10 Rules For Ripped Abs!

Use these 10 abdominal truths to effectively burn fat, target your abs, and build a strong six-pack.

As a personal trainer, I’m constantly bombarded with questions about how to build six-pack abs. My clients want to know the best core exercises, what to eat, and how to train for best results.

To help you complete your own quest for a chiselled middle, I’ve gathered and answered my clients’ top 10 questions into one supercharged six-pack article. Start shredding!

1 / Are Crunches The Best Way To Get Ripped Abs?

No. Crunches work your abs, but there are more effective core-centric exercises. A study from San Diego State University showed that the vertical chair knee raise, for example, stimulates up to 210 percent more abdominal activity than a regular crunch!

Core muscles are also an integral part of deadlifts and squats, both of which are more effective than crunches. They also burn more calories, giving you extra bang for each rep you perform.

2 / How Should I Train For Maximum Fat Loss?

Go hard and go heavy. High-intensity exercise has been shown to stimulate lipolytic hormones, including growth hormone and epinephrine, which promote greater post-exercise energy expenditure and fat burning.1 This after-burn effect is associated with a boost in metabolism, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

High-volume, whole-body resistance training significantly elevates resting energy expenditure up to 72 hours after exercise in both trained and untrained subjects.2,3 In fact, a study from the National Taiwan Normal University found that EPOC after training with heavier weights—75 percent of one rep max (1RM)—is higher than after training with lighter weights at 50 percent of 1RM.

Basically, the heavier and harder you train in the gym, the more you burn when you’re done lifting.

3 / Why Is Stomach Fat So Hard To Lose?

Everyone’s different, but the stomach is generally the body’s favorite place to store and hold fat—even on a strict diet and fitness plan. When I was competing in bodybuilding, my lower abs were the last to appear before a show. Hormonal changes that result from lack of proper sleep, stress, and aging add more fat to your waistline.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a quick fix—it’s all about proper nutrition, consistent exercise, and overall caloric expenditure.

4 / How Long Will It Take To Get A Six-Pack?

This is probably the most common question we hear from our clients at CircuitFIT. There’s no sure-fire answer because so many factors are involved, including your current body fat, your fitness level, your exercise routine, your diet, stress, and your sleep duration and quality.

Regardless, you won’t build a six-pack overnight. You have to put in real work and give it time. Get a fitness and nutrition plan together and follow it consistently for at least 12 weeks before you expect to see noticeable results.

5 / What Should I Eat In Order To Get Ripped Abs?

Fewer carbohydrates and more protein! Stick to nutritious carbs like whole grains and vegetables, and make sure each meal or snack contains a lean protein source like chicken, fish, or non-fat Greek yogurt. Don’t be afraid of fat, however. Include good fats from fish, fish oil, nuts, olives and avocados in your diet.

I personally have 3-4 whole-food meals and 1-2 protein shakes per day. I have my shakes pre- and post-workout on training days. It’s all about choosing whole fruits and vegetables, and nutrient-dense, complex carbs. My diet includes whole eggsyams, Greek yogurt, fish, chicken,beef, nuts, olive oilalmond butter, fruits, vegetables, quinoa, and other nutritious grains.

6 / Can I Get Ripped By Taking A Supplement?

Remember that supplements need to supplement something. If you want to get ripped and build muscle, you have to get off your butt and do the work! I always recommend that my clients have a solid training and nutrition regimen in place before they add supplements to their programs. When you’re ready to add a fat-burning product, choose one with ingredients backed by published studies.

Caffeine, CH-19 Sweet Red Pepper Extract, and raspberry ketone are all backed by quality research. These are some of the ingredients we use in our PharmaFreak fat burner, Ripped Freak.

7 / Will I Be Able To Maintain My Results Once I Stop Using A Fat Burner?

Of course! As long as you continue to train hard and follow a solid nutrition plan, you’ll maintain your results sans supplements. Most people eat super clean and train harder than ever while taking supplements, but go back to their old, lazy ways once they stop. This leads to the dreaded “yo-yo syndrome,” which destroys hard-earned results. Consistency is the key.

8 / Is It Easier For Men Or Women To Get Ripped Abs?

In general, men can achieve six-pack status easier than women because they produce more testosterone, allowing them to build more muscle mass and burn more calories while exercising and resting.

Women have a harder time because of their hormonal and muscular makeup, which is one of the main reasons we emphasize compound—or functional—lifts with our female clients.

That said, the older we get, the harder it becomes for both sexes to get a six-pack. Our hormone levels naturally decline. However, research shows that strength training can increase lean muscle tissue and strength, which helps us stay ripped.

Pumping iron is the key. Proper nutrition and supplements can also help naturally raise key muscle-building and fat-burning hormones.

9 / What If You Don’t Want The Six-Pack, But Just A Flat Stomach?

Wait, who doesn’t want a six-pack? OK, even if you just want a flat stomach, I recommend you train your abs from all angles 3-5 times per week to build a strong core that not only looks good but also helps you perform better and stay injury-free. Check out my favorite abs exercises.

10 / What Are The Biggest Mistakes People Make When It Comes To Getting Flat Abs?

Ninety-nine percent of the time, when clients aren’t achieving desired results, they’re consuming too many calories, making bad food choices, or both. You can avoid this by tracking your progress. In addition to writing down reps and sets, keep a food journal. Documenting your daily progress is extremely valuable because it allows you to look back, review, and tweak your plan.

Everyone responds differently, so to determine what works best, get to know your body and listen to its feedback.


Deadlift Dominance: 5 Tips For Massive Pulling Power!

If I had to make a list of things I like in no particular order, it would look something like this:
  1. Turning right on red
  2. Anything involving Jason Bourne, ninjas, or zombies
  3. LOLCat videos
  4. Getting people strong
  5. Deadlifts

I’ll admit that as a strength coach, I’m biased when it comes to the last two. To me, nothing trumps strength. And nothing gets people stronger than good ol’ fashioned deadlifts.

Guys can brag about their squat numbers despite only hitting quarter reps, or even brag about a big bench press that’s more like an upright row for their spotter, but you can’t cheat a deadlift.

It’s you versus the barbell. You either rip that son of a bitch off the floor, lock it out, or not. The deadlift lends itself very well to gauge progress. It’s up to you, and brute strength, to break initial inertia off the ground. If you’re able to lift more weight over time without blowing your sphincter, you’re making progress!

Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to deadlifting than just bending over and hoisting a barbell off the ground. The following tips will undoubtedly clean up your technique and improve your deadlifting dominance.

1 / You Don’t “Dead Squat”

I once overheard a personal trainer explain to his client that a deadlift is a squat with the barbell in your hands. I’d trust this advice about as much as I’d trust a barber with a mullet, or a mallet. Unfortunately, this is a common thought process among fitness professionals and Internet users. I could write a Tolstoy-esque dissertation on why this is faulty logic, but let’s agree on a couple things:

  1. Squats are generally, but not always, considered more “quadriceps dominant,” while deadlifts can be considered more “hip dominant.” I’m not married to this mantra because you can easily make either lift more quad or hip dominant. Yet for the sake of brevity, let’s just make note of the distinction.
  2. Maybe most important of all, regarding trunk, hip, and knee angles, significant differences between the lifts are readily apparent. In the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Pure Power, in an article called “Differences in the Squat and Deadlift,” scientists noted that squats produce a more linear relationship between the hip and knee angles, “illustrating a more synergistic and simultaneous movement.”The deadlift showed three distinct phases defined by dominant joint action at the knees during lift off, the hips with the barbell at knee height, and both knees and hips during lockout.

So a deadlift is not a squat, which serves as an appropriate segue into the next point.

2 / The Hip Hinge

I see a lot of people who use a squat pattern to deadlift because they don’t know how to hip hinge correctly. The problem is that the hip hinge is crucial to a proper and powerful deadlift.

You can think about the hip hinge as another way of saying, “Push your hips back.” This is a cue that will come into play throughout the movement, from the deadlift setup to the descent back to the floor.

Make no bones about it: The setup is key, essential for mastering the deadlift and lifting big weight. I tell people to set up right against the bar and push their hips and hamstrings back as if they were trying to hit the wall behind them. Think of it like performing a Romanian deadlift—feeling significant tension in the hamstrings—until your hands can grab the bar.

In this context, your hips will be back and a bit higher than what you’re probably accustomed to. Of course, positioning will differ among people with different leverages and body shapes, but the recommendation serves as a great starting point for most people.

Consider—as it relates to the hip hinge—the initial movement after lockout as you start the descent back to the floor. Many trainees mistakenly break with their knees and essentially “squat” the weight down. Focus on the hip hinge and push your hips back! If you feel the brunt of your weight translate into your toes, it’s a safe bet you’re “squatting” the weight down.

3 / The Setup … Continued!

It’s crucial to attain more upper back stiffness by keeping your chest tall and engaging the lats. Pulling heavy loads with a rounded back is a big no-no because it places compressive and shear loading on the spine.

In non-geek speak, if you consistently deadlift with a rounded back, your spine will eventually flip you the middle finger. The ability to resist shear loading (i.e., upper-back rounding) is a big deal, and how you initially set up is going to pay huge dividends.

Here’s a video that breaks down many of the coaching cues I use with my athletes and clients:

4 / Take Your Shoes Off

As innocuous as it sounds, taking your shoes off to deadlift can make a huge difference to clean up technique and improve overall performance. The main points to consider are:

  1. Most shoes make us 1-2 inches taller. This bodes well for people who are vertically challenged, but wreaks havoc on deadlift performance because the bar has to travel farther.
  2. Pulling barefoot allows you to sit back on your heels more, which helps engage the hamstrings and glutes to a higher degree and improve performance. I’ve seen people increase their deadlift by 10-20 pounds after removing their shoes.

If you train at a lame gym that doesn’t allow you to take your shoes off due to safety concerns, your best bet is to wear a “minimalist” or flat-style shoe like New Balance Minimus or Chuck Taylors.

5 / Perform More Singles!

Deadlifting for high(er) reps doesn’t make sense. When we get in the 5-10 rep range, I find that form becomes suspect at best. My deadlift programs tend to stay in the 1-5 rep range, even for beginners.

Working in a 1-5 rep range allows people to hone in on technique. When they become more proficient, I allow them to use heavier loads under that same rep scheme. It’s a win-win.

As a paradigm shift, I tell my athletes and clients to think of it as five separate singles rather than thinking of “x” set as five reps. There is no golden rule that says you can’t pause or reset between each rep. This is the mentality I lean toward to coach the deadlift. It slows people down and ensures that each rep is as close to perfect as possible.

Strong Body, Stronger Mind: 6 Steps To Mental Muscle

Big changes to your body and your lifestyle don’t come without a shift in your mental attitude. If your mind isn’t up to the task, your body will never be. Learn how to strengthen your mind in six steps.

1 / Know What You Want

Before starting on your journey, you’ve got to know where you’re going. What do you want to accomplish with your body? Are you a young guy looking to get big, or do you want to lean down? Do you want to focus on strength for a sport, or would you rather focus on mass? Do you have dreams of becoming a professional, sponsored bodybuilder or fitness model? It’s your body, your mind, and your choice. Remember that!

Despite the simplicity, answering the question “what do you want?” is difficult for most people. One reason that question is so hard is that it forces you to come to terms with your current state of affairs. You might want to be a behemoth bodybuilder, for instance, but if you’re already overweight to an unhealthy level, then gaining more weight isn’t a great idea. You’ll have to diet first, and that sucks! It’s a lot easier in the long run if you’re honest with yourself and honest about your goals.


2 / Surround Yourself With Positive People

Once you decide to change your body, you might find that all sorts of previously pleasant people start to become discouraging. It’s rarely anything overt, though. You’ll just hear off-hand comments about your “Spartan” diet or “obsessive” training schedule, and some people will not-so-playfully poke fun at you for taking fitness seriously.

3 / Do What You Hate!

If you want to make everything else in your routine seem a little easier, aggressively tackle the stuff you hate the most. Dreading your next leg day? Do double your normal volume on squats! Is cardio getting your down? Crank up the treadmill speed and tough it out. Getting a little sick of your diet? Try eating everything with zero spices or herbs for a few days and see if your normal meals don’t seem a little less boring.

You can only make so many tough choices per day. It’s a lot easier to fall off the wagon when every meal and every workout feels like a burden. By forcing yourself to do the hard stuff, you effectively make all of exercise and dietary habits “easier,” freeing up your mental energy for other tasks.

4 / Maintain Momentum

“The highs are high, and the lows are lower.” That old adage applies to most endeavors, and fitness is no exception. For me and most of my clients, training hard and eating right becomes easier the longer we do it. Like any other habit, they are tough to start, but even tougher to break.

5 / Set Short- And Long-Term Goals

When you try to improve your body, one of the worst things you can do is to become complacent. It’s fine to take a break now and again. Even pro bodybuilders have “maintenance” periods, but you need to keep new goals in mind if you want to make continual progress.

To keep yourself moving forward, have short- and long-term goals going at the same time. Say you want to increase your squat. If you’re currently hitting 225 for five reps, you might have a short-term goal of getting 275 for five reps. Don’t stop there! Think about how much stronger you want to be and set a lofty goal: try for 405, 495, even 585 for five reps!

6 / Embrace Failure!

It might hurt to hear this but, you should know that you are going to fail, and probably more than once before you reach your ultimate potential.

Even if you exert the utmost control over your diet and training, you’re going to have setbacks like bad workouts, periods of low energy, injuries, and external stress.

Know that this isn’t an excuse to be undisciplined, but an understanding that you’ll have to stay in the game for the long haul. If you don’t understand the likelihood of occasional setbacks, every mishap will seem like the end of the world.