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Ask The Trainer

When will my abs begin to show?

By Chris Antonio | May 28, 2012

Q: I’ve been losing weight for more than six months and was wondering how much weight I will have to lose before my abs will begin to show. Also, I was wondering how often I can work them. I’ve read conflicting opinions on this and get confused because some articles say you can work your abdominals every day, and others say you must rest them to get progress. What is your opinion on this issue? How often do you have your clients work abs to get results?

A: There’s no doubt your abdominals have more stamina than the rest of your body simply because you use them nearly every time you move. You use them when you stand up; you use them when you sit down and you’re even using them every time you take a breath. However, it’s important to understand they’re still muscles, and muscles need rest to recuperate from hard workouts. If you are doing abs every day, guess what? You won’t be getting the rest needed to reach your potential.

I believe abs should be worked 3-4 days a week with at least one day of rest between workouts. You should concentrate on good form and not how many reps you can do. Most people don’t realize how much momentum they use when training their abs. It doesn’t make sense to do hundreds of reps when you can get better results in less time with strict form. I usually have my clients do two to three exercises for two to three sets each of 15-35 reps depending on their level. Planks, leg raises, bicycle crunches and medicine ball twists are all good choices.

I always include an equal amount of lower back work to complement the abs. Let’s not forget, your body has a front and a back. Spending all your time working on the side you see when you look in the mirror will only give you half the results. Tightening both will make your waistline look twice as good. It will also help prevent back injuries due to muscle imbalance. Good examples of exercises that isolate the lower back are hyper extensions, bird dogs and supermans.

It would be hard to predict how much weight you would have to lose before your abs will start to show themselves. Every case is different. It would depend on the amount of body fat you’re carrying. The more weight you’re carrying, the more weight you’ll have to lose to sculpt your waistline, but we all have the same muscles underneath, and if you want to see them, you have to strip the fat layers off and expose the lean muscle that lies underneath.

Remember, it really doesn’t matter what you weigh, but rather how low your body fat percentage is, if your goal is to get six-pack abs. In fact, those abs won’t pop until you’ve reduced your body fat to approximately 10-12 percent for men and 16-18 percent for women. To accomplish this, you’ll need to also focus on a proper diet and a sensible cardio program in addition to training your abdominals correctly.

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