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How you should train your abdominals

What does it take to get an eight pack

Saul Yudelowitz Bsc (Hons)

The muscle referred to as the ‘six pack’ is called the rectus abdominal. It is really and eight pack, anyone who has gotten their body fat into the 8% area will tell you that there are ‘two more blocks below the six’.

There are many common faults that trainers and people commit however I will cover only 4 of the most common mistakes in this article.

There are 4 layers of abdominal muscles.

1. Rectus abdominal

2. External oblique’s

3. Internal oblique’s

4. Transverse abdominal (Tva)

The most important of the four is the Tva. Understanding how to contract this muscle in a functional way is essential, not just for aesthetics but for all movement. The Tva works with the Internal oblique’s to provide a stable coupled unit with the thoracolumbar fascia allowing for energy to be transferred from the upper and lower limbs in a contra lateral manner. One very common fault that most people and trainers commit is exercise the abdominals to absorb energy only. This is commonly seen with boxers who have a medicine ball dropped onto their abdomen.

  • If you do not train the abdominals to transfer energy between the upper and lower limbs in a contra lateral manner you will end up with lower back problems as this area will absorb the energy that your abdominals don’t.

Another common fault that most people and trainers do is to train the abdominal muscles when lying on your back. Remember this, your body will do what you teach it so lying on your back and contracting your abdominal muscles as opposed to standing in upright posture and contracting your abdominal muscles is very different from a neurological point of view. This is commonly a fault seen in body building magazines and more recently men’s magazines. Bodybuilding came about from Ben and Joe Wider who used to go around with the circus doing the strong man acts. When science advanced a little they realized that these types of exercises were dysfunctional for human movement. This resulted in Ben and Joe leaving the circus and starting the IFBB (International federation of Bodybuilding) and hence the machine and supplement industry took hold. There are four groups of muscles that work to do all movement, agonist, antagonist, stabilizers and neutralizers.

  • If you do not exercise all four groups of muscles or what is referred to as the chain of muscles you will end up with poor posture which predisposed you to injury.

Adrenalin, this has a seriously powerful effect on the body. If you did not know you can’t burn fat when your adrenalin levels are low. They need to be high up! Olympic athletes on average maintain adrenalin levels for 45-47 minutes with a maximum of 50 minutes. Again another common fault committed is doing way too much cardiovascular exercise. The cardiovascular exercise that I do with professional athletes who need to be lean and not thin lasts for 13 minutes. This program was adapted from a Russian Olympic athlete who competed in gymnastics. If you think you will get lean by just running away on a treadmill for a few hours a week you are wrong. You will get thin but not lean

  • Any good exercise program consists of a balance between weight bearing, cardiovascular exercise and stretching! High intensity exercise for low duration allows for adrenalin levels to be maintained however this should be coupled with flushing of the cardiovascular system.

With respect to the above point on adrenalin, the problem becomes more complexed when people who have adrenal fatigue do long duration exercise. This over a few months leads to thin arms and legs with fat being stored on the abdominal area due to the stress placed on the body resulting in reduced adrenalin and increased cortisol levels.

Chronic stress is a major underlying cause of many chronic illnesses. A stressful lifestyle can lead to consistently high levels of cortisol and low levels of the hormone, DHEA, which can be damaging to the brain and other tissues. Cortisol elevation also impacts immune responses, such as secretory IgA (s-IgA) and anti-gliadin antibody (AGA) production.

S-IgA, part of the first line of immune defense against pathological microorganisms and food antigens in the mucosa of the gut, decreases during stress. AGA is elevated in people with gliadin intolerance and celiac disease, which affect about 12-14% of the U.S. population. When immune defenses in the gut are diminished by stress, gut permeability increases as does the amount of AGA in the bloodstream.

An Adrenal Stress Test (in the clinical test section) will provide the answer to this question.

Nutrition. This is a vast subject and will have an article dedicated to it in the future! What one should look at is the article on ‘Your Health’

  • If you are craving sugary foods then there is a reason for this. Assessing your gastrointestinal health will allow you to correct these thereby ending cravings. Getting the body to burn fat so as to achieve and maintain single figure body fat requires the correct nutrition for the individual, there is no one size fits all!
If you want to get a functional eight pack that will look the part, book in for treatments on line or contact us if you have any questions.
Note on C.V. exercise

The most common fault seen is the overtraining of cardiovascular exercise and how it results in elevated levels of cortisol. The most likely reason for this is that when the gym going public were younger (18 - 20 years old) to get lean all one needed to do was long duration cardiovascular exercise, even if large amounts of food were consumed! This is due to the adrenal glands producing enough adrenalin for fat burning; however fatigue later sets in and cortisol levels become elevated since the gland has been over stimulated.

Once this group of people entered the working environment (22 - 25 years old) they seem a little over weight in comparison to their younger days, so to get back to their ideal weight they run and run and run...........

You can only do what you know, so until one has a better understanding of how the body was designed to function and begins training relative to this, then the lean look is unattainable.


All the information on this web site is the opinion of the owner of Health and Performance and the therapists that it represents. They are not designed to diagnose and/or treat any condition. You should always consult with us before applying any information in part or whole.

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