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Abs for Old Guys

Long story short. I have had two extensive back surgeries with lots of hardware. Many core exercises are out. I can do the crunch machine comfortably without aggravating my back. I cannot do crunches lying on my back. Can this machine deliver abs or am I wasting my time? Thanks.

The rectus abdominis (aka the ‘6 pack muscle’) originates on the hip bones and attaches to the lower rib margin. Thus, its sole function is to pull the ribs closer to the hip bones. As with any skeletal muscle, to hypertrophy the rectus, this movement has to be done against resistance. Whether that resistance comes in the form of gravity (ie, crunches on the floor) or via a weight stack (as in a seated crunch machine) makes no difference.

tl; dr Yes, the crunch machine can effectively induce rectus abdominis hypertrophy.

Caveat: If you have a significant amount of abdominal fat, the 6-pack will be obscured, no matter how well-developed the rectus. So, getting visible abs requires a combination of rectus hypertrophy and sufficiently low bodyfat levels.

Thanks for the answer. I’m aware of the body fat issue. At this point I’m trying to add muscle so not concerned about fat. I plan to “diet” leading up to next summer. Just wanted to be sure I’d have abs under the fat. Lol. Approximately what bf % are we talking? Below 15%?

It’s a function of how well developed the rectus abdominis is. That said, with a reasonably well-developed rectis, @15% BF the upper abs will be visible. In my experience, the lower abs don’t become well-visualized until one gets to the 8% range.

Thanks for the reply. I’ve followed several of your threads. You’ve obviously put your money where your mouth is. At my age, I’m not sure I’ve got 8% bf in my future. Lol

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@EyeDentist do you have a thread where you discuss your diet?

Thanks for the link. That’s a lot of info to digest (pun intended). I clearly do not have your level of discipline. I lost 35lbs in about 10 months and have kept it off for a year. I lift hard, but only three days/week. I’ve really changed my body composition. I’m still trying to pack on a few lbs of muscle, so I’m eating more calories nowadays. The plan is to adopt a carb cycling-type diet in the spring to see if I can drop my bf down to around 10-12% by early summer. I will most likely simplify the carb cycling to just eating no starches on the off days and moderate starches on lifting days. Thanks again for your help.

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@EyeDentist I tried the reverse pyramid workout for chest today and really liked it! Got a quick question about the one arm hs bench press. How do you determine a good seat height? Thanks…

What works for me is if the handle is about shoulder height in the bottom position. However, what I suggest is you experiment with different seat-heights. The right height for you is the one where you feel like you’re getting maximal contraction of the upper-pec region at the top of the movement. If that means the seat is a little higher or lower than where I would place it, so be it.

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What are your thoughts on shoulder training? I feel like I hit my shoulders as hard as any other body part but I can’t seem to get them to grow at the same rate?

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately.

HS shoulder press. 5 partial reps top half followed by 5 partial reps bottom half followed by 10 full reps. Then immediately get up and do lateral raises to exhaustion and do 3 sets of this.

Then 3 sets of dumbbell lat raises with the last set being a drop set.

Then 3 sets of machine lat raises.

Then 3 sets of face pulls.

Happy to answer, but first: What does your overall training regimen look like? That is, do you do whole-body workouts, or a bodypart split (upper/lower; push/pull/legs; etc)?

I lift 3 days per week. I do shoulders and back together and chest and arms together. I do abs every workout. I don’t do legs per se. Long story that I won’t bore you with.

Most of my lifting consists of HS machines and cables. I use some free weights but not many.

Setting aside abs, you have two workouts, but lift 3x/week. So, do you alternate your two workouts, ABA BAB style?

Yes. I’d love to workout 4x/week, but the only way that fits into my schedule would be Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That would mean repeating a workout on Tues and Thurs which I don’t think would allow enough recovery.

One easy way to prioritize Delts would be to do them every (workout) day. I would suggest creating two Delt workouts, one based on triceps-intensive movements (‘Push’ Delts) and one on biceps-intensive movements (‘Pull’ Delts). Do the Push delt work on your Chest day, and the Pull delt work on your Back day.

Some examples of Push delt exercises include:
–Any sort of overhead pressing, including the HS machine
–Scott DB presses (a personal favorite)
–Cable lateral-delt work wherein the cable crosses in front of your thighs, the cable is gripped directly with the palm facing the wall behind you, and the lateral movement is performed with the pinky-side of the hand leading the way
–Seated DB rear-delt laterals with both hands in a similar position to that described for the cable lateral, arms almost straight (slight bend in the elbow is OK), and the pinky-side of the hands leading the movement out and up
–Glass (as in Charles, a famous BBer and now trainer) style lateral raises. Essentially, the medial-delt version of the rear-delt work described above

Examples of Pull delt exercises include:
–Wide-grip upright rows
–Wide-grip Haney rows
–Front raises with an EZ curl bar (palms up)
–Standard DB lateral raises (ie, with the palms facing each other)
–Seated rear-delt rows (sit leaning forward while gripping DBs, then raise your elbows behind you)
–Face pulls

If doing Delts every workout seems excessive, you could do them twice a week, with the first and third workouts. Again, split them into Push and Pull exercises, and do whichever coincides with the workout of the day. So, if A is your Chest workout and B your Back workout, it would look like:

A (Push delt)
A (Push delt)

B (Pull delt)
B (Pull delt)

A (Push delt)

Thanks! Your the best. I’m going give this a try. Now I need to search some of these exercises…lol


It’s so over-used I hate to even say it but in pursuit of ABZ “diet is King”.

It doesn’t really matter what ab exercises you do, the only way to get them to show is to get rid of the abdominal fat. And if you’ve never had visible abs before the first time through can get to be miserable. My personal experience is the same as the Dentist… blurry outer ab definition was visible at sub 10-15%, but the full six pack wasn’t visible until below 5-8%.

Actually in my case it was never visible even when I was on-stage. My abs have a funny shape and I only had 4. Such is life.

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Scott presses:

Glass raises (note the positioning of his hands):

Haney rows:

You’re a gentlemen and a scholar! Thanks…

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