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Abs and Back



Oct 17, 2010
by Neil Gardner - Index


Abdominous rectus, obliques, serratus, intercostals, and, the unseen transverse abdominous all make up what is commonly known as abs. It is this dynamic and often showy central area that gives the body stability through the hips and lower back. The abs look like such a complex area but in fact need only a simple workout to reap the most benefits in strength and condition. There is no doubt that a great set of abs set apart the good physique from a great one. The development of the abdominal region will always indicate a person’s level of overall body fat.
The crunch has taken over as the most popular exercise from the old style sit up and, rightly so. The traditional sit up can, if done too quickly, or with too much added weight, hurt the lower back and make the neck stiff from having the hands behind the neck. To get a good crunch you need spinal flexion. This means trying to move your chest towards your hips in a crunching motion hence the name. Keeping your hands crossed over your chest will stop any neck aches. Pulling the head forward when hands are behind the head is the most common cause of neck ache. Find a spot on the ceiling to look at. This will keep your head in one position and not bobbing about all over the place. If you’re just starting out, begin with your feet on the floor. As you get better put your feet up on a bench. Eventually lift the feet up off the bench and hold then in the air whilst you crunch. 2-3 sets of 20 -30 reps for these. Now move on to lying leg raises, another weightless exercise. This is done whilst lying on your back with your hands placed under the hips palms down. With feet together raise the legs up until you have achieved a piked position or 45 degrees. Lower the legs back down for the completion of one rep. 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps and your leg raises are done for the day. For the more advanced try lifting your hips off the floor and adding a one second squeeze at the top of the movement. For weight bearing movements, I suggest rope crunches. Using the cable crossovers slip a knotted rope through the overhead handle. Some gyms provide ropes for this if they don’t knot up the ends of some strong rope and bring it from home. Grasp the knotted ends overhead and kneel down in front of the weight stack. Your knees should be the length of your torso away from the weight stack. To get into the starting position, pull the rope down until your torso is parallel to the floor. From this position pull the chest towards the hips in a similar way to crunches. Focus on keeping the elbows from moving and the head stationary. 2-3 sets for 10-15 reps are plenty. If you perform all these exercises in a tri-set fashion then you’ll be getting a pretty good all around workout that will not only give the foundation for great abs, but will help in the functional support of the lower back.


Ab crunches 2-3x 20-30
Lying leg raises 2-3x 25-20
Rope crunches 2-3x 10-15
Rest: 60-90seconds between sets


If there is one body part in recent years that can be the difference between first and not placing, it is the back. This is one really impressive area. There are many different muscles in the back. So that when they are well developed you can be assured of standing out in a crowd. It is true that back training is not the most pleasant but there is no doubt that the effort put in is well rewarded. The beginning of the back session should always be light warm ups of pull downs and rows. Followed by stretching. Nothing to strenuous saves your energies for the work to come.
Start with the most taxing exercises such a dead lifts or bent over rows followed by single arm rows or seated close grip rows. Finish with chins (weighted if you can) and you’ve got yourself a back workout. Choose four of the above exercises in order of effort required. Now onto the performance of each exercise Dead lifts will require the most effort as you use not only the back, but also the quads, hams, and glutes. If you do the lift sumo style rear delts will be activated as well. The first set will be a warm-up followed by two sets of your top weight. Always keep a straight back. It helps if you keep your head up. Grasp the bar slightly wider than hip width with your feet 4-6 inches apart. If you prefer to try sumo style then grasp the bar inside your knee position with your foot stance much wider set at about 2-4 inches wider than your hips. Stand over the bar and drop your hips into a squatting position. Drive upward with the legs, to get started and keep the spine straight keep driving up until the legs are 90% locked. Now pull with the back until you are standing upright. Lock out at the top of the movement for a count of one before lowering. Reverse the movement until you are in an upright. Lock out at the top of the movement for a count of one before lowering. Reverse the movement until you are back in a squatting position. By now the weights have probably hit the floor. You have just completed one rep. Warm-up sets are up to 10 reps working sets are around 4-8 depending on how heavy you go. Bent over rows is done with torso aprox. Five degrees above parallel. You must focus on moving the torso as little as possible. The only thing moving should be your arms as they pull the from hanging to a position of contraction which is about the belly button area. Imagine your hands as hooks and that your elbows are trying to meet in the middle of your back (they won’t or at least they shouldn’t). Two sets of 4-8. Single arm rows will hit all those detail muscles in the upper back. I see so many people doing these with a knee up on a bench, which will twist the hips and can be uncomfortable if you use a very heavy weight. It is better to plant both feet firmly on the ground and rest the non-working hand on the bench or preferably on the dumbbell rack. Pull the D/B from the floor in an arc rather than straight up to the chest. This is a fairly simple movement although you must always try to keep the elbow close to the body. 1-2 sets for 6-10 reps. when performing the seated row the normal close grip handle is best. This will hit the middle of the upper back and thicken those traps up. The start should be in an upright sitting position. Don’t lean back into a lying down position, this is no good for your lower back. Again most of the movement should come from the arms not from the torso. To get a great squeeze with seared rows, pull the shoulders back before you start to pull the handle toward the chest. Have the bar touching the lower chest on each repetition, hold it there for a quick second then, slowly as possible, lower the weight back to arms length. Try not to stretch out too much at the end of each rep, keep the tension on the back. To Finishing the workout with one set of chins to total failure. Don't stretch out too much at the end of each rep, keep the tension on the back. Two sets of 6-8 reps.. Use a medium grip and use lifting straps so that it doesn’t matter if your grip is failing. There is no need to count reps on this set just keep going till you can’t move. I don’t mean stop when you can’t get another rep. I mean until you can’t twitch on the bar!


Deadlift 2x warm-up x 10, 2x 4-8
Bent over rows 2x 4-8
Single arm rows 1-2x 6-10
Seated rows 2x 6-8
Chins 1 set to failure.
Rest: 2-4 minutes between working sets
60 seconds between warm ups.