Best Workouts for Abs To Get A Six Pack (Updated July 2019)

Best Workout for Abs

Abs are Shown in the Kitchen but Made in the Gym

Abdominals are shown in the kitchen but made in the gym. Against popular belief, the abdominals are like any other muscle group. Therefore, they need to be trained, rested and recovered like any other muscle. Training your abdominals every day will not get you abs — in fact, it may hinder them!

image @ www.doctorshealthpress.com

However, your abdominals are a collection of smaller muscles. These muscles can, therefore, be isolated and trained separately, and the recovery time for any one group is significantly less than your major muscles. Abdominals can be trained directly up to three times a week, every other day. They’re also indirectly trained through big lifts, such as the deadlift and squat. This is how abdominals are “made in the gym.”

To actually see your hard-earned six-pack, though, is where “shown in the kitchen” comes in. Typically, abdominals can only be seen at a strikingly low body fat percentage. For most people, this level of body fat is neither healthy nor maintainable year-round. But eating a balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, good fats, and whole grains can help to make those little abdominal nuggets pop from time to time.

The Best Tactics — TUT

Okay, so you’re eating well. Now, how do you train your abdominals?

As I’ve said, abs are like any other muscle group. Training them requires more than hundreds of body weight crunches and thirty-second planks. Instead, your abdominal muscles require weighted tension — the same you’d apply to your legs or chest.

image @ www.seannal.com

The best tactic for building your abdominals is “time under tension.” Simply, Time Under Tension (TUT) is how long the muscle is underweighted strain during a set. The longer the TUT, the longer the muscle is active and contracting. And the longer the muscle is active, the more it can tear.

There are plenty of ways to increase TUT during a workout. The most effective way is to decrease your rest periods in between sets. This ensures that the muscle is generating enough energy to perform the next set, but not so much that it loses its contraction. Another way is to go until “failure”, or when your body physically cannot perform another repetition with good form. Both tactics are excellent ways for increasing TUT.

And since the abdominals are such a small muscle group, they can recuperate fairly quickly. This allows for shorter rest periods, enabling longer TUT.

The Best Exercises

I’m going to let you in on a secret: crunches don’t do much. They’re publicized everywhere because they’re easy and convenient. However, they also don’t supply much tension to the abdominals. There are better exercises that can increase TUT and decrease training time so that you’re not performing hundreds of crunches just to feel the burn.

Cable Crunches

I know what you’re thinking. I literally just said crunches don’t do jack squat, and now I’m saying do crunches. However, these crunches are performed with a cable and can add tens to hundreds of pounds of tension directly to the abdominals. They also target both the upper and lower abdominal regions, making them far superior to conventional crunches.

Perform the exercise by:

  1. Set a cable machine up with a rope attachment, and pin the appropriate weight.
  2. Grab the rope handles in both hands and place it behind your neck.
  3. Pull the rope down as you kneel about eight inches away from the cable. Keep your gaze pointed down and your back straight.
  4. Bring your elbows down to your thighs while keeping your back straight and core tight.
    1. Do not sink into your heels! This takes the pressure off the abs.
    2. Make sure to bring your elbows in so you can crunch your abdominals. Don’t just hinge at the hips!
  5. Slowly bring the rope back up to the kneeling position and repeat.
  6. Perform four sets of 8-10 repetitions.

Leg Raises

Leg raises are a great exercise to target the lower abdominals. The trick is to pull from the core, not the feet. Pulling your body up from the feet takes the pressure of the core entirely. Instead, you’re using the momentum of the feet to complete the movement. Make sure your core is tight as you pull your legs up — you’ll feel the burn for sure!

These can also be performed with ankle weights for an added boost.

Perform this exercise by:

  1. Lay flat on a mat or bench while holding onto a rail behind your head.
  2. Brace your core and pull your legs up until they’re perpendicular to the floor.
    1. Your feet should remain on your chest and not your head! Bringing your feet too far back will relocate the pressure to the upper back and not the core.
  3. Hold the upward position for a beat, then slowly lower your legs back down.
  4. Keep your feet an inch from the ground to ensure TUT, then repeat.
  5. Perform four sets of 10 repetitions.

Russian Twists

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Russian Twists are a great exercise for targeting the obliques, or the side abdominals. They can also be modified to fit multiple fitness levels. This adjustment can be made by raising or lowering the feet, which adds tension to the core. Work on your stability to progress to the harder levels! You can also hold a dumbbell for added tension.

Perform this exercise by:

  1. Sit on a mat with your legs bent at forty-five degrees, heels on the floor.
    1. To make it harder, take your heels off the floor until your shins are parallel to the mat.
  2. Lean back so that your body is at a forty-five-degree angle. Keep your back straight and your core tight!
  3. Either hold a dumbbell or clasp your hands into a ball in line with your mid-chest.
  4. Focus on an object in front of you so that your upper body doesn’t move. Then rotate your hands (or the dumbbell) from side to side. Try to bring your elbow to your hip.
  5. Hold the ending position for a beat, then slowly reverse back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This is one repetition.
  6. Perform four sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Bicycle Crunches

image @ www.hiitacademy.com

I know, another crunch. And I also know that you’ve heard of these before. You’ve probably done them, too. But I can bet that you’ve also been doing them incorrectly.

The key with bicycle crunches is to perform the exercise slowly. You’re not Lance Armstrong riding a marathon, you’re trying to keep tension on your core. Performing the exercise too quickly takes that pressure off because form fails. Instead, move through each repetition slowly and feel the burn!

These can also be performed with ankle weights for an added boost.

Perform this exercise by:

  1. Lay flat on your back, hands laced behind your head.
    1. Don’t lace your fingers behind your neck! This causes it to strain upwards and put tension on your spine, not core.
  2. Draw your legs up until they’re at ninety degrees. Lift your chest and shoulder blades off of the floor.
  3. Slowly bring one elbow to the opposite knee without moving your upper back off of the floor.
    1. Pro tip: Make eye contact with something in front of you. This helps to prevent too much movement in the upper body!
  4. Slowly release back to the starting position, then repeat on the other side. This is one repetition.
  5. Perform four sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Hanging Leg Raise

Hanging leg raises are a bit more advanced than floor work because they require more core strength. It combines stability work with crunches, which definitely increases TUT.

These can be performed either on a pull-up bar for maximum stability or on an assisted hanging leg raise machine. You can also throw on ankle weights for an added boost.

Perform this exercise by:

  1. Place your arms on the machine pads and your back flat against the machine. Hold the handles to make sure you don’t move!
  2. Brace your core and bring your knees up to your chest.
    1. You can also perform an L-sit, where your legs remain parallel to the floor and ninety degrees to your body (see above photo).
  3. Hold the top of the movement for a beat, then release back down.
  4. For a full-on hanging leg raise, hold the handles of the pull-up bar. Perform the exercise in the same way but keep your upper body locked. Then release the feet back down to the starting position.
  5. Perform four sets of 10 repetitions.

 

Now, these are just some basic core exercises. The trick to training core is to make sure that you’re hitting all regions — upper, lower, middle, and the obliques. Training abs up to three times a week can help ensure this, as well as incorporating one movement for each muscle group.

A strong core is imperative. In fact, it’s your number one stabilizer. Big lifts — such as deadlifts and squats — can be hindered if you don’t have a strong core. So take the time to really focus on growing that foundation for not only that six-pack, for overall performance improvement!

Creatine Supplements: The Hows and Whys (Updated July 2019)

Creatine Supplements

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body. For short bursts of bodily stresses, such as exercise, the ATP-PCr Pathway is recruited. In this case, “PCr” stands for phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate). More specifically, the ingredient is released to help aid cellular function. The more creatine available to the muscles, the more can be released to adapt to stressors.

image @ www.rackcdn.com

How to Take Creatine

Food and Supplements

The ingredient can be found in some foods, such as eggs, meat, and fish. However, the amount in these foods is not normally enough to make significant differences in our energy pathways. Instead, ingredient can be supplemented into the diet in either powder or pill form.

image @ www.t-nation.com

There are also several different types of it available, but the cheapest and most abundant is creatine monohydrate. Creatine Monohydrate is normally sold in powder form and is mixed with water.

 

The body already makes enough for the average person, so quickly doubling that amount can lead to bloating, diarrhea, or nausea. Instead, a loading phase is necessary. When first adding a creatine supplement to your diet, start with 0.3g/kg of body weight for 5-7 days. Then, slowly increase by 0.03g/kg per day for about three weeks. The prescribed amount is typically 5-10g per day, depending on your size.

The only difference for the amount of creatine to take depends on your gender. Because males typically hold more muscle mass than females, they can ingest closer to 10g per day. Women, on the other hand, stay closer to 5g per day.

But be Warned!

It should also be taken with ample amounts of water. Creatine monohydrate is generally ingested by dissolving in water (don’t straight shoot it), but drinking enough water throughout the day is also imperative. Without, stomach cramping and bloating can occur.

If you take too much at one time, then diarrhea and nausea may occur. If this happens, spread out your 5-10g over the course of the whole day. The benefits will still occur, just without the nasty side effects.

Creatine Benefits

There are plenty of benefits to taking creatine daily. These benefits also apply to both men and women and can happen while taking 5g, 10g, or any amount in between per day.

  1. Increase Muscle Creatine Content — This one is self-explanatory. As you take in more creatine, your muscles are capable of holding more creatine.
  2. Increase Power Output — Because the ATP-PCR Pathway is recruited for power movements, increasing the muscle’s creatine load will also increase its power output. This is most handy for “fight or flight” movements initiated by the sympathetic nervous system, or for intense exercise (sprinting, powerlifting, etc.)
  3. Increase Weight — This is mainly from water retention. However, overall weight can increase as muscle density and strength increase. It is also linked to an increase in lean body mass. However, more studies show a weight gain due to water retention than lean mass.

    image @ www.zazozh.com
  4. Increase Hydration — When you start to ingest more creatine monohydrate, you need to drink more water. By doing this, your daily water consumption will increase, and you will become more hydrated. Huzzah!
  5. Increase Anaerobic Capacity & VO2 Max — Daily ingestion has been linked to minor increases in anaerobic capacity. The ATP-PCr Pathway is utilized without the aid of oxygen, so strengthening this system will help increase anaerobic capacity in most athletes. Increased creatine will also lead to more oxygen that can be taken up by the muscle. This leads to increased muscular capacity, which is beneficial for intense exercise.
  6. Decrease Fatigue / Increase Muscular Endurance — It is linked to increased energy production in muscle cells. With an increase in creatine phosphate in the body, the muscles will have an increased energy store. Thus, the muscles are capable of completing more work and the time to fatigue increases.
  7. Decrease Muscular Damage — As the muscles increase anaerobic capacity, they also become more capable of doing work. They become more efficient, thus decreasing their chances of injury.
  8. Increase Testosterone — Muscles require testosterone to grow and function. An increase in muscular capacity will increase serum testosterone in the body.
  9.  Increase Glycogen Resynthesis — Glycogen Resynthesis is the time required by the muscles to replenish glycogen stores. By increasing your daily intake, your muscles become more efficient at replenishing their glycogen stores. This makes them fatigue more slowly and increases their capacity for work.

    image @ www.s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

In all, it is a powerful and highly beneficial supplement to add to your daily regimen. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most cost-effective supplements available to date and has more than enough benefits to make up the price. However, remember to slowly increase your intake and to drink plenty of fluids while supplementing with it . Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!

Best Supplements for Fat Loss (Updated July 2019)

Best Supplements for Fat Loss

Best Supplements for Fat Loss

When trying to lose weight, there is always the debate of supplements. Mostly, are they needed, how much, and what types are best. However, supplements are not the king of fat loss. This notion goes against a lot of popular opinions. In fact, supplements are never wholly needed. They are there to supplement the diet, not the other way around.

 

Fat loss is the simple equation of calories in versus calories out. Or, in other words, how many calories you burn in one day versus how many you consume. So let’s say that your daily intake is around 1,700 calories. This is how much it takes to maintain your current physique. If you eat less than 1,700kcal. that day, say 1,500, you are in a 200kcal. deficit. Over a period of time, that can add up to 1,000kcal. in a week, and 4,000kcal. in a month. Overall, you’d lose approximately 1lbs. of body fat per month, since one pound of body fat is 3,500kcal.

Now, let’s say that you ate an extra 200kcal. per day instead. Over time, you would be in a surplus of 1,000kcal. per day and 4,000kcal. per month. So overall, you’d gain approximately 1lbs. of body fat per month.

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Fat loss or gain can be done without the aid of supplements. Can supplements help? Of course. There are certain supplements that aid in metabolism and fat store utilization. They are not, however, essential to losing overall body fat. That simply comes from a negative caloric intake over a long period of time.

Disclaimer!

Let’s not be rash about this caloric deficit, though. Cutting your calories by 500kcal. or more per day takes a huge toll on the body. Every day the body is dependent on the amount of food you eat. If your body maintains around a certain number of calories, then drastically cutting this energy intake slows your essential bodily systems.

The body, after a few days or weeks of this deficit, will go into Starvation Mode. This attitude is the shutting down of any bodily system that does not have the direct purpose of keeping you alive. Some processes that are affected are:

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  1. Blood circulation slows
  2. Body temperature decreases
  3. Sex drive decreases
  4. Sex hormone production stalls
  5. The decrease in bone growth and density
  6. Slowed digestion/metabolism
  7. Drying skin
  8. Hair thinning
  9. Disrupted sleep

Make sure that when utilizing a caloric deficit that you do so with the help of a professional. Bodybuilding and/or strength coaches, a nutritionist or dietician, or your doctor can help to set the right deficit for you if losing weight is a priority! (source linked here.)

The Best Fat Burning Supplements

There are a few key players that can aid in fat loss. While a strong diet is key, there are some supplements that will aid metabolism or help the body utilize fat storages for energy.

L-Carnitine

image @ www.beautifulwithbrains.com

L-Carnitine aids the mitochondria in improved energy production. During normal energy synthesis, the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the body, providing energy to the cells. L-Carnitine helps to decrease the effects of aging on mitochondria. It also increases the mitochondria’s fat-burning potential. Lastly, it’s also used as a stimulant, similar to caffeine.

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L-Carnitine can be found in many forms, including:

  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), which is used for cognitive enhancement
  • L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (LCLT), which is used for power output during physical activity
  • Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC), which is used for blood circulation

This increase in mitochondrial energy also helps to boost brain power in some subjects, while giving others elongated energy. In fact, L-Carnitine’s main calling card is increased energy. (source linked here.) L-Carnitine gets this increased energy from the body’s fat stores. After being freed, the fatty acids are shuffled along to the mitochondria by L-Carnitine and utilized as oxidative energy.

L-Carnitine can be supplemented daily in doses ranging from 500-2,000mg. The dosage varies depending on the individual. In addition, all of L-Carnitine’s counterparts follow the same dosage guidelines and can also be taken daily, depending on your goals. (source linked here.)

Forskolin

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Forskolin normally works alongside L-Carnitine for fat utilization. The latter works to bring the fatty acids to the mitochondria. Forskolin works to release the fatty acids from the body’s fat stores.

Forskolin releases fatty acids by activating the enzyme adenylate cyclase, which then activates hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). Like any other lipase, HSL breaks down fat for energy by enacting lipolysis. Lipolysis is the complete breakdown of glycerides into fatty acids, which can be used as energy by the mitochondria. These fatty acids are released into the bloodstream, where they meet up with their powerhouse counterparts and give the body elongated energy.

In unscientific terms, Forskolin releases your fat from their body stores. When paired with L-Carnitine, these fatty acids are efficiently utilized as fuel. Studies even show that prolonged use improves fat burning during both training and rest. And, of course, helps to increase total fat loss over time.

Typically, Forskolin can be found with L-Carnitine as a single supplement. If not, take approximately 20-50mg daily. (source linked here.)

Caffeine

image @ www.worldatlas.com

Yes, your morning coffee can help promote fat loss. Who knew?!

Caffeine has been linked to increased energy production and fat oxidation, which increase it’s ability to metabolize fat. This has been linked to its stimulation of the Central Nervous System (CNS) through that coffee-jolt we all know and love. Stimulating the CNS helps to release fatty acids from fat stores. It also promotes calcium absorption from the body’s calcium stores, which aids in muscle contraction. Both are extremely helpful when exercising for long periods of time.

Caffeine is also one of the most cost-effective fat loss supplements to date. As little as one cup of coffee before your morning workout can promote these benefits! Or, if you’re not a cup-of-joe fan, try pre-workouts. They normally contain roughly 120mg of caffeine per serving and aid in fat loss.

However, be warned: taking more than 400mg per day can start to have negative side effects. Imagine how you feel after a couple of large coffees during a rough morning. Eventually, you crash and your head hurts, and the same thing happens to your body. So stick to one to two servings every couple of hours. (source linked here.)

Green Tea Extract

Another cost-effective fat loss supplement is green tea extract. Like caffeine, green tea extract helps to utilize the body’s fat stores for energy. However, it also encourages brown adipose tissue thermogenesis, which is another form of fat utilization. This is due to the phytochemicals found in green tea; the main phytochemical, epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), can increase fat oxidation by up to 33%!

There is one setback, though. Green tea extract has to be taken in a pretty pure form in order to have any real effect. Drinking green tea is great because it supplies some phytochemicals and antioxidants, but the proportions are not enough for fat loss. (source linked here.)

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