One of the most frequently stated goals of men in the gym is to get ripped abs. The ab muscles are what really identify someone who is serious about their fitness and diet plan, because without determination and a fair amount of effort, getting ripped abs is a goal that will never be reached.
While everyone has developed ab muscles to some extent, it’s getting them to show that becomes the biggest issue for most. This is due to the fact that most of us tend to store our body fat, at least partially, in the abdominal region. This is also one of the most stubborn places to lose fat.
That said, if you know the principles of how to get ripped abs, you can make this goal a reality.
The first thing you must realize is that every guy has his own uniquely shaped abs. Randomly selecting a picture out of some men’s magazine or billboard and saying that’s what you want your abs to be like could be slightly self-defeating, because even if you did get your body fat levels low enough, your abs may not be genetically shaped in a similar way, therefore, the appearance of your abs will still be different.
Recognizing that this factor is out of your control and not getting hung up on it is one step forward on your quest to get ripped abs. If you are unable to do this, you’ll only become more frustrated as time progresses, which is a serious motivation killer.
Rest assured, though, that if you can get your body fat levels low enough and perform correct, targeted exercises for this muscle group, your midsection will garner second glances.
Next comes the diet aspect of the equation. Ever heard the saying: "Abs are made in the kitchen"? Nothing could speak the truth more. As stated, everyone has some ab muscles, but most have a layer of body fat hiding them. Removing this layer is going to be about 90% dietary effort and 10% exercise effort when it comes right down to it. If you aren’t ready to take control over the foods you are putting in your mouth, getting ripped abs should not be a goal for you.
While the old notion used to be that you should eat a diet as low in fat as possible in order to remove body fat, this has changed in modern times. Now, ab-friendly foods that are higher in protein, moderate in fat and moderate or low in carbs are making headway, as this helps to control insulin levels better, and insulin happens to be the prime hormone that stores body fat (in a hypercaloric balance).
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That’s not to say you can’t get lean on a higher-carbohydrate diet; you most certainly can -- and some guys do -- but for the vast majority, hunger levels are much more manageable on a low to moderate carb approach, which correspondingly makes eating fewer calories easier.
At the end of the day, it’s really going to come down to your total calorie intake, with less importance placed on how you get there -- assuming sufficient protein is present, of course.
Finally, you have the actual ab routine. The regular performance of these exercises will play a large role in shaping the way your abs look once the fat is removed and they are visible. Furthermore, since your ab muscles form the core of your body and are recruited for all other lifting exercises, it only makes sense that you’d want to dedicate some time to strengthening them.
Exercise ball movements
When selecting ab exercises, think of anything that will decrease your stability. This effectively causes the abs to work harder as they are recruited. Exercise balls are the perfect tool for this, and there are a variety of movements you can do with them.
Examples of such exercises include basic front and side crunches, ball kick-outs (lying on the floor with feet on either side of the ball and palms on the floor, squeeze the ball with your legs and move from a crunched to a straightened position), and lying leg raises with the exercise ball between your legs.
If you're looking to actually increase the size of your ab muscles, weighted ab work will be your best bet. Since muscle tissue will only grow significantly when an overloading weight is placed on it, you must treat your ab muscles like you would any other muscle in the body. You wouldn’t get as developed doing push-up after push-up as you would with heavy bench pressing, so the same principle applies here.
Terrific options here include decline weighted sit-ups, weight abdominal twists (moving from side to side), and hanging leg raises with weight strapped onto your ankles.
Isometric contraction exercises
Finally, the last types of ab exercises to include in your program are ones that have you contracting the ab muscles and holding this contraction for an extended duration of time. The benefit to this is that it will help the abs learn how to remain contracted, which will help when it comes to keeping them slightly flexed, allowing the muscularity to show even more.
As you’ve likely done before, if you stand in the mirror and flex your abs they look better, right? Well, the more isometric contractions you do, the more habitual this type of positioning will become, and you'll likely start to keep them contracted to a slight degree all the time without really noticing it.
This could include performing the plank exercise and variations of that or simply tensing your abs, holding for 10 seconds and releasing. Repeat this tense/hold combo 5-to-10 times a couple of times a day, and you should notice a difference in a few weeks.
If you are trying to get ripped abs, be sure to keep these major factors in mind. Most importantly, do not overlook the importance of your diet. Far too many guys think that they can just be sure to do enough ab work and cardio to make up for a less-than-stellar diet, but this kind of thinking almost always leads to less-than-stellar results.