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What is Everyone Doing for Core?


I don’t do them myself but how about more stuff like breathing/bracing drills


In your opinion, were Helms’ and Israetel’s abs lacking development or definition compared to the rest of their bodies? How about Stan Efferding?

Here’s an excerpt of Mike Israetel’s article on ab training (for aesthetic purposes it appears) on the RP site:

" You can pretty much do NO direct ab work and still grow abs for a very long time. This is because the heavy loading of your compound heavy basics like squats and deadlifts provides a decent ab stimulus. But, if you want your abs to really GROW, and not at a snail’s pace, you’ll have to work them directly. Before we move onto to more details about how to grow the abs purposefully, let’s fist examine in what context this would be needed.

When choosing the needed context for direct ab growth (and conversely, the context in which such growth is NOT considered beneficial and is actually best avoided), we must remember that we are, with direct work, GROWING the abs. That is, your rectus abdominus muscles will actually be getting BIGGER. Which means that they pop out more and are more visible at any given bodyfat, but also means that they slightly expand the size of your waist, especially when viewed from the side.

So if you actually want bigger abs, then direct training for them is a great idea. If you already have a very slim waistline, don’t ever plan on getting massive and competing in bodybuilding, but just want your abs to “pop out” more, then this training is right up your alley! Because let’s face it, some of us get quite lean but have such small abs that even VERY low levels of bodyfat leave our abs looking unimpressive or even barely there. Some folks might be VERY content with just a flat stomach, but if you want your abs to pop, you might consider them for direct training.

On the other hand, if you have aspirations to compete in physique sport, and especially if you’re either planning on getting very big eventually or you’re female and compete in Figure, then direct ab training might even be a net negative, as keeping your waist small must be a high priority for you. So before you start training your abs, consider your goals and then make an educated decision."


I have never seen a photo of Mike Israetel in appropriate onstage condition.

What you’ve posted from him makes some sense, though I’ve never seen a natural bodybuilder’s midsection get too big from an exercises that only involved flexion and rotation. For my show I trained abs 2 to 3 times per week. I’m a medium-framed guy though, so I suppose I never have to worry about getting a huge midsection.


Here’s Helms. Again, not bad looking but not freakishly lean.

And in this pic loooks as if he could use some more ab development.


I think this picture of me best shows how much an development I got after seriouslytraining them 2 to 3 times per week for about half a year.


I’m no expert in bodybuilding, but it looks to me like Israetel just isn’t lean enough for much ab definition, or much definition of any other muscles either. Is this from the last BB show he did or an earlier one? He was claiming to be natural for a while and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but at this point now it’s pretty clear he’s on something.

Helms isn’t particularly well-accomplished in either BB or PL, I suppose you could say the say about Israetel but he did somewhat better in both. I just look at them as “sport science” guys, not necessarily an example to aspire to in terms of sport performance. A large part of the criticism here has to do with leanness, and while that is certainly relevant to BB as a whole it is sort of a separate issue from ab development. The question remains whether direct ab work would have made a noticeable difference for either of these guys, or anyone else. In Helm’s book “Muscle & Strength Pyramid: Training” he says:
"To be perfectly honest with you, i’ve never actually seen a bodybuilder improve their abs or their upper traps by adding in these exercises to an already well-balanced routine that includes deadlift and squat variants, overhead pressing, rowing, other compound free weight exercises. "

Also, I would say that it’s a somewhat flawed argument to use elite bodybuilders who train abs and an example vs. mediocre guys like Helms and Israetel because it’s not ab training alone that got them where they are, aside from hard work and eating the biggest factor is genetics.

In any case, I don’t claim to be an expert in BB or strongman, I just know a thing or two about PL because that’s what I’m into and what I concern myself with so maybe in certain contexts there is value in direct ab training. For example, Stuart McGill cautions against exercises that involve spinal flexion because they can lead to back issues but he also mentions that these sort of exercises can be necessary for certain sports like MMA because it is a sport-specific movement. On the other hand, I can’t remember ever trying to actively flex my spine while squatting or deadlifting.

So for powerlifting, direct ab work is of questionable value but what is absolutely necessary is correct bracing. Someone new to the sport is unlikely to know how to brace properly, but doing sit ups or hanging leg raises is unlikely to solve the problem. Learning how to brace, which may include specific bracing drills, is likely to be beneficial but at the same time I wouldn’t really look at that as “ab work” or “core work”.


In terms of leanness, muscle definition, and abs in particular you beat the hell out of both of them, I give you that.


my coach has had me doing a variety of things. I’ve done windmills with a kettlebell, plank varieties, overhead db/kettlebell carries, etc. just a lot of things that


Chris thanks for all the knowledge, you mentioned direct bracing drills, is there a link to video or somewhere for me to read?


All this back and forth is great, but training your abs, core stabilization , orange peel, apple core, or what ever else we can throw at it takes like 10 minutes. Do it twice a week. Your lifts won’t suffer. Your looks won’t suffer. And who knows, maybe things will even get better.


Yup. Never understood a compelling argument to not make something stronger.


Agreed. Hell, I still do certain foot drills I learned when I was younger from Muay Thai guys. I’ll roll up a towel or paper with my feet when I’m watching tv or something. Hasn’t had a massive impact on my squat or anything, but it hasn’t hurt them either.


Probably helps keep the ankles and toes mobile and strong… Which means better rooting which means… Better lifts.


I don’t have one to give you off the top of my head but look the McGill Big 3 as well as dead bugs and learn to do those. Keep in mind that the McGill curl up (which is the most specific to bracing for PL out of the “big 3”) is supposed to be very challenging, Brian Carroll said that if you aren’t shaking you aren’t doing it right. Dead bugs too, it’s not just about moving you arms and legs around, it should feel challenging.

If you want you can sign up for Kabuki Movement Systems (Chris Duffin’ thing), use the code onemonthfree for a free month. They have a lot of stuff on bracing and muscle activation, more than anywhere else I have seen. It’s not as exciting as it sounds (and it doesn’t sound too exciting either) but it’s worth signing up for a month or two.


The thing is that you are using energy and time that could be put towards things that directly improve your lifts, like the lifts themselves. At the end of a squat or deadlift workout I’m exhausted and have no energy or motivation to do ab work, if I force myself to do it I really seem like I get nothing out of it at all. I could reduce volume on my squat and deadlift so that I feel fresher for ab work, but is it worth it?

On a similar note, today I thought I would try doing the McGill big 3 before my squat/deadlift workout to see if it helps anything. I didn’t notice any improvement at all. I think the McGill big 3 (as well as other bracing drills and ab work that doesn’t involve spinal flexion) is good for people who don’t already know how to brace but my bracing is already good. My abs aren’t lagging, everything else is.


Am I only one who sees the direct correlation to all the other assistance debates out there?

Does a PL need tricep work, rows or ab work for assistance? Maybe its something people should try out themselves. You clearly don’t need it. My squat and pull always feel better in periods when I do direct ab work ( or something really midsection based, such as GMs or FS).


It’s not just you, but these same insane arguments occur with all assistance work too. It’s very “in” to not do direct work. Just like how it is still a competition to see who can do the fewest curls.


I always liked putting it in during my warm ups, or later in the day. This might also be an argument for the value of some conditioning work.


That’s a good point, there are guys with big benches who don’t do direct tricep work. Rows, or whatever other lat work/upper body pulling, probably won’t have a direct impact on your lifts either but the main benefit is preventing shoulder issues from too much internal rotation and no external rotation.

I don’t see why you would say this is an “insane argument”, that just sounds dumb. There are some very successful coaches and lifters (Chris Duffin for example) who don’t advocate for direct ab work. Do you know better than him? Are you more successful as a coach or lifter?

Ab work seems to be more of a tradition that anything, in the past it was mostly stuff like situps but people have started to realize that those are mostly a waste of time and possibly detrimental so they are falling out of favor. Planks, ab wheel, and such may be useful at some point but in my experience they cease to yield any benefit after a certain point. If you feel that ab work helps then go ahead. This whole thread started with a guy asking what other people do for ab work, I gave my answer and mentioned that others do the same as well.


It is quite insane to argue against strengthening a weak area, that is why I say it. I apologize for any confusion. Equally insane to argue beyond “do it if you need to: don’t if you don’t”