anyone who tells you he got a big chest by doing only the pec deck is either lying or selling a pec deck. Adding size requires focusing on the most basic lifting equipment in the gym: barbells, dumbbells and benches.

The following six-week chest-building routine has you training the pecs twice a week and hitting the muscles from top to bottom with incline, flat-bench and decline exercises – four of them free weight pressing moves and one cable flye thrown in as a burnout finisher. The reps top out at 10 to encourage heavier weights and promote hypertrophy, and volume bumps up to 16 sets per workout in weeks 4-6 to maximize mass. Nothing fancy, nothing cute. Just simple and effective.

CHEST BUILDING ROUTINE
Perform twice a week with 2-3 days between chest workouts.

Weeks 1-3
EXERCISE

Bench Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.
Incline Barbell Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.
Dumbbell Decline Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.
Decline Barbell Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.

Weeks 4-6
EXERCISE

Dumbbell Decline Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.
Bench Press; 4 sets, 10, 8, 6, 6 reps.
Incline Barbell Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.
Decline Barbell Press; 3 sets, 10, 8, 6 reps.
Incline Cable Flye; 3 sets, 10, 10, 10 reps.

Power of the Pyramid
Perform all pressing exercises with a pyramiding rep scheme. On your first working set, choose a weight that allows you to reach 10 reps, then increase weight on each successive set so that you can only do eight reps on your second set and six reps on your third (and fourth, where applicable).

This article appears on the Muscle and Fitness site

arnie shouldersTHE SPECIFICS OF SHOULDER TRAINING

By Steven Milner

All progressive resistance exercises for the shoulders involve lifting the arm. But although the result is a lifting of the arm, the actual action involved is rotation of the shoulder joint. With few exceptions, all movements are the result of the rotary movements of one or more joints. When you know which joints are involved and what they are doing, you will be able to understand the mechanics of individual exercises and how to do them correctly. The shoulder joint is the most mobile and most vulnerable joint in the body, being able to rotate the arm through a full 360 degrees. The movement of the shoulder is controlled by the deltoids, of which there are three, the front or anterior, side or lateral and rear or posterior deltoids or delts. These muscles, working individually and in combination, have one basic function: they abduct the arm away from the body.

There are two basic types of shoulder exercises; presses, where the arms are lifted using a combination of the shoulder and elbow joint, and raises where the arms are raised up and away from the body in front, behind or sides using only the motion of the shoulder joint itself.
Presses are compound exercises, since they use more than one joint and muscle. You can move more weight with presses because you have a leverage advantage and more muscle is involved, so presses have the edge when it comes to building maximum mass and strength.
Raises, or laterals, are isolation exercises as they involve only the shoulder joint and no other muscles than the deltoids. Laterals are excellent for working and shaping the individual heads of the deltoids and can be done, more or less to the front, side and rear to stress specific areas of the shoulder muscles.

I’ll talk you through some of the different shoulder exercises and offer some suggestions as to how to get the best from them. Of course this article only covers the basics, there are many variations. Remember though, no matter what the movement, focus on what the shoulder joint is doing, feel the muscles working and keep the exercises strict to encourage growth and limit the risk of injury. It takes time and skill to isolate the deltoids as a group and special attention to target individual deltoid heads.

PRESSES
Presses can be done using a barbell, dumbbells or with various types of machines and cables. In all cases, you begin by holding the weight at about shoulder height, palms facing forward, elbows underneath for support. The exercise is performed by lifting straight up overhead, pausing at the top, then lowering the weight back, under control, to the starting position.

Doing presses with a barbell or machine, your hands are locked into place. This tends to somewhat limit the amount of rotation of the shoulder joint compared to pressing with dumbbells. Depending on the equipment involved, you can position your hands further apart or closer together to hit the shoulders from a variety of angles. In general, the closer together your hands are placed the more involvement there is from the triceps; the further apart your hands, the less triceps are involved.

Another way of looking at this is by thinking in terms of the elbow joint. The longer the range of motion of the elbow the more it bends and straightens the more the triceps become part of the exercise. When the elbows are less involved, so are the triceps less involved. As above, so below.

BARBELL PRESSES
Barbell presses can be done to the front, as in the military press or with the bar behind the neck for presses behind the neck, oddly enough.

Military Press: From a standing position, clean the weight (lifting it with a reverse curl movement) or take the bar off a rack holding it with a palms forward grip and hold it across the upper chest. Press the bar upward, locking out the elbows on top, and then lower the weight, under control, back to the starting position, watch your face!

Press Behind the Neck: Position the bar across the back of the neck, holding it palms forward. Press the bar upward, locking out the elbows on top, and then lower the weight under control back to the starting position. This can be performed either seated or standing Don’t rest or drop the weight on your neck it’s just stupid.

DUMBBELL PRESSES
Dumbbell presses can be done standing, seated on a flat bench or on a bench that gives you back support.

Clean the dumbbells, or have a training partner pass them to you, and hold them at shoulder height about level with your ears just outside of your shoulders on each side, palms facing forward. The most common way to do this exercise is to press the weights straight up overhead without locking out the elbows, and then lower the dumbbells under control back to the starting position.

There is a twist on this movement, bear in mind that the action of the shoulders is rotation. Hold a pair of dumbbells level with your ears just outside your shoulders and then press them up in an arc over your head, before the dumbbells come together at the top rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing, then bring them down in a similar arc to the starting position. Using dumbbells rather than a barbell means your hands are not locked into position, and lifting them in an arc, similar to dumbbell flyes for chest, allows for extending the range of motion of the exercise.

Shoulder press bottomshoulder mid pressshoulder press top

MACHINE PRESSES
It doesn’t matter what type of machine you use, the basic action of pressing against resistance overhead recruits the delts and extends the triceps during the range of movement. Concentrating on how much rotation you’re getting from the shoulder joint during the movement and how much the elbow is involved will give you a good idea of exactly what kind of movement the machine is allowing you to do. Remember, in most cases machines don’t allow for building as much mass and strength but often allow you to do a stricter movement and in some cases work through a longer range of motion. One negative aspect of machine presses is that they don’t allow for strengthening all the support tissue around the joint to the degree that is possible with free weights.

LATERALS
Laterals involve lifting the arms up and out to the side with the arms kept more-or-less straight so that there is no involvement als can be performed using dumbbells, cables and various kinds of machines.

side lateral shoulder raisesSide Laterals: Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand hanging down by your side, palms facing inward. Lift your arms out to each side, elboof the elbow joint or the triceps. You can do laterals to the front, side or rear although each of the techniques involved varies with the delt head being targeted. Laterws slightly bent, until the weights are level with the top of your head. Pause at the top, and then lower the weights under control back to the starting position.

You’ll see bodybuilders starting with the weights held together in front of them, using fairly heavy dumbbells and then swinging the weights up to either side so that momentum helps with the lift. This kind of cheating can be useful for advanced bodybuilders, but it can easily get out of hand and diminish rather than increase intensity. So be wary of using this technique.

Front Laterals: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, hanging down at arm’s length in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Lift one arm forward and up and bring it toward the middle, palm remaining downward, bringing the weight up toward the middle helps isolate the front deltoid, but opinions vary. Raise the dumbbell so that its directly in front of you and slightly higher than the top of your head, pause for a moment at the top, then lower it under control back to the starting position. Repeat using the other dumbbell. This movement is usually done by alternating arms but can also be done lifting both dumbbells or a bar at the same time.

Rear Laterals: Bend over at the waist with a dumbbell in each hand at arms length below you, palms facing inward. Keeping your body steady, lift the dumbbells out and up to both sides and slightly forward so that the weights end up beside your ears rather than back even with your shoulders. This keeps the focus on the rear delts and away from the side delts. Pronate the weights by rotating your thumbs down slightly. Lift as high as you can, pause at the top, then lower the weights under control back to the starting position.

Cable Laterals: The three basic types of laterals can be done using a cable and handle attached to a low pulley and in some cases two such cables and handles.

Cable Side Lateral Raises: This can be done to the side with the pulley beside you and the lift going straight up or with the cable on the other side with the cable crossing over in front of your body as you do the lift.
Cable Front Laterals Raises: Perform the lateral raises to the front with the pulley located behind you. You can use individual handles for this movement or both hands together holding a short bar.
Cable Rear Lateral Raises: Lean down and grasp a “D” handle with the pulley  on the opposite side of the arm you’re using and pull away and up from the low pulley station, much as you would with dumbbells or you can use two pulleys, one on either side in a crossover fashion doing both arms at once.

UPRIGHT ROWS
Upright rows involve lifting a barbell or handle attached to a low pulley cable up in front of you to hit the front deltoids. Stand holding the bar with an overhand grip arms length down in front of you, hands about shoulder width apart. Lift the bar up leading with your elbows, pass the bar close to your body, pause the bar for a moment at a position just below your chin, then lower the bar under control to the starting position.

MACHINE LATERALS
There are a variety of machines that allow you to do side lateral exercises and a few with which you can target the rear delts. The basic movements have to be the same, no matter the equipment used, if the target muscles are going to be trained. Read the instructions posted on individual machines for more information or ask a gym employee. Have you heard me say that a personal trainer is worth his or her weight in gold and a committed training partner is a diamond? Well they come in really handy when you’re doing shoulders believe you me.

BODYBUILDING SECRETS REVEALED #5  6 tips for better ab training

By Steven Milner 

Tip 1 Don’t eat too many fast-digesting carbohydrates. Fast carbs spike insulin, which affects fat-burning and fat storage, particularly on top of your abs. Carbs to limit are white bread, white potatoes, pop, sports drinks, table sugar, etc. Instead, try whole grain, rye or “best of both” breads, porridge, sweet potatoes, fruits, leaf and root vegetables, brown rice and so on. One exception here: You can eat fast-digesting carbs right after your workout when they’ll be put to work boosting muscle recovery and growth.

Tip 2 Don’t neglect isometrics or continuous tension techniques, this means flexing a body part, in this case the abs, and holding that position for an extended period of time (a bit like a bodybuilder posing). To do this, tense your abs for 6–10 seconds, then relax for 6–10 seconds. Repeat for 10–20 sets. This is a great way to hit your abs while sitting in your car, on your couch or at your desk. I’ll be posting a technique specifically aimed at flattening a tummy (not just for ladies) that uses this principle in isolation. Transverse abdominal crunches coming soon.

Tip 3 Don’t neglect your breathing. When performing an ab exercise such as the crunch, exhale when you reach the finish or top position. This is important because it helps you better contract your abs. Contracting the abs in the position of greatest resistance for a second or two will maximize muscle-fibre involvement.

Tip 4 Generally we train in specific rep ranges, such as 8–10 or 12–15 reps per set. You can and should train your abs in this rep range and add weight (i.e. a plate held across your chest) to keep the progressive resistance going. Many people worry that if they do weighted ab exercises, their abs will become thick and blocky. Abs are muscles just like biceps, so they need definition and separation to stand out, try weighted movements in the 8–10-rep range for optimal ab development.

Tip 5 Don’t do abs first. Some trainers recommend that you begin your workout with ab training to make sure you don’t skip it. This isn’t always true. Recent studies have found that when trained lifters did abs before legs in a squat workout, they completed fewer reps of squats than when they trained abs after the squat workout. This is because the abs, obliques and transverse abdominis work together to stabilize the core, which allows you to produce greater force. Training abs first fatigues them, which lessens your core stability and weakens your base, as well as your ability to generate force.

Tip 6 Don’t train abs always at the same speed, change up your rep speed from slow and smooth to fast and explosive, allowing you to utilize more fast-twitch muscle fibres to build more power, strength and size. According to new research from Spain, scientists tested the muscle activity of subjects’ rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, and spinal erectors while they did crunches at rep speeds of four seconds, two seconds, 1.5 seconds, one second or as fast as possible. They reported in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research that as the rep speed increased, so did the activity of all four muscles. The greatest boost occurred in subjects’ external obliques, which were hardly involved in the crunch at slower speeds but increased by more than six times at the fastest speed. So don’t fail to vary your rep speed. The fast reps will help recruit more muscle fibres in the midsection and turn the crunch into an excellent oblique exercise.