Clients always ask me why there is no direct ab workouts (like sit-ups or crunches) in their programs.
During my consultation calls, I almost always hear someone bring up that “they want a six pack” or a “flat tummy”.
It’s a commendable goal. Not even a hater can hate on a perfectly chiseled six-pack, and for good reason. It’s hard work.
A six-pack radiates confidence, discipline, and commitment.
Here’s the thing though: You have your abs and you have your body-fat.
Two separate components. Two separate blog posts.
I really don’t want to turn this post into a rant about how useless ab training (like crunches) is for “getting abs” and fat loss in general.
Hell, I don’t even talk about a six-pack strategy until a client is at a low enough body-fat level to where it matters. This depends on the genetic structure of your abdominal muscles, but a conservative estimate for guys is about 12-14%.
So unless your sleeping habits, nutrition, and fat burning hormonal environment is on point AND you’re at a low enough body-fat level, doing direct ab work is pointless.
You see, we all have abs! Some have perfectly lined up eight packs, and others have awkward looking five packs. It’s genetic and out of our control (unless you’re into plastic surgery).
So let’s understand that we can’t all look like this:
If you’re still with me after that truth-bomb, your first priority should be to strip that layer of fat that is suffocating your abs.
By doing direct ab work early in a program, you’ll just be wasting your valuable resources (time and energy) doing movements that burn the least amount of calories, trigger almost no fat-burning hormonal reaction in your body, and may or may not be terrible for your posture.
Instead, you should focus on burning as much fat as possible with powerful multi-joint compound movements that work many muscles at the same time, including your core (aka “abs”) and trigger huge fat-burning hormonal reactions in your body.
As a matter of fact, I won’t even prescribe direct isolation work (like bicep curls) early into a program for the same reason. It’s why you’ll see guys with huge arms never directly training them, and ridiculous six packs without ever doing any direct ab work.
Don’t believe me, bro? Switch out your bicep curls for weighted chin-ups and bent over barbell rows this week, and get back to me.
The compound movements literally work your entire body.
These movements, when done correctly, release a spike of fat burning hormones in your body. Hormones like GH, Testosterone, and Catecholamine (to name a few) are the key to better moods, higher energy, more muscle, and rapid fat loss.
These hormones work to offset the “bad guys” like Cortisol, a stress hormone.
Cortisol is related to bad sleep, stress, and nutrient deficiencies, and is the main culprit behind the storage of belly-fat.
If I could rank how important stress and your lifestyle is for fat loss, it would be tied with solid nutrition habits for first place. The best way to offset your cortisol is through a good night of sleep.
Back to the Compound Lifts
These lifts aren’t as fun or glamorous as bouncing on balls and some of the other unnecessary novelty shit I always see in the gym, but they sure do get the job done.
Movements like the Squat, Bench Press, Row, Overhead Press, and Deadlift (and their respective variations) are without a doubt the most powerful exercises in any intelligent trainers arsenal.
They’re highly efficient and effective in burning fat, building muscle, and increasing overall strength.
Just performing one set of any of the above will tax your system like no other exercise – burning a LOT of calories, working a LOT of muscles (including your abs), and triggering a surge of anabolic hormones responsible for fat loss and muscle growth.
Let’s take the deadlift for example – one pull performed at a challenging weight will accomplish the following:
- 1. Burn a ton of calories and trigger a huge surge of fat burning hormones.
- 2. Build forearm and grip strength
- 3. Work the muscles in your legs, booty, abs, oblique’s, back, lats, arms, and traps (at the same time)
- 4. Strengthen your lower back and help prevent injuries (and back pain)
- 5. Raise your heart rate and your body’s ability to transport and use oxygen (aka ‘cardio’)
… And that’s the short list.
Mastering these movements makes us stronger, more flexible by putting our bodies through a full range of motion, and easily carries over into real world situations.
Not to mention how ridiculously effective this one movement alone is for fat loss and strengthening of almost ALL of your muscles.
If I could bet on client results, I’d put my money on the client performing 45 minutes of compound lifts three times a week over the client who does 90 minutes on the treadmill for seven days a week, any day.
When you’re at the gym doing workouts comprised of isolation exercises and machines, you’re robbing yourself of your most precious resources – time and energy.
You see, these isolation movements you’re doing are wasting your genetic potential.
They’re not that effective in making you stronger, they burn minimal calories, and trigger a very limited hormonal response in your body.
And the machines – well, they’re not putting you through a full range of motion, and taking away your bodies need to stabilize, working fewer muscles.
Pretty much limiting your strength potential, and making you good at performing useless movement patterns.
Not to mention the whole ‘isolation’ bodybuilding split is just inefficient for most. A muscle group a day? Even two. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Unless you’re a bodybuilder or physique competitor, of course.
I don’t know about you, bro, but I’m not a fan of wandering from machine to machine and performing useless isolation exercise after useless isolation exercise to work out my secondary, accessory muscles.
I would much rather aggressively hit every major muscle group with the compound lifts in about 45 minutes, three times a week, and leave the gym feeling like this:
These multi-joint compound movements are the biggest bang for your buck in fitness. They burn the most calories, build the most muscle, and trigger the most powerful fat-burning hormonal reactions in your body.
1. Work your body as a whole through compound movements.
2.Be a more efficient person.
3. Discover my new program The Jaw Dropping Abs Method
4. Enjoy a more flexible diet and spend less time in the gym.
5. Get stronger and sexier in less time.