ABDOMINAL TRAINING WITH ANDREAS CAHLING
as told to Irene L. Hause
Muscle Mag International
Perhaps more than other muscle groups, the change in abdominal training methods has been the most dramatic. The reason is simple – gone are the days when all a bodybuilder needed was a firm midsection. Now trophy-winning bodybuilder’s abdominals must be exceedingly well developed, with sharp definition between each muscle. In addition, the intercostals and obliques must be clearly defined and show good tie-ins.
And you won’t get that look from doing only conventional high repetition ab work. To get those “washboard abs,” you must work them like any other muscle group – with weights.
In my own ab routine, I combine the two training methods. The reason that I continue to include the high rep work is that it creates muscles of endurance, which serve as a strong protective shield for the internal organs.
I start off with Roman chair sit-ups to stretch and warm up the muscle group. This exercise was in disfavor for many years because it had caused many lower back injuries. But the source of that problem has been very easily corrected – now Roman chair sit-ups are done by leaning only half-way back instead of all the way back. With that simple modification in technique, it’s a great exercise for the upper abs. On the upward part of the movement, I blow out hard and concentrate on crunching my torso. To keep constant tension on my abs throughout the exercise, I never sit up completely straight.
Now that the easy part is over, I’m ready for weighted sit-ups. I position a sit-up board at the steepest angle possible, hold a weight plate to my chest – I’m presently using 45 pounds – and lock my feet into position. Sit-ups work the entire abdominal area, and by doing a few reps twisted instead of straight up and down, I also work my intercostals.
I do crunches next. Although it takes considerable practice to be able to do crunches consistently correct, there’s no better exercise for the upper abs. It’s a difficult movement to explain, so study the photos carefully if you’re unfamiliar with the proper technique. Lying on your back on a flat bench, place your feet against the uprights of a bench press rack. Slide your hips forward toward your feet until your thighs and chest form a 45 degree angle. Then place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointed slightly forward. Now that you are in position, you must remember to do several things at the same time. Raise your shoulders and hips off the bench simultaneously, while at the same time crunching your torso by pulling your shoulders toward your hips. This isn’t quite as hard as it sounds because you will be blowing all of the air out of your lungs on each upward movement to allow for maximum contraction of your abs. As with sit-ups, I do a few reps twisted alternately from side to side to get the maximum benefit from this exercise.
Now that I have given my upper abs a good workout, I concentrate on my lower abs by doing both weighted and unweighted bench leg raises. Lie face up on a flat bench with your hips at the edge. Brace yourself by holding onto the bench behind your head. Then bend your knees at about a 30 degree angle, cross your ankles, and very slowly and deliberately move your legs up and down. At the low point your feet should be well below the bench, and at the high point your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor. Keep your abs as tight as you can throughout the movement and don’t stop until they are burning! I have just started doing with this a dumbbell held between my feet, and I feel that when done with weight this exercise will give me a clearer line of definition between my lower abs and obliques.
My last exercise is hanging leg raises, which I usually do twisting one side to the other, alternating with each rep. This is the most difficult exercise in my ab routine because you must time your movement precisely so you won’t swing back and forth as you raise and lower your legs. Hang from a chinning bar high enough that your feet don’t touch the floor. Keep your knees very slightly bent to keep strain off your lower back. Next, bend at the waist to raise your legs until they are slightly higher than even with the floor. Lower very slowly, under tension. This is an excellent exercise for the entire ab section, but in particular for the lower abs and obliques. If, after considerable practice, you still have trouble with your legs swinging back and forth, have your training partner steady you by holding his hand in the small of your back.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I avoid weighted side bends. In my opinion, they thicken the waist in an unflattering way and may be the reason that some bodybuilders’ obliques look disproportionate to the rest of their midsection.
Since the method of doing the Roman chair sit-up has been modified, I have yet to hear of a bodybuilder getting a serious injury while doing abdominal work. But it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, especially now that increasingly heavy weights are coming into common use for ab training.
So remember my advice: Use common sense when training! Heed your body’s warning signals and don’t push the “no pain, no gain” theory too far.
When you’re standing in the lineup, you can show your abs to the best advantage by standing tall and tensing your abs while crunching them together. This will take some practice!
Another ab pose, which also takes considerable practice, is the vacuum. A vacuum pose can look very impressive because your thin waist will dramatically contrast with your (hopefully) wide set of shoulders!
There is no easy way to do a vacuum. You must gradually build up your ability to do it. If you try to do it on stage without proper training, you’re up for a fainting attack! Exhale completely, suck in your waistline, and hold it. Practice the vacuum faithfully every day so you can do it without looking like you are going to explode any second.
Now that you’ve got those washboard abs, you should be sure to choose posing trunks that show off your body type to the best advantage. The first consideration is torso length. It should determine whether or not you select high- or low-cut posing trunks. For example, a bodybuilder with a long torso should select high-cut trunks to create the illusion of a more proportionate torso length.
Next, you must take a look at your thigh definition. If you have high lines of definition, you should pick trunks with a high leg cut. Otherwise, stick with the more standard trunks.
Your third option is color. Being blond, I personally prefer red or blue. Use your own judgment, in combination with the opinions of your friends, when selecting the color most flattering to you.
Unless you are presenting a posing exhibition, stay away from those glittery, multi-colored posing trunks! Believe me, they do nothing for you but distract the judges and cause them to question your taste and judgment. Nothing should detract from your physique – so if you’re going to be a serious competitive bodybuilder, avoid those flashy trunks!
In conclusion, I’d like to say that although genetics play a large part in determining what you can or cannot do with your abs, you must remember that no other body part is more sensitive to diet! You could have the best developed abs in the world, but without the proper diet to control for puffiness and fat you might as well not even bother to train them.
Trained Twice a Week
Roman Chair Sit-ups, 1 set, 80-100 reps
Weighted Sit-ups on Decline Board, 1 set, 15-20 reps
Crunches, 1 set, 60-75 reps
Bench Leg Raises, 1 set, 60-70 reps
Weighted Bench Leg Raises, 1 set, 15-20 reps
Hanging Leg Raises, 1 set, 30-50 reps
Note by neckberg: The above article was sent by Irene Hause to me. Thanks again for your effort. Use my great Tag-System and click ‘Irene Hause’ for more great articles!!
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