INSIDE THIS ISSUE…
Review: “Winning and Losing” by Ian King.”
Tips for Visible Abs”
reason for Ab Training: Low back health!”
1 – WINNING & LOSING IN
of your profession, “Winning and Losing” by Ian King is
a very practical read. Should you ever get a chance to
cover his books or newsletters you will quickly realize
that Coach King has a deep belief in self-improvement
and motivational techniques and therefore King’s principles
can be applied across the board, whether you are a salesman
or a strength coach. In fact, authors regularly quoted
by King often include experts in fields far removed from
strength and conditioning (i.e. Anthony Robbins – a motivational
and Losing” was the best out of his 4 books that I have
read (Coach King promised me an updated version in 2001!).
In fact, I am going to re-read another of his books so
that I might get more info from it than I did initially.
While Coach King’s bodybuilding programs in his book “Get
Buff” are not revolutionary, they are effective. His unique
4-day training split is definitely recommended!
For bodybuilding, if proper diet, rest, and discipline
are in place, than most training programs are as successful
as the next. What Coach King truly excels in is what he
calls “physical preparation” for athletes, helping athletes
get stronger and to improve sport-specific fitness, as
well as helping to reduce injury risk.
and Losing” profiles the frustrations that strength and
conditioning coaches (or any professionals for that matter)
must go through. We all need to gain experience, establish
rapport with clients, keep an open mind, and learn from
our mistakes and others. And even King, who had a strong
physique, has had to endure through stereotypes. No one
believed that he could make athletes faster, but Coach
suggests, “stepping outside of your boundaries” and he
is a great example of what my colleague Matt Spino terms,
“thinking outside of the box”. King challenged the traditional
fitness regimens of power athletes and questioned why
they were doing large volumes of aerobic training when
the weakness of the players was in strength and speed.
He also helped to advance the concept of sport-specific
training. Future articles from CB ATHLETIC CONSULTING
will deal with developing a better athlete outside of
general strength and endurance training.
King’s experiences detailed in “Winning and Losing” are
applicable to everyone. It is certainly worth a read.
2 – ABDOMINAL TRAINING TIPS
important is it to train the abs frequently if your goal
is “visible abs”?
is no shortage of opinions on this topic. People can succeed
(and fail) with all sorts of abdominal training programs.
Besides, great abs have been found on many people that
train them religiously each day, but better abs have been
found on athletes that do no formal abdominal training
most important factor in developing eye-catching abdominal
muscles (the “6-pack”) is decreasing the body fat in that
area, plain and simple. As for training techniques, almost
everyone should train this area as you would any muscle
group. Why spend 20 minutes per day doing endless crunches
when 5-10 minutes every other day (or less!) will accomplish
the same results? Only athletes (or back pain rehabilitation
patients) may need additional abdominal work to assist
their core stability in sport (or everyday function).
most individuals in the gym believe that daily, high-volume
training is optimal, there is nothing special about the
abdominal muscles to suggest that a greater training frequency
is required. Muscle biopsies have determined the rectus
abdominis to be composed of 46% slow-twitch fibers, not
unlike the vastus lateralis of the quadriceps (Johnson
et al., 1972). As mentioned earlier, a more important
aspect in developing a well-muscled midsection that can
be shown off at the beach, is the reduction of as much
body fat as possible.
be precise, in order to have visible abs you must decrease
your body fat to 10% or less. Test your body fat monthly.
Have the same skilled professional do the testing each
time in the same manner under the same conditions (i.e.
same time of day, pre-workout, same day of the week, same
diet pre-test). You would be surprised how small fluctuations
in these variables can influence the outcome of body fat
the greatest body fat reductions are not achieved through
multiple sets of high repetition abdominal exercises and
therefore there is no need to waste your precious time
performing endless sets of abdominal crunches. In fact,
your time is better off spent including compound resistance
exercises (exercise using many of the body’s large muscle
groups; i.e. the squat, bench press, pull-ups, deadlifts,
etc) and performing strategic anaerobic interval and aerobic
training. When you perform compound exercises and interval
training you will realize that more muscles are working
and more metabolic effort is necessary in comparison to
a simple abdominal crunch. Remember that when you head
back to the gym in January!
exercises should be the best choice for helping to maintain
muscle mass while shedding body fat. Anaerobic interval
training promotes the expenditure of energy (fat) long
after you have left the gym, thus helping to shed the
body fat while you are no longer exercising. Aerobic exercise
is beneficial for individuals with a lot of fat to lose
(i.e. if you test at greater than 15% body fat). However,
if you only have a little fat to lose before the muscle
stands out, then dietary manipulations and more anaerobic
training (intervals and resistance training) are the priority
for specific abdominal training recommendations, isolated
abdominal training 1-3 times per week is sufficient. Abdominal
training should be brief and to the point (i.e. 2 exercises,
a handful of sets, and a high-intensity of training).
This will require passing on the basic lying abdominal
crunch and instead use exercises that incorporate resistance.
Like any other muscle group, the abdominals can be trained
in a rep range of 6-15 per set. This will help build optimal
abdominal strength for sport and daily function and will
be of greater benefit in attaining abdominal musculature
M.A., J. Polgar, D. Weightman & D. Appleton. Data
on the distribution of
types in thirty-six human muscles: An autopsy study. Journal
Sciences 18: 111-129, 1973.
3 – ADVANCED ABDOMINAL
are some advanced abdominal exercises that require a greater
effort than that from normal abdominal crunches…
cable crunch at a lat pulldown station
Attach the rope or V-handle to the lat
pulldown cable. Sit facing away from the cable stack grab
the attachment and pull it down until the hands are just
behind the head (Start position). Curl the torso forward
(head toward knees) using only the abdominal muscles (don’t
pull down with your arms). Pause at the bottom, and then
slowly return to the starting position to complete one
rep. Start with a light resistance and work your way up
to greater intensities.
(Swiss) ball crunches
Lie on the stability ball (with the ball
under the low back area) with your feet spread slightly
greater than shoulder width apart on the floor (a wider
stance equals greater stability and an easier exercise).
Curl your shoulder blades off the ball as if performing
a regular abdominal crunch off the floor. Return to the
start position. The benefit of the ball is to allow for
a greater range of motion, permitting the abs to go through
a greater stretch (full range of motion) and thus permitting
a greater contraction. Light weight-plates can be held
across the chest to further increase difficulty.
This is a very difficult exercise, yet
if performed correctly it is effective. Most people do
this exercise improperly and resort to swinging the knees
up, but the key to this movement is to roll the hips back
because the rectus abdominis (large abdominal muscle)
functions to flex the trunk at the pelvis.
Performing this exercise: Hang freely
from a Chin-Up bar (using your extremely strong grip OR
a commercial device that allows you to be suspended from
the bar). Bend the knees slightly (less bend in the knees
makes for a more difficult exercise) and slowly tilt your
pelvis back by contracting the abdominals. You will also
use your hip flexors in this movement. Bring the knees
towards the chest, but be very strict and slow as you
pull the knees up as high as possible. Pause at the top
and slowly lower your legs, emphasizing control by the
If you were able to do 10 reps in the
past with the “swinging” technique, you may only be able
to do 4-5 controlled reps. But remember that the controlled
reps are much more effective. If your repetition number
is low, add extra sets to enable a greater training volume.
Are you familiar with those rolling ab-devices
(i.e. wheels) as seen on TV infomercials? These can be
effective in building abdominal strength, especially for
athletes and other individuals that are seeking greater
muscular control of the torso area and balance. Adam Campbell
from Men’s Health magazine helped in designing a modified
version of this exercise than you can do at your gym…
kneel before a barbell with an upright torso
place your hands on the bar, slightly greater than shoulder-width
bend forward at the hips and keep your back flat as you
role the barbell out and move forward until your body reaches an angle of
about 20-45 degrees to the floor (as far as
your abdominal-core strength permits)
your upper body should be in a straight line and your
back should be flat
pause briefly, and then reverse the movement (hold the pause for a greater “core balance”
roll the barbell back to the starting position by pulling
back, initiating the movement with the lats,
and then let the abs contract and take over
decrease triceps involvement in this exercise by limiting
the bend in your elbows
as you return to the starting position continue to contract
your abs and suck in your gut, and allow your
back to round up as you return to an upright position
repeat for the remainder of reps in the set
For a more advanced movement, start from
a standing position rather than while kneeling. Make sure
to keep the back in a safe, flat position as you begin
4 – ABDOMINAL TRAINING TO STRENGTHEN & PROTECT
THE CORE AREA
out of five North American adults (80%) will have lower
back pain in their lives. But rather than treating these
injuries, we all agree that preventing them is a much
better option. It is very important to have proper muscle
strength and conditioning and to learn and use the correct
movement technique in and out of the gym.
abdominal and lower back muscles work together to control
movement of the trunk/torso. The rectus abdominis controls
trunk flexion (curling forward) and the lower back muscles
(specifically the erector spinae) control trunk extension
(bending backwards). These muscle groups help to stabilize
the pelvis and maintain proper vertebral alignment.
any pair of muscle groups (such as the biceps and triceps
or quadriceps and hamstrings), the abs and extensors work
most effectively and correctly when they are strong and
also when they are of the correct relative strength. Although
muscle strength ratios are mere estimates and vary greatly
on the speed of the movement (see ISSUE # 10), therapists
recommend that flexion and extension movements of the
lumbar spine are equal in strength.
an individual has weak abs and a strong low back this
may lead to postural problems. Excessively strong lower
back muscles and weak abdominal muscles would result in
a state of constant trunk extension and this may compress
the vertebrae in the spine. Fortunately, strong abs should
help correct this imbalance and reduce spinal stress.
The opposite would hold true as well (i.e. when your abs
are too strong, the low back will require priority training).
a strong abdominal wall helps to keep all the other structures
in the stomach area supported. For individuals with excessive
abdominal fat, having a strong abdominal area is even
more important, because strong abdominal muscles should
help to compensate for the excess weight in the belly
(although losing that fat weight is just as important).
lifting concrete or dumbbells, always keep the object
close to your body, bend the knees and keep your lower
back straight. Regardless of whether you are a construction
worker that lifts and walks or an office worker that sits
behind a desk all day, you will need strong abs and extensors
to keep good posture and to prevent injuries.