Workout of the Week: AVA'S ABS!
Sculpt your abs with the help of IFBB Figure Pro Ava Cowan
by Ava Cowan
My abdominal routine is created in the same manner that I create all of my exercise routines. I carefully pay attention to every layer and every section of the muscle to properly build and develop it to its full potential. For the abdominals, that means working them from the every angle to ensure that I am strong not only from the core, but also to the more visible rectus abdominus.
I also focus on flexing my abs throughout my entire workout and I am very meticulous about my form. I would highly recommend learning the human anatomy as it pertains to musculature and also where the muscle originates and inserts into the bone. Then when you go to the gym, you will be able to create a customized program because you will be able to visualize exactly which muscle you are working when performing an exercise. This will allow for more creativity in your workouts and you will become a master at sculpting your own physique!
I train abs no more than twice a week. I treat them just like any other body part. I would never train any body part more than twice a week because the muscle only grows while in a state of rest. I usually train abs on my shoulder day, and if I chose an additional day it will be on a cardio only day.
Here is a list of my favorite ab exercises. I usually choose 3-4 each workout, and rotate them often so that my body doesn’t adapt to the imposed demand or exercise. I also switch up the weight so I may only complete 6-8 reps. Other times I will do 20 reps or more. I like to see results and the only way to do this is to change the routine. One of the quickest ways to do this is to switch up my repetition range. Here is a list of my favorite abdominal exercises.
HANGING LEG RAISES: 3 X 20
This is an advanced move and really targets the lower abdominals. You may also get a similar action using a roman chair. A beginner may bend the knees and then if 20 repetitions are completed without stopping, I suggest progressing to a more advanced exercise by keeping the legs straight. You must control the movement and so that your abs are what gets your legs up and not the swing at the bottom of the movement. You must be aware of your breathing as well. I tell my clients to breathe as if they are blowing out candles on a cake during the concentric part of the movement. Simply, breathe out as your legs come up to your chest.
Do three sets of 20 reps. Once you are able to complete 20 reps, progress to a straight leg raise.
Set Up: Hang from bar, arms and legs fully extended.
Action: Bring your knees to your chest using your lower abdominals. Exhale as you bring your knees up. Make sure to control this movement, and do not swing.
ROPE PULL DOWNS: 4 X 10
Of all of the abdominal exercises, this is my absolute favorite. This is most likely true because of the focus on my most visible muscle, the upper portion of the rectus abdominus. This exercise may be partly responsible for the density I have been able to achieve in my abs. I prefer to train in a lower repetition range with this exercise. And why not, I lift heavy with every other body part. My goal is building the muscle, and the abdominals are no exception.
Set Up: Place a rope on a high cable pully. Kneel in front of the weight stack while holding the rope at your forehead. While kneeling, bend at the hips so your torso is nearly perpendicular to the floor.
Action: Crunch down while holding the rope in place at the top of your forehrad. Don’t move your hips, just squeeze your abs to move the weight.
MEDICINE BALL DECLINE CRUNCHES: 4 X 10
I like this exercise because I am able to hit the lower abs at the bottom or start of this movement, and I can hit the upper abs at the top or end of the movement. The medicine ball adds extra intensity, and allows me to stay in a lower rep range by adding more weight. Do three sets of 15 reps and work up to more set and reps.
Set Up: Sit on a decline bench with your feet hooked behind the foam pads of the bench. Hold a medicine ball in a fixed position at your chest.
Action: Slowly roll back on the bench until you are fully extended. Once you are fully extended, slowly curl up and exhale at the top of the movement. Repeat.
V UPS: 4 x 25
This is an incredibly efficient abdominal exercise as you may do it in between other exercises, or alone. I often can add intensity into my workouts but doing lets say a seated row, then I turn to the side and move right into 25 V-ups. This is a great way to have an active rest between sets of any other body part. Another bonus is that the V-up targets the upper and lower abs. I make sure to do slow controlled movements, breathing out as the legs come up. Do three sets of 12 reps and work up to more set and more reps.
Set Up: Sit with your hands just behind your hips and your legs extended in front of you. Lean back on your hands and lift your legs off the ground about six inches, keeping them straight and together. You should be balancing on your butt.
Action: Keeping your back straight and your chin lifted, curl your knees in toward your chest. Slowly return to the start position and repeat.
BICYCLES: 4 X 25 EACH SIDE
I like this exercise as it targets the transverse abdominus, and so I know that I am working not just the “six pack” but the deeper fibers as well.
Set Up: Lie supine on the floor with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet off the floor. Place your fingers lightly behind your head for support; do not pull on your head. Allow your elbows to flare out from your ears.
Action: Exhale and lift your right shoulder toward your left knee as your extend your right leg away from you. Keep the extended leg low and off of the ground. Repeat this exercise, alternating sides in a slow and controlled bicycle motion.
INCLINE REVERSE CRUNCH: 3 X 20
This exercise is a killer! And if you want to add some serious intensity, try a slight twist to the side on the way down to really target those obliques. Just make sure you are use slow controlled movements on this one.
Set Up: Lie supine on an incline bench with your legs extended in the air directly above your hips. Hold the bench by your head.
Action: Initiate the movement from your lower abs and curl your hips up off the bench and raise your pelvis off the bench by driving your feet to the ceiling. Hold at the top of the movement for a second and reverse the motion slowly to the starting position and repeat.
CABLE ROTATION: 3 X 20
This is the ultimate exercise to target the transverse abdominus. This is an incredible core workout, and adds a nice variation to a stale abdominal routine.
Set Up: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the cable directly across the chest at waist level with both hands. Keep the arms extended. Keep your hips square as you twist from the left side to the right side.
Action: Rotate body away from the weight stack using abdominals and glutes. Allow back foot to pivot and allow back leg into triple extension (hips, knee, ankle) Keep your core engaged throughout the set.
Special thanks to Ava for the great workout. To find out more about Ava, check her out at the following spots:
Team Gaspari Athlete - check out Ava's blog: http://www.gasparinutrition.com/teamgaspari/avacowan/
Photo by EvaSimon.net
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