Jay Azeltine – @Jay_Azeltine
I would say 75% of people in the gym are chasing abs, depending on the gym of course. This is not the case at IVB. We’re just trying to get as strong as possible haha.
I know when I first started working out, abs were all that I cared about though. I can remember training strictly abs the first 6 months that I got into fitness, which is kinda obvious when you take a look at my physique as my abs are much further along than everything else.
I receive questions about core training quite often, but one question that I receive over and over again pertains to the lower abs in specific though. This comes as no surprise as the lower abs are the most difficult to sculpt out.
One of the biggest reasons they’re so pesky to achieve is because of our old friend Mr. Body Fat. Most people that I’ve worked with, myself included, hold most of their body fat in the lower abdominal and love handle areas, which can be very frustrating.
So the first step to bringing out the lower abs is to decrease overall body fat. My lower abs usually start to peak through pretty noticeably when my body fat % gets down near 10% or below. For reference, I’m 8.1% BF in the picture above. I had a DEXA BF Scan done which is the gold standard for BF testing, so please don’t argue with me that you’re 3% BF.
Don’t go thinking that all you have to do is lose some body fat though. There are a ton of individuals out there with sub 10% BF that still don’t seem to have that deep lower ab cut. The spot where their lower abs should be is just flat. We’ve all seen somebody like this.
Side note: there are a lot of guys that make the mistake of doing a super strict cut phase and end up realizing that they don’t have any substantial muscle mass under the fat. This happens a lot with guys who just got into the lifting game. Just because you dropped all the fat doesn’t mean that you’re gonna look like the people you see in fitness magazines. I put 6 years in the gym, training hard every single day before I ever cut down to sub 10% BF.
Even after those 6 years I still didn’t have a ton of muscle mass once I dropped all of the fat. This is why I’ve begun preaching to so many young guys that they need to focus more on powerlifting when first getting into the fitness game. Focus on getting strong, lifting heavy weights and eating as much clean food as they can.
This will set you up so much better long term. I wish I had taken this path a bit more myself. I did multiple cuts over the past few years, which was great for my brand growth online, but it kinda set my body back a bit.
I will be spending the next year to change to EATIN GOOD, training heavy and really diving into powerlifting here at IVB. I will then begin prepping for my next show early 2019 and expect to see massive changes in my body. It’s just delayed gratification.
Back to the ab’s though.
Why is it that a lot of people who have the necessary % of body fat to see all of the deep ab cuts, but yet they still don’t have the full 6 or 8 pack?
1.) They don’t naturally have thick lower ab. (Everyone’s genetics are different)
2.) They’ve never put the consistent work in to build up their lower abdominals.
I hate the whole “well, he’s just got great genetics” argument. I get this all the time. Believe me, I don’t have great genetics. I can show you pics of my younger self. I was a total dweeb.
But, it must be brought up though because some people just have “better” genetics than others. There are dudes out there who eat like garbage all day every day, don’t train correctly at all and still look like freaks 24/7 365 days a year. That’s just a reality of life.
To give my genetics a little credit, I have been blessed with a solid frame to succeed in bodybuilding as I grow my overall size and density. I have small wrists, small waist and am able to get super lean when I dial everything in.
Just because you aren’t blessed with superb genetics doesn’t mean you can’t get the most out of what God gave you though. It’s called Self Actualization. Everyone has a different ceiling. Just focus on getting as close as possible to yours.
Let’s get a little more into the nitty gritty of lower ab training now.
I used to be very basic when it came to core training, and I still am, but I’m just a little less basic with it now though. I’ve been trying different exercises out and it has really helped me not only build up those aesthetic abs, but also build up strong abs. There’s a big difference between a core that looks good and a strong core. I learned that the hard way. You CAN have both though.
One of the staples of my lower ab training has always been ‘Toes 2 Bar.’ If you’ve ever done them you know how tough they can be. Especially if you haven’t done them in a while.
It’s ideal to use the hanging straps if you’re new to the movement or if you have shoulder issues. Hanging on a pull up bar and doing standard toes 2 bar can put a lot of tension on the shoulders.
I have been slacking a little bit on my Toes 2 Bar lately, but when I’m really dialing my abs in for a show or shoot I’ll often do them 4-5 days per week, hitting a total of 40-60 reps. Solid reps. Trying to avoid using swinging momentum to get my feet up. The more strict the reps, the more you’re gonna get out of them.
A great way to increase the difficulty on these would be to add ankle weights. Beginning with 2 lb weights and eventually working your way up to 5 lb weights. This will really help add that density to your lower abs.
A quick side note: you may not be able to do a solid rep on these when first getting started. You can cheat them a little bit at first if necessary. But really work on getting to the point where you don’t need to use any momentum. You will also come to find that hamstring mobility is gonna be a key on these as well. If your posterior is crazy tight, you will not be able to do them properly no matter how strong your core is.
If in the case you aren’t able to do them at all, I’ve got a few movements that you can do to work your way up to the Toes 2 Bar. The following movements are great for everyone to include as well though. Even if you can’t perform a proper rep very well, I still recommend switching it up and keeping variety in your lower ab training. This will shock the muscles and spark growth.
Hanging Knee Up’s are a great lower ab movement as well. They’re a solid way to work your way up to a full Toes 2 Bar as well. Once you’re comfortable with the hanging knee ups, you can then begin doing the full Toes 2 Bar in addition.
Another key component to my lower ab training is ‘Reverse Crunches.’ These are much more novice friendly than the Toes 2 Bar. But don’t sleep on the effectiveness though.
There are a few variations to increase the difficulty of these as well. The first one being adding ankle weights. Similar to the Toes 2 Bar, I would recommend beginning w/ 2lb weights and working your way up.
Another great variation to utilize here would be with a band or cable machine. Attaching a strap around your ankles and then attaching it to the cable or band. This will add a lot more tension to the movement. The band is great because the tension will get heavier and heavier as you move towards the top of the movement.
I usually shoot for 15-20 reps with the Reverse Crunches.
As I mentioned earlier, consistency is key. Gotta stay consistent. Trust the process and within a few months you will begin noticing huge changes in your lower abs. Even if you don’t make any changes with your diet and your body fat stays the same, as your lower abs become thicker, they will become much more visible as they protrude the fat. Then once you do cut down again your midsection will completely different.
Until next time, Much Love.
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