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The AbSolution: The Sexy-Smart Guide to Abs

Today’s Guide to Abs guest post comes courtesy of Galen Lundin, a trainer, amateur bodybuilder, and owner of Rapidtransformationtraining.com in Chicago.

Like Galen, I started working out because I was scrawny as hell and didn’t like the way I performed as an athlete or looked.  Anyways, as a bodybuilder Galen has significant experience with training for your best physique and eye-popping abs. 

I understand why many people gravitate towards crunches and tons of cardio. You feel a crazy burn that makes you think you’re losing fat and getting shredded abs.
Thing is, there’s a difference between “feel, and real.” Repetitive flexion on your spine combined with neanderthal posture is a spine killer. While spinal flexion isn’t all bad, overuse won’t get you tons of lean muscle, athleticism, nor burn fat.

To the point: Some flexion and cardio is okay, but it’s not the sole approach to getting the body you want.

Either way I think of myself as a middle-of-the-road dude with an open mind.  Everything has it’s time and place when performed in balance– except El Camino’s – abdominal flexion and steady state included. That said, I prefer high-intensity bursts of energy like sprints and throwing around weights.

Enough of me though, I enjoyed this piece by Galen and I hope you do too.

I get it, you want abs.

Not once have I had a client come to me and say “Nah, I’m good, my abs are pretty much ripped, I don’t want to look too good.” Zip.Zero. Nada. It ain’t happenin’. The truth is everyone has abs, you just can’t see them because there is a whole bunch of fat covering it, kind of like a big parka on a cold winter day. So how do we get rid of this stubborn fat?

DIET+EXERCISE=SEXY ABS

Diet will be covered in my free report below. This post covers the other hidden aspect for abs: How to train intelligently to show of your summer six pack.

GETTING ABS TAKES WORK.

People often complain about not having the body they want and typically here are the two factors:

1. Shitty diet

2. Shitty workout frequency

Here’s a typical client/coach conversation:

Client: “I can’t seem to lose this stomach fat!”

Galen: “Are you still doing cardio, tracking calories, and not skipping on workout sessions?

Awkward pause ensues. Crickets.

Client: “No.. BUT!!”

BINGO. BOOM. POW. The dagger in my heart.

While disappointing, It’s not entirely their fault. People are lead to believe that you can get “flat abs in 7 minutes a day.” False advertisements cover your  grocery store shelves with the rest of the instant gratification treats. This works for quick sales and shady business, but you need to put in the work to get abs.

If you’re only working out 1-2x/week Abs aren’t for you. Even if you’re EXTREMELY disciplined in your nutrition to the point of measuring every grain of rice you’d be hard-pressed to find abs. Plus, you’d hate life.

The Training Guide to Abs

Traditional Cardio:

I hate to break it to you, but traditional cardio isn’t the answer. Far from it. Excessive plodding cardio leads to the following effects:

  • minimized recovery from a previous workout
  • Increases cortisol (a stress hormone which can decrease fat burning)
  • Burns A LOT LESS CALORIES THAN YOU THINK!
  • Muscle loss, but minimal fat loss.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t run ever. Far from it. Running it’s not the death-sin that most portray, but it isn’t the answer for fat loss and getting your abs to pop.

Galen’s Recommendation: I recommend walking at an incline so your heart rate stays around 65% of your maximum heart rate. Your max heart rate can be calculated by taking 220-(your age)= Max HR. Try keeping it at this level for 30-45 minutes 2-3 times per week as well as high intensity interval training.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best cardio option for shredding fat. Research suggests that short bouts of high intensity exercise or high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective and time efficient that plodding steady state cardio (Laforgia, J. et al). An interval for example would be sprinting for 30 seconds then resting for 30 seconds.

Take a look at an Olympic sprinter vs. a marathon athlete- who looks better? The sprinter, obviously.

 

Partly to genetics and greatly to training, sprinters have lean, muscular physiques whereas marathon runners are scrawny, have little muscle mass and are riddled with high cortisol level.

The takeaway: Focus on the most effective exercises like  deadlifts and squats, then hammer home HIIT exercises like sprints to shred fat all over your body.

Warning: This type of training isn’t for the faint of heart, it will be challenging both physically and mentally, but it will make you leaner, stronger and sexier. HIIT can be performed with nearly any tool in any environment. My favorites are:

  • Sprinting outdoors or on a treadmill
  • Using kettlebells for timed circuits
  • Bodyweight exercises such as jump squats, mountain climbers, burpess etc…
  • Battle ropes
  • Sandbag Training

HIIT is typically performed in intervals, exercising for a set period of time followed by incomplete recovery– Exercise for 30 seconds followed by a 30 second rest would suffice. The intervals can be set up however you like but it is important that you go “all out” during the sprint stage. If you can perform more than 10 minutes of HIIT you are not training hard enough.

COMPLEXES

Complexes are an effective means for fat loss and additional training volume. These incorporate compound movements one after another in one giant fat-shredding set.  These compound movements are performed with dumbbells, kettle bells, and/or sandbags.

Here’s an example of my most favorite complex.

P.S. It totally blows.

Eric’s Note: Based on the name, I would think so. The Bears generally do 😉

THE BEAR COMPLEX

  • 5 deadlifts
  • 5 bent over rows
  • 5 hang cleans
  • 5 overhead presses
  • 5 squats

Eric’s Note: For more on complexes Check out my post here

AB TRAINING

Read my lips: Doing tons of sit ups won’t give you a 6-pack or get rid of love handles.  Old school ab training isn’t exactly the best thing for your spine. Excessive loading while bending may send one of your discs shooting out of your spine like cannon. This type of traditional ab training is especially bad for desk-jockeys who already have a hunch-back posture. Abs play numerous roles to help you perform better, improve health, and make you look hot as hell. There’s more to them than flexion exercise like sit-ups. Think of the abdominals as an “anti-movement” muscle group– they prevent movement. The main purpose of the core is to stabilize the spine in a “home” or neutral position.

Here’s an analogy for you:

Imagine your core is an empty water bottle. Squeeze it and guess what happens? You crush it. Now take that same water bottle and fill it with water. Now try to crush it… Unless you’re a polar bear the water bottle stays intact from the external forces.

That full water bottle is how your core protects your spine.

What the hell Galen, this is a Guide to Abs and I can’t do crunches?!

Hold your horses Seabiscuit. I’m not saying you should never do traditional ab work, but the role of the core or “abs” has a completely different role than people traditionally think.

We break it down we have four main ab training categories:

1. Anti-Rotation

a. Lateral rotation flexion

2. Anti-Extension

a. Lateral flexion

3. Anti-Lateral Flexion

a. Lateral rotation flexion

4. Hip flexion with neutral spine

a. With spinal flexion

Here are some video examples below:

1. Anti rotation

2.Antiextention:

3.Anti-lateral flexion

4. Hip flexion with neutral spine

Out of all these movements the flexion movements should be trained sparingly and try to focus on all the “anti” movements. To create a routine, pick an exercise from each group (1-4) and perform 2-3 sets.

Here’s an example workout:

1.Ab Wheel or Ab Rollouts

2. Single Arm Dumbbell Farmer Walks

3.Cable Rotations with Neutral Spine

4. Swiss Ball Pikes

ABSolutely Awesome Wrap Up
For your best abs training is only one piece of the puzzle. Without training the definition in your abs will be harder to come by.  By combining a sound, science-based approach to core training with a sound nutritional plan (below) you’ll have the perfect AbSolution. To get the full, in depth guide, check out the report below.

Check out the full Absolute Guide to ABS here:

ABSOLUTE ABS

Laforgia, J., Withers, R., & Gore, C. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1247-1264. Retrieved August 15, 2014, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17101527

About the Author:

abs, ABSolution, guide to abs

Galen Lundin is an aspiring author, high advocate of the work hard play hard lifestyle and amateur bodybuilder. High nice-tough love approach to coaching allows you to get the body you want while having some fun along the way. Want more smart sexy ab training? Click HERE.

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Should Women Train Differently than Men?

Recently, I’ve been receiving questions on how females should train. Most have the goal of looking leaner, toned, and a more curvy. In this post, I wanted to answer the most frequently asked question, “Should Women train differently than men? ”

Short Answer: No, not really.

With the questions I frequently get, I have put together 7 considerations for helping sculpt a sexy female figure.

1.) “Toning” and “shaping” are not the answer.

Weight training in popular media for women generally revolves around words such as “toning and shaping.”
Lets examine “toning” This term is used to make muscles appear firmer, and tighter without them appearing bigger. It’s a common, but extremely thawed thought. Routines based upon “toning” likely involve extremely light weights for very high rep amounts. Think pink dumbbells for 20 rep sets of triceps kickbacks. Unfortunately, these routines are not challenging enough to the muscle to force growth and change.

Without challenging you body to grow and change, how will it look any better?  With or without excess fat, a body looks healthy and fit with a little more muscle.

Shaping offers a different, yet equally confusing idea. Muscles cannot be shaped; rather, they are pre-determined by your genetics. You can’t physiologically change a muscles shape, only whether it is bigger or smaller.

2.) You should lift heavy.

Certain goals for both men and women are similar. The most common is a firm, toned, sexy look. One of the best ways to get that look, for men or women, is with heavy weight. Lifting heavy weights is the fastest, and most efficient way to build myogenic muscle tone… or the highly dense, toned muscle that you seek.

Photo Credit: List09.com
Photo Credit: List09.com

“But won’t lifting heavier weights make me bigger?” This leads to right to my next point…

3.)No, lifting weights will NOT make you bigger.

Why? Building muscle is very, very, hard. Ask any guy. There is a reason we train year in, year out, eat copious amounts of dead animal flesh, and cherish any small, muscular changes. And that’s with a plethora of hormonal benefits from testosterone helping us out! Unless you have extremely rare genetics you won’t be piling on slabs of muscle and look like Hulk Hogan.

Additionally, there are tons of factors that mitigate muscle growth: Training style (most importantly, muscle tension and training volume), diet, and hormones (as mentioned above.) Unless you are taking external testosterone, training with way too much volume, and consuming a ton of excess calories you won’t be getting bulky.

With that thought, I recommend all women do some sort of heavy training once per week. 
Try squats, deadlifts, bench presses, push presses, and rows for 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with the heaviest weight you can safely do.

4.) There is no such thing as spot reduction

Men and women deposit fat differently. Men generally carry more body fat centralized around the abdomen whereas women carry more excess fat around the hips and thighs. For both genders, spot reduction is a popular topic. In most cases, body fat is lost evenly throughout the body. Therefore, in order to be leaner in a particular area fat loss needs to occur all over.
I find the best exercises for losing fat all over are done in a standing position, such as sprints and high intensity weighting, rather than a seated position like a stationary bike, or rowing machine.

5.) Women have a different weight distribution than men.

Because women carry more weight in their lower body they are generally relatively weaker in the upper body, but just as relatively strong in the lower body. In most cases it’s best to regress upper body exercises, such as a push up or pull up.  Rather than watching in horror as a female grinds out worm-ups, regressed the exercise by performing it with a barbell racked off the ground. Just because someone can’t do a full exercise…yet… doesn’t mean they shouldn’t perform any variation.

6.) Women have better stamina than men

Women can handle a higher training density– less rest between sets and a higher volume– than their male counterpart. This may be due to an overall decrease in relative strength. This factor allows women to train at a higher frequency with a higher density than men.

*Note: Training density (doing more in less time) is a huge variable for fat loss.   

7.) Women need more protein

I find most of my female clients drastically under-consume protein. Protein does three awesome things for your body: Protein can blunt your appetite to keep you fuller for longer, speed up your metabolism, and help you maintain your muscle (giving you that toned, dense look) while stripping off  unwanted fat. I tell my female clients to have protein with any carbohydrate source and shoot for their body weight in grams of protein. This would mean a 120 lb female consumes roughly 120 grams of protein per day.

Wrap Up

Okay, I’ve got to run, but I gathered a list of great sites and resources for you to check out. These are some of the best fitness sites for females looking to build awesome bodies. Fellas, you can take a look to and stop giving poor advice to women who ask you :).

http://www.soheefit.com

http://bretcontreras.com/strength-training-for-women/

http://www.jensinkler.com

http://www.negharfonooni.com

http://www.girlsgonestrong.com

http://www.cassandraforsythe.com

Let me know any questions you have and how you currently train!

Resources:

“Beautiful Crossfit Woman.” List 09. N.p., n. d. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.list09.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/crossfit-girl-Laura-Plumley1.jpg>.

Romaniello, John . “Sexy Female Training.” Roman Fitness Systems. N.p., n. d. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.romanfitnesssystems.com/blog/6-tips-for-building-a-sexy-female-body/>.

Schuler , Lou, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove.The New Rules of Lifting For Women . New York City: Penguin Group, 2007. Print.

 

 

Accurately Estimate Body Fat Percentage

Your ability to accurately estimate body fat percentage is an essential tool to helping you optimize your physique, improve performance, and know how much progress you’re truly making in the gym. Heck, knowing where you stand can help you optimize your caloric intake, determine overall health, and give you the most accurate answer to, “how far to do I have to go” to build your ultimate body.

In this post, I’m going to share what I wish I knew about body fat percentage when I got started in the gym as a 103-pound skinny runt chasing the “perfect workout” routine. By the end, you’ll have a better grasp of how to measure body fat, why it’s important, and more importantly, how to look great naked.

What is body fat percentage?

Body fat percentage is the total percentage of body fat your total body weight is comprised of. Quite simply, the higher your body fat percentage, the more body fat you have. The lower your body fat percentage, the less body fat.

For example, a 200 lb male with 15% body fat would have 30 pounds of fat on his body. The remaining 170 pounds would comprise of bone, muscle, organ tissue, water, blood, and..well…fecal matter among other things.

All in all, knowing your body fat percentage is a better indicator of the state of your physique than BMI or the dreaded scale.

Body fat percentage or BMI?

BMI is short for Body Mass Index, and it’s found by taking your weight in kilograms divided by meters squared. BMI is the most widely used scale for determining whether someone is normal, overweight, or obese. While this is a great tool for measuring large populations and gauging overall obesity, it’s a poor indicator for athletic bodies and those who are dedicated in the gym. As an example, I’m not a huge guy; but at 5’10” 180-185 pounds I’m on the edge of obese despite having visible abdominals. The BMI fails to take into account lean muscle mass.

Let’s take our example guy above, and say he was 6 feet tall. To find his BMI we would convert his weight to kilograms, and his height to meters:

200 pounds x 0.45 = 90 kilograms

72 inches x 0.025 = 1.8 meters

Then we would square his height:

1.8 x 1.8 = 3.24

Then divide the weight by the height to get his BMI:

90/3.24 = 27.7 BMI

So how does that compare the standard BMI chart? Let’s look:

Underweight = BMI of less than 18.5

Normal weight = BMI of 18.5 to 24.9

Overweight = BMI of 25 to 29.9

Obese = BMI of 30 or greater

So according to the BMI chart, our guy is overweight.

But the problem with BMI is it’s just a general measurement. It doesn’t take into account the individual physique of a person, including the biggest factor influencing metabolic health: muscle mass. And this is where learning how to accurately estimate body fat percentage comes in handy.

How to Accurately Estimate Body Fat Percentage.

There are many ways which health and fitness professionals use to measure body fat percentages. There are circumference measurements, bioelectrical impedance (BIA), skinfold measurements, ultrasound, bodpod, hydrostatic weighing, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), X-Ray, and MRI.

As with any test, there is variation and error in body fat percentages, with even the best tests still having a percent error ranging from 1-3%. Most of these tests require skilled technicians, consistent testers, algorithms, and environmental variables, and some pocket change in order to perform the tests. As you see lots of variables must be accounted for in order to get an accurate reading of your body composition.

My take?

If you want something quick and easy, pick up skinfold calipers and practice often. They’re not the most reliable, but they’ll give you a baseline.

DEXA scans are among the best option and will cost between $50-$100, while also showing you imbalances and giving you an accurate reading (within 1-2% of your body-fat) and a breakdown of your body composition. In all cases, the most accurate bet is to head to a facility with experienced technicians. Since that isn’t always a pragmatic option, I’ll provide you with pictures and descriptions of each body fat percentage.

P.S.Want to an easy to follow eating style so you can lose fat without obsessing over every meal? Grab your free Intermittent Fasting Guide here.

Calculating Body Fat Percentage Based On Progress Photos

As a disclaimer, these are not perfect examples. Two individuals can have the same body fat percentage yet look dramatically different.

What gives?

The more lean muscle you have, the deeper the cuts, the harder the striations, and the more visibly “ripped” you will be at a lower body fat. To put it bluntly, it’s much more impressive to have base of muscle if you want to look strong, lean, and athletic when you’re stripping down.

What 25-30% Body Fat Looks Like

25%+ percent body fat is generally categorized as overweight or obese. At this body fat percentage, you’ll notice minimal muscular definition and likely large deposits of fat around the stomach in men and around the hips and waist in women.
In this image, Bach Performance Physique Coaching Client James “Swifty” Swift transformed from roughly 30% body fat to 10% or so.

What 20% Body Fat Looks Like

At 20% body fat, you’ll have minimal muscular definition and poor separation from muscle groups, unless you have an extremely muscular individual. In this picture, Bach Performance Physique Coaching Client and business owner Matt is likely closer to 18%, but you can see the dramatic improvement he made when dropping to a lean 10-12% body fat.

What 15% Body Fat Looks Like

At 15% you’ll notice some muscular definition. In extremely muscular individuals like client Bob Thompson, he holds a fair amount of definition even at higher body fat, namely because he’s built like a rhino. Typically, you’ll see moderate muscular separation, specifically in the shoulders as they tend to hold less fat. In most cases, your abs are not yet visible. Online coaching client, gym and supplement company owner Bob Thompson from 15% or so down to 10-12% body fat. As you can see, the more muscle you have the more pronounced the difference.

 

What 10-12% Body Fat Looks Like

At 12% body fat you will see visible abs. Depending on how much muscle you have, you may see anywhere from 2-6 abs and a definite biceps vein.  In this image, Bach Performance Physique Coaching Client and busy attorney Rob went from 12% body fat to a lean 8-10% body fat. The Leaner you get, the more dramatic the visual improvement.

7-9% Body Fat:

Hey, I know this weirdo glaring awkwardly into the camera. In the case of this photoshoot, I measured in just below 7% body fat. I had visible abs at all times, deep separation between quadriceps and defined back musculature. The serratus anterior (those wicked cool lines on the side of your ribs) should be visible.

5-7% Body Fat: Competitive male bodybuilders often are in this range. Lower abdominals and legs are both vascular and well-defined. Striations appear in large flexed muscle groups, especially the chest. As you can see, Bach Performance Physique Coaching Client Nazir Mohammed, a trainer in London, is shredded to the bone. This is stage ready and final stage leanness.

Body Fat Percentages For Women

Women naturally carry higher levels of body fat, particularly in their glutes, thighs, hips, and breasts. Even in cases where women have visible abs, their body fat percentages will be a few ticks higher due to these natural sex differences. Much like in males, the more lean muscle a woman has, the deeper the cuts and separation will appear at lower body fat percentages.

Here is a chart via Ben Honour Smith at @Bodyscuptorben on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

🌟 What’s your body fat percentage? @bodysculptorben . 🎯 Remember, if your trying to get leaner then the goal should be to lose body fat, not weight. Weight can be a good indicator that things are heading in the right direction (scale fluctuations will happen along the way though!). However the goal and focus should be dropping body fat not striving to reach an arbitrary number on the scales. . 📸 Monitoring your body fat levels with regular progress pictures is a good way to go. Ladies you can use this chart to guesstimate roughly where you are currently at if you like. . 👙 If your goal long term is to look leaner with more muscle definition then here is a good way to go about it: . 💁🏼‍♀️ Get to a lean enough state where you are comfortable with yourself and how you look. However accept that when you get to this stage that you are going to have to acquire some extra body fat on top of this if you want to build more muscle. The starting body fat percentage before you ‘bulk’ will vary from woman to woman, somewhere between 10-22% is likely to be a good place to get to. . 😋 Once you are at this stage you are going to have to gradually increase your calories so that you are in a calorie surplus. Aim for roughly about 0.2-0.5kgs of weight gain a week. The slower you gain weight the less body fat you will acquire. . 📈 Focus on increasing training volume over time with some big compound movements (training volume = weight x total reps. . 💅🏼 Remember it’s a hard process and sometimes painfully slow process to gain muscle, even more so for you women, due to lower levels of testosterone. Be patient and remain consistent. . 🥗 When you feel like you are acquiring too much body fat, start to lower your calories again so that you are into a calorie deficit for a while. Keep repeating these stages. This will result in a gain in muscle mass whilst staying relatively lean. . 👠 Try to stick to one process at a time. Either cutting (calorie deficit) or bulking (calorie surplus). Don’t get caught in the middle. Otherwise limited progress is likely to happen. . 😃 Get a plan of action in place and see it through 👍🏼. . #sculptedsquad

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What Else Do You Need To Know?

Body fat percentage is arguably the best tool to gauge changes in your physique because it accounts for both lean body mass and fat mass. Still, you shouldn’t judge yourself purely on body fat.

As the great Vince Gironda once said, “who cares what the scale says if you don’t like what you see in the mirror?”
The rings true both when examining your reflection and more importantly, your mindset.

At Bach Performance, we’re here to help you look great naked without living in the gym. And yes, that often means losing body fat. But at the end of the day, fitness needs to improve your life, not consume it. And when it comes to body fat percentage, it’s essential to realize getting shredded is not a practical look to maintain year round. It’s often a peak state held for hours or days for a photo shoot and competition, then back to reality.

But should you want to step up to the plate, get in the best shape of your life, and find a sustainable way to continue looking, feeling, and performing your best?

Then head below and see if you’re a fit to join the exclusive Bach Performance Physique Coaching Program.
Apply Here

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