Abdominal Axioms: 9 Rules For Better Abs

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people may enjoy better abs. Declare independence from your soft stomach this summer. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms!

Thinking you could look like that fitness model is a lot easier than actually looking like him, especially if you’re groping the bottom of your popcorn tub for that last kernel. It might be June, but it’s never too late to try for a chiseled six pack. Even if it doesn’t happen this summer, you’ll have plenty of other days in the sun to show off your great body.

Remember, achieving six pack abs won’t happen overnight. It requires dedication to a clean diet and a great training program. To really see those etched abdominals, you’ll have to have an aggressive approach. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms and you’ll see some great changes in your physique.

1 / Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Weight loss requires creating a calorie deficit. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so in order to lose pounds you must create a deficit equal to the number of those calories. Losing one pound per week, for example, would require only a 500 calorie deficit per day (3,500cals/7days). That’s fewer than the number of calories in a king-sized Snickers bar! Unlocking better eating habits is the key to uncovering your buried six-pack.

Bear in mind that “better eating habits” does not mean you should jump on the newest crash-diet bandwagon. As tempting as it may be to go on some ultra-low-calorie diet to cut corners and get those abs sooner, resist. Sure, you might lose some weight at the beginning, but drinking three gallons of lemonade and honey per day is not sustainable. As soon as you reap the temporary results, returning to regular or even healthier eating habits will result in weight gains. Your metabolism will still be stuck in slow motion—not cool.

Skip the cycle and choose an option that will work long-term.

2 / Eat Fish for Fat

Add fish to your dinner plate just a few times each week to help trim some fat from your diet. Fish like salmonmackerel, or tilapia are great substitutes for a Rib-Eye steak, because they are leaner. The Omega fats found in fish will also boost your insulin sensitivity, guarding against a blood sugar spike and crash. Healthy omega fats also foster a leaner body composition.

Remember, just because the meat is lean doesn’t mean you get to smother it in butter or deep fry it. Healthy, lean meat doesn’t stay that way if you boil it in a vat of vegetable oil. Plenty of healthy seasoning and cooking options can keep your body and taste buds happy.

3 / Go Au Naturale

Twinkies and Wonder Bread don’t belong on your plate. Processed starches spike insulin levels, keeping dieters on the sugar-binge roller coaster, and also have no nutritional benefit.

Almost anything which comes wrapped in a package needs to stay on the shelf. Closet-eating Pop-Tarts won’t land you anywhere closer to your six-pack goals.

Don’t skip starches altogether. Instead, get the carbs and nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables. If it doesn’t come from the ground or a tree, you probably don’t need it.

4 / Just Say No to Sauces and Condiments

Sauces and condiments, though delicious, can wreck your diet regimen; it’s where a great deal of your excess sugar likes to lurk. Sauces and condiments are also full of sodium. Sodium increases water retention; so even if your eating habits are spotless, your abs might just be hidden under that bloat hanging out above your pants.

Kick the ketchup and soy sauce and save yourself hundreds of calories per day. Instead, flavor dinner with sodium-free and sugar-free spices and herbs.

5 / Don’t Drink Your Calories

Be picky about the fluids you put into your body. If you regularly quench your thirst with fruit juice, energy drinks, sugary coffee drinks, or fruit smoothies, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you pack around a few extra pounds. A good rule of thumb: If your beverage contains calories, don’t drink it.

If you just aren’t ready to break up with your favorite Starbucks barista, then switch up your routine. Try an Americano or green tea instead of your usual large Orange Mocha Frappuccino, and hold the whip.

6 / Lay Off the Booze

As hard as this may be, cutting alcohol out of your diet will eliminate empty calories that attach themselves to your waistline. Drinking also slows down the fat-burning and muscle-building processes. If your body is ridding itself of those beers you had, burning fat or building muscle will get short shrift.

If eliminating alcohol is simply not an option, stick to wine. Red wine has a little less residual sugar than white wine and has the natural benefit of antioxidants. Yet both types are similar in their calorie content. Liquor is the next best option, so long as it is not mixed in sugary cocktails.

7 / Pursue Muscle Mass

Without some muscle under that adipose tissue, your 6-pack won’t be too impressive. Resistance training adds lean muscle to your frame, which revs metabolism and burns more calories. Adding muscle mass also makes your body stronger, shapelier, and better defined.

That muscle mass doesn’t come from doing a few biceps curls and calling it good. Lift heavy and lift hard. If you want some extra calorie burn, shorten your rest periods, or do some sort of cardiovascular activity between sets. High intensity resistance training is the most powerful fat loss weapon in your arsenal. It burns calories during and after exercise, and it increases the secretion of hormones that stimulate fat breakdown.

8 / Keep Crunches in Their Place

Don’t let your quest for great abs rule your workout routine. Some ab isolation movements are helpful, but you need to spend most of your time under a barbell or rocking some dumbbells. If all you do is crunches or cycle for an hour, you won’t burn enough calories or build enough muscle to make a difference in your physique.

Spend 10-15 minutes three times per week doing isolation ab work in addition to your intense resistance training routine. But keep in mind that your abs are more than the washboard-looking rectus abdominus, so don’t focus on them. Perform a variety of movements to strengthen the external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus.

9 / Sleep Your Way to Better Abs

Sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate and synthesizing essential hormones and protein needed for muscle growth. Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced more abundantly when you sleep; you’ll need it for growth stimulation and cell reproduction.

Sleep also encourages better eating habits. A not-so-restful night might mean reduced leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone) levels.

So, if you ever wake up from a fitful night craving nothing but carbs, lower leptin levels might be the reason. Sleep well and your diet will feel easier.


Skyrocket Your Strength And Muscle Gains In Two Workouts A Week!

Training two days per week takes efficiency and intensity to another level. See how to defy mainstream lifting logic and become stronger and bigger with less time in the gym!

Most lifters won’t take this claim seriously: You can build PR-worthy strength with only two training days per week. You can roll your eyes all you want and return to curling five days per week, but this isn’t a virtual girlfriend story. It’s reality.

This claim does require a preface, however. When I talk about hitting two workouts per week, I’m not talking about unmotivated, haphazard training sessions that involve more yak-yak than heavy lifting. No, these two days per week must be a focused and driven attack on the iron.

Even with intense focus, I’ll admit that achieving measurable strength gains on only two sessions per week seems unlikely. But I’ve done it. I’ve seen my clients do it, too. I coach, attend grad school, and work a full-time job, so I don’t have much spare time.

For someone like me, two-day training is perfect. The key is to focus volume and intensity toward specific goals and lifts.

The Foundation

Okay, here are the principles. Simplicity is paramount.

No Deloads ///

Most training cycles I pen include a deload between weeks four and six, but this one doesn’t. Training two days per week won’t accumulate enough stress to require a deload. A “down” week would just be wasted time. You can apply the template below for 12 solid weeks without any deload weeks.

Limited Variation ///

Progress is dependent on focus, and exercise variation must be limited for progress when training twice per week. If you throw several exercises at your body in a short timeframe, limited adaptation results. Strength gains require exposing your body to constant stimulus, especially in a limited training window. There’s no need to get fancy.

You’re going to pick two lifts and get good at them. Really good. You’ll do them every time you train, after all. With only two training days, I know it seems logical to use as much variation as possible, but variety doesn’t promote progression. Building skill does. Getting good at lifts allows us to train harder and get stronger.

The two lifts you choose will be done with speed and vigor. They’re included at the end of your warm-up preceding your main lifts, which are the same lifts loaded more intensely.

Forget About Body Parts ///

To get strong, we train lifts, not muscles. If you’re a body-part-split aficionado, you must remove your bias and open your mind to try this template.

High Intensity ///

All lifts, except for your warm-up lifts at the beginning of each workout, are going to be heavy. We’re talking about high intensity. There’s no time for fluff and unnecessary volume. We have to use intensity to get strong.

The main lifts are loaded using heavy sets of 2-3 reps. Assistance work will stay between 5-8 reps per set.

Training Days Devoted to One Lift ///

By now, you know that you have to choose two lifts and train them with a chip on your shoulder. It’s not rocket science. One training day will be devoted to the first lift you choose, and the subsequent day is devoted to the other lift. All assistance work on each day is devoted to develop the main lift.

The Template

A Few More Guidelines ///

Exercise Pairings: Pair a lower-body exercise like the squat or deadlift with an upper-body exercise, like the overhead press or bench. This combo creates training efficiency and helps the body adapt to the new loading parameter.

Intensity Ratings: Below you’ll find nomenclature describing training intensity based on Mike Tuscherer’s rated perceived exertion (RPE) system. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • 6 = Bar moves quickly without much effort
  • 7 = Bar moves quickly with maximal effort
  • 8 = Could’ve done 2-3 more reps
  • 9 = Could’ve done one more rep
  • 10 = Absolute max, couldn’t do one more rep
Sample Days ///

Below are twosample days aimed to build a stronger deadlift and bench press. The first day is the deadlift day. Notice that all the assistance work is deadlift-specific. This is a template example, so feel free to set up your own programming. Choose assistance exercises based on your individual weaknesses.