In some of my early competitions, judges would tell me that my abs looked great when flexed, but when standing relaxed they were hardly visible. I heard that message loud and clear and knew it was time to step up my abdominal training and to start building some “bricks” in my midsection. The following have been the key reasons behind my “abdominal metamorphosis.”

Ab-training tips

  • Training them twice weekly without fail.
  • Treating them like any other muscle group rather than an afterthought.
  • Slowing the tempo and focusing on both the stretch and squeeze of each exercise.
  • Adding more resistance to every abdominal movement so that fewer reps can be performed.
  • Taking every set to failure.
  • Finding a core of abdominal exercises that I personally “feel” the most and sticking with them.

Preferred ab exercises

This is an outline of the kind of program I use for getting my abs on:

Power week

  • Weighted floor crunches (with up to a 120 lb. DB on my chest): 3-4 x 10-12
  • Hanging or supported straight leg raise (with DB held between feet): 3-4 x 10-12

Rep range week

  • Cable crunch: 2-3 x 12-15
  • Incline straight leg raise: 2-3 x 15-20
  • Lying side crunch: 2-3 x 20-25 each side

Shock week

  • Dropset-seated crunch machine: 2 x 15-20, drop, 8-10
  • Superset-hanging or supported bent leg raise/incline bent leg raise: 2 x 15-20 each
  • Rest pause-cable side crunch: 1 x 12-15, rest 10 seconds…max reps, rest 20 seconds…max reps

After two cycles of the above, I like to shuffle around the exercises a bit to provide variation and keep stimulating the muscles, mind and CNS in a unique manner. I should also point out that I have built a very strong mind/muscle connection with my abdominals, which helps immensely in keeping the hip flexors out of all leg raise-type movements.

Try this program yourself utilizing the same exercises I do, or better yet, the ones you have personally found most effective. There is no magic formula behind building “bricks” for abs—what it takes is committing to treat them just like any other major muscle group.