Should I Train ‘Abs’?

Fitness, Lifestyle

If you ask the majority of people what they’d rather have, great abs or the freedom of choice when it comes to food, they’d usually choose the latter. If you asked the same question about having a strong Core, well, ‘that’s the same thing right?’

When it comes to abs, having a tight midsection is a bi-product of numerous factors, those of which do require discipline, but considering that the ‘6 pack muscles’ can only really be seen at a certain body-fat % are they really worth training?

The superficial –those closest to the surface of the body– abdominal muscles are trained just like any other, although their visual development can be deceiving to often weaker, deep rooted core muscles pertaining postural balance and healthy movement.   

Lets start with the ABS,

Can you ‘contract’ them?

Can you target specific areas?

Do you feel like you’ve worked them the following day?


As much as I am always going to encourage doing more of something IF it serves a purpose, reflect on whether this extra twenty minutes in the gym can be utilised more effectively. Focus on your CORE* until you can answer YES to all three

Just like any other muscle group, sound abdominal training should involve focusing on the concentric part of the movement,

breathing IN as you would before submerging into water

bracing as you would receive a punch to the stomach.

When it comes to breathing OUT, contract your abs and exhale sharply to complete the movement.

Breathing with intent during the crunch of the movement will determine the difference between merely doing 1000’s of sit-ups and actively engaging your stomach muscles as they should be.

Do you have tightness in your lower back?

Chances are, anterior weakness in the midsection, especially after prolonged periods of sitting with a rounded –kyphotic– posture presents more stress to the lower back than necessary,

strength to the front is strength to the back. 

My top 4 exercises for abs along with the fundamental progress points that must be mastered beforehand

Twisting/Knee raise on parallel bars 15 side/ 15 middle/ 15 side

Lying knee raise 45 rep total

Partial into full rollouts

4×20 rollouts from knees

The ‘rolling’ plank

3-5 minute plank all sides

Cable crunches – all sides

4×20 weighted decline crunches

Performing each of these exercises regularly or even as part of a short 4 exercise circuit together will certainly strengthen your abs, but they will need just as much time to recover as any other muscle. If you were to do 20/30 minutes of ab training every 2 days, try to avoid doing them before a leg or a heavy compound lift day, if you cannot squeeze them into your routine aside these factors, do them at the end as opposed to before.

Look out for my next posts ‘Is Caffeine killing your appetite?’ and further videos on my Instagram for Core basics and Core progressions.



The ‘Lean Bulk’ Myth

Now as some of you may have realised by now, when it comes to the fitness industry, you’re only as good as the words you use. This lovely range of clichés and buzzwords has awarded the average Joe a degree in nutrition, got him on the judging panel at the Olympia and way up in your girlfriend’s DM. This being said, there’s one term that ironically takes the cake as it were. A combination of two buzzwords to form the ultimate one…
‘lean-bulking’ Now as much as ‘lean-bulking’ gets thrown around, you can’t help but notice its ability to define just as well as contradict. In the same way that that people quote from great literature out of context, or celebrities who claim it as their own, words are like faces, employed purely on their marketing value.
In a nutshell ‘lean-bulking’ is a term creating a misconception amongst the ‘I wanna be big but like ripped aswell’ community. The misconception, that one can add — here’s another one — ‘lean mass’ simultaneously without gaining fat. Okay, being in a healthy caloric surplus i.e consuming just over your maintenance calories, will at the very least provide you with enough fuel to complete your weekly routine. Often along with the facility of having extra calories left over. However, unless you can consistently manipulate these extra calories to such a specific point just over maintenance but enough to ‘bulk’, its more of a hopeless stab in the dark that’s gonna leave you with energy one day and none another. For someone that’s ‘lean bulking’ it is equally important to control the length of time such a period takes, Whether it’s either gain of 0.2 or 0.5KG a week.
 For someone with an active lifestyle, the weight goal difference between 0.2 and 0.5KG may not differ so much –depending on the individual– making a gradual 3KG weight gain at least somewhat realistic. Although it is worth noting such a difference in calories between the two. Those 270cals might not seem significant, but in hindsight this is more than half a full days worth of calories in a week, a day in two, two in a month. It is this similarity in calories which relates the previous window between ‘lean-bulking’ and just ‘bulking’ If for example  3,510 was maintenance and 3,780 surplus, the 270 would be the window in which enough calories are consumed to build muscle, without going overboard.
Considering the above, the time frame in which this takes place can usually determine whether it is in fact ‘lean mass’ or just fat. I’d like to think that this is now common knowledge but there are plenty of people that insist on abusing a somewhat caloric freedom, sweetened up by additional strength and of course the additional sweet(s)
So where does this leave ‘lean-bulking’? Well unless you weigh your food, already have a solid foundation or are prepping for a competition, ‘lean-bulking’ is a mere safety net term for those sceptical about gaining weight or people that wanna make pigging out to excess sound edgy. The truth is, unless you can be firm enough about what it is that you want — weight loss or weight gain — sitting on the fence will only prolong such a process. As previously mentioned in More on Macros and ‘The Bulking Fear’ the necessary parameters for muscle gain all revolve around how much fuel your body has, input vs output. Recognising another generic application of ‘lean bulking’ little to no fat gain whilst gaining as much muscle as possible, its far fetched to say the least. This is where having the ability to sieve through onslaught of false pretences on behalf of professional athletes comes in handy. Regardless of whether someone’s drug-free, drug-using, natty, half-natty and all the other BS terms concerning their physiological capacity, as far as ‘lean-bulking’ goes, again, it depends entirely on the individual:
Individuaectl A.
  • Less cardio
  • Eat consistently in a surplus of calories
  • Train heavier
  • Less reps
Individual B.
  • More cardio
  • Gradual surplus of calories whilst assessing its effect on weight
  • Train lighter
  • More reps
I can appreciate that this is a rather general depiction of body types, nonetheless, when it comes to ‘lean-bulking’ it is not merely a matter of eating MORE of the right foods, it is one that relies fundamentally on calorie CONTROL. Regardless of whether the calories are from ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ sources, it ultimately means nothing at either end of the spectrum, considering that input and output are not substantially adhered to.
If you can also go and follow my IG page, that’d be grand
Jake   👊