No Nonsense Abs
How to lose the stomach fat, and see your abs.
I have been around the fitness industry long enough to know about all of the useless information that is filtering throughout the Internet about losing fat and attaining those "washboard abs" everybody wants. All you have to do is go on Google and search for "fat loss workouts" and you will get results that are legitimately not scientifically correct; which is unacceptable.
Without getting into the whole biology of the body's way of burning calories and its metabolic effect on various foods, I will try to make this article as straight forward as possible with the intent to give you the bare minimum of information you need to start your journey. Doing this, I hope you can understand why fasting for 4-6 hours when you wake up is beneficial and avoiding crunches is one of the best things you can do for your back.
1. Eat below your calorie intake - I can't stress enough how important it is for someone to track their calories. It is simple biology, if you eat below your calorie intake, your body has to burn fat. If you are really serious about losing body fat, then you need to make sure your daily caloric intake is below your maintenance. Now, you may seem hesitant about tracking your calories each day, but it really is not hard at all. Nowadays most people have a smartphone right? Therefore, there are a ton of apps that help you do this and do all of the calculation for you, all you have to do is punch in your weight, height and age. Another simple way to find out your maintenance calories is to get your body weight and multiply it by 15. There you go, that is your estimated caloric intake. This is the amount of calories you can eat in a day. It is a matter of going below, to lose weight, or above, to gain weight. In order to have a good rate of fat loss, subtract 600-500 calories off of your maintenance calories. For example, I am 170lbs -- so if I wanted to lean down, I would multiply my weight by 15 (170 x 15 = 2550) then subtract 600 calories. (2550 - 600 = 1950) This is my final caloric intake if I wanted to effectively lose fat at a steady rate. I would even say that is pretty low, I would go with 400-500 calorie deficit to make it around 2100. You can aim for 1 - 1.5 pounds of fat loss a week at this rate.
2. Fast when you wake from bed - Intermittent fasting is becoming more and more popular. When I tell people that I fast 4-6 hours after I rise from bed (with the exception of a green tea and lots of water) they always make a weird face and ask, "Isn't that just detrimental to your goals?" In all honesty, I usually try to explain to them but they start to drift off once I get into details and the conversation is over. Fasting may seem like an out-of-this-world type of nutrition tactic, but it really isn't. There are numerous, and I mean tons of articles and research papers about IF that only speak of the benefits. That is to say if you are diabetic, etc. you may want to step back from IF and further research it. With that being said, IF is the ultimate tool for getting and staying lean. Although to date, there is no scientific evidence that IF burns fat while being able to build muscle, but that is not what we are going to be using it for. Within scientific studies, it was found to have made changes in fat mass, increase energy, improve insulin sensitivity and improve blood lipid. Many other benefits have been studied such as reducing obesity, hypertension and asthma. The main goal of using IF is to spread out your meals while you are in a caloric deficit. I don't know about you, but I love to eat huge meals, so when I fast for 4-6 hours during the day I may have my first meal at around 4 or 5 PM. I will have a meal of 850 calories. Then the next meal I will have is at 7-8 PM which is 1000 calories. These two meals fill me up like nothing else and it is a huge amount of food to eat in reality. So, being able to use IF as a tool to spread out your meals for the convenience of not starving yourself when you're trying to lean down is a wonderful thing. To put it in perspective, I'd rather eat 2 huge meals a day than eat 6 small rabbit meals. Did I mention that in that 4-6 hour window you are burning pure fat? Although studies say you can't burn fat and gain muscle at the same time, we're not trying to go over our caloric intake, so in other words; if you have nothing for your body to burn (carbs, fat, protein) then it will turn to your body fat storage for fuel. An example of my day: (school day)
Wake: 7AM - Green Tea/Water
Lunch: 1:30PM - 850 calorie meal
Snack: 5:30PM - 250 calories
Dinner: 8PM - 1000 calorie meal
TOTAL = 2100
(This is going by my current calorie intake that works for me, which is at 2100-2200)
In order to slowly and gradually work your way into IF, I would recommend starting your day with a 2 hour fast, then a 3 hour and so forth working your way to a time where you are comfortable.
3. Leg raises / ab exercises - The whole phase with crunches should really be over with, but for some reason it is not. Ever wondered why your back hurt the next day after crunches? Any exercise like this is just putting unnecessary leverage and pressure on your spine. I should know. I go to the chiropractor once a week because of what I use to do when I was younger, which is very heavy squats with bad form and crunches. Now, I manage my back pain because I've thrown out all of the unnecessary exercises. Exercises such as hanging leg raises, planks, renegade rows, hanging knee-to-knee's, etc. work wonders for your core.
Hanging knee raises OR Hanging leg raises:
Starting off slow, use hanging knee raises to get the mind-to-muscle connection. This will also give you time to get used to the position and the feeling of hanging.
Grabbing the pull-up bar, hang straight and make sure your shoulders don't come out of their socket. You'll know what I mean if you feel it. Make sure your shoulders and scapula are flexed. Tilt your waist backwards very slightly on an angle to feel a little stretch. Once in this position raises your knees up to 90 degrees or even higher. Do not go fully down, as this will ruin the tension on your core. Make sure not to swing your back and try to keep a straight back as much as possible. If you fail to keep a straight back and are swinging, you will hyper-extend your spine and it most likely cause injuries. Exhale as you bring your knees up, breathe in slowly as you get back to the starting position. I would give this exercise a 3 x 10-15 rep scheme.
This is one of the best exercises for the obliques. This exercise develops your obliques very well, so that they don't over-grow and take on that bulky look. This exercise also helps develop your TVA muscle (Transverse Abdominals) which is what makes your stomach look flat. People with a weak TVA usually have a droopy belly and bad posture. It is essentially the muscle behind the abdominals. Using a heavy weight, (40-60lbs) get in a push up position with the weights in each hand on the ground. The weight should be at shoulder level and not to spaced out. Using one arm, bring a dumbbell up on an angle towards your obliques while flexing your stomach and using your lats (back). Make sure your shoulders and scapula are retracted and are not slouched over. You only need 6-8 reps of these to really feel the tension in the obliques. Breathe in when you bring a weight up, and out when you go back into position. A key trick is to keep your torso in place. Don't let your body lean to one side.
Side-To-Side Bent Knee ups:
This one is also for the obliques, but also very good for the overall core. The starting position is the same as the hanging knee or leg raises, but instead of coming up straight into a 90 degree angle or higher, we will be swinging our knees to the side. Make sure your legs stay together and then lift them into an angle so you are not just hanging from the bar. Even with a little angle you should still feel some tension in your abdominals From here, raise your knees to one side, come down (but not all the way down, to keep the tension strong) and go to the next side. There are many set and variations you can do with this exercise. Some go to failure, or a 3 x 15 set scheme. Find out what works for you.
To put everything into perspective and in order to get lean you need to eat below you caloric intake. You need to find a way to manage your diet/nutrition. Finally, you need to actually work your abs. If you do not exercise your abdominals like every other muscle, they will not be as sharp as they can be.
Hanging Knee Raise
Starting postion of the "Hanging Knee Raise"
Top phase of the hanging knee raise.
Beginning phase of a renegade row. Step up platform at subjects feet is optional. (More challenging)
Top phase of a renegade row.
Side-to-Side Knee Raises
As you can see, do not go all the way down while performing side-to-side knee raises. Keep the tension going the whole set.