T Nation

Whoa, Thibadeau! ABS, baby!

As Nate would say…DAYUM!!!

Christian…that has to be one of the most solid ab circuits that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve read a LOT of recommened ab training workouts!)

A question for you and the rest of the T-Gang. Aren’t more and more trainers and writers suggesting that CORE ab strength and ab AESTHETICS are no longer sort of “separate” issues? In other words…if you REALLY want a smokin’ set of good LOOKING abs, then build the core strength of the transversus, internal obliques, etc. (I’ve now read that from first Alessi now Thibaudeau).

(P.S. Christian’s circuit had my abs hurting just READING it! LOL!!!)

Any thoughts guys?

When I trained my abs for martial arts, I trained them hard-core. And I NEVER had a six-pack (despite being very low body-fat). I just had a striated sheet across my belly. And the obliques looked good. It wasn’t until I took some time off abs (like, years) and came back with “body-builder” ab training that I developed a six-pack.

Just adding to the empirical data pool …

I believe this sort of “holistic” approach is valuable. The core strength or base is crucial. It depends on personal aesthetics, but well developed obliques and transversus muscles, as well as any other abdominal areas that would be recruited when perfoming other lifts can affect the way primary abdominal muscles are distributed.

it looks like a serious ‘ouch’ on the first attempt. Dragon Flags… damn. I’m going to stick with something easier like janda situps for the time being :slight_smile:

I think that you bring up a good point, the abs need to be worked as a full unit. In some cases, as parts of a compound exercise.

I still think aesthetics are a seperate issue, just on the virtue of the primary determiner being low body fat and just good ‘ab’ genetics. but yeah, you need to focus on the machine to make it work. not focus on making it look good.

Thanks for the good words!

As Charlie Francis would say “If it looks right, it flies right”. When you train for function, form will follow.

This is especially true of abs. However one must not forget that bodyfat levels have a lot to do with a good looking set of abs … you might have great abs, but if they are hidden under blubber your midsection wont look good.


Do you mean drop the “core” stuff in favor of crunches (cable and otherwise), or something else?

This seems like it may be pretty interesting stuff…in other words, differences in how peoples abs have responded to exercise…

Maybe I missed this, but how many times are you supposed to perform the circuits per week. Are we talking three days per week, or what? Thanks for the help.

The circuits are performed ONCE per week and on a specific training day. You do not train other body parts that day.

Well, in my youth, ab training was designed to make my abs as defensive as possible. I wanted a rock of muscle protecting my core. So, in addition to “standard” sit-ups (where the bum and legs were anchored but because we did them at elevation, our back could go lower than the bed - think the movie “The Professional”), we also did extensive static, weighted leg raises (once we could do 2 min, the weight increased). Finally, we did medicine-ball situps (which are tough to explain, while prone, you grab the ball from your side {alternates} and then shoot it up at the instructor while sitting up. There are two balls in motion in total between you, your instructor, and your training partner (who catches the ball from the instructor and places it by your side).

Anyway, I worked my abs very aggressively, and never saw anything resembling a six-pack, just a straited plate and pronounced obliques (they look like fingers on the ribs).

I took a couple years off of the whole fitness ‘scene’. And when I got back, developing a six pack became much easier. Crunches, leg raises, and “standard” sit-ups done in “sets” causes them to shape nicely. Before then (in MA) all ab exercises where done according to a clock, not reps. I just think that the weightlifting concepts of “sets” and “recovery” and “active rest” causes a different look to my abs. Hmmn, don’t really know if I answered any question.

PS: this article really inspired me to put more work into the washboard. Funny that, since we’ve recently had the Davies and King articles too - but they didn’t ‘fire me up’.

ok this sounds like a great ab program…my problem…nuthing to do the gagne exercise with at my school’s crappy gym…anything i could subsitute with that?

The Gagn?'s cyclone is performed on a regular back hyperextension bench … most gyms have that. If you don’t, try using a regular bench: place the bench so that your body will be perpendicular to it and that the side of your hips is the only thing touching the bench. Then anchor your legs to something solid, or have a training partner hold them.

Question for Mr. Thibadeau… would training abs in the AM after morning cardio, followed by regular weight training in the PM, be alright?

Yes, but only…

  1. If the PM session doesn’t include exercises requiring intense core activation (e.g. no squats, deadlifts, clean, jerk, snatch, overhead stuff).

  2. If you allow at least 1 day of rest after that training day, and preferably 2 (cardio + abs circuit + strength training = a lot of time to recover and grow!)

Chest day it is. Thanks for the tip.

We now know that leg raises (especially weighted–worse yet, ballistic) are VERY damaging to the lower back. They do virtually nothing for you, as they more work the iliopsoas complex–causing it to become hypertonic. This predisposes the lumbar section to injury even further. Several guys, even after I carefully explained to them the anatomy involved, said “well, I don’t have any lower back pain, so I’m gonna keep doing them.” About 60% of those who have herniated disks DON’T KNOW IT YET.

I don’t agree 100% with you in regard to leg raises. It is true that this exercise can strengthen the illipsoas significantly. It is also true that strong muscles have the tendency to be tighter. However since the IP is a muscle important in many many athletic abilities (all sports requiring running) I believe that to avoid strengthening this muscle is not the best way to go. It is much more intelligent to strengthen it (since it is required in sport performance) BUT to stretch it a lot to avoid any excessive tightening.

A muscle CAN be strong and flexible, just look at elite olympic lifters who have great shoulder, hips and lower body flexibility despite overal body strength work.

Just curious on your thoughts in regards to performing this workout as an ancillary day (by itself, of course). Have you found that it is okay to simply add it to your normal training load while dropping other ab exercises from other training days? In other words, as long as training volume remains the same, can number of sessions per week increase without compromising recovery? Obviously, it’s highly individual, but I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Also, given that you recommend it be a training day of its own, do you think high GI post-training nutrition is necessary?

Great article; thanks!

My athletes usually do 4 regular strength training sessions per week plus the abdominal workout (so they are in the gym 5 times per week). The abs program is hard physically but not so much on the CNS, so it doesn’t increase the risk of intensity-induced overtraining (Type A-Overtraining or Addisonic overtraining).

It could lead to volume-indiced overtraining (Type B-Overtraining or Basedowic overtraining) but only if you include a lot of abdominal work outside of the “circuit day”. At first, if you want to keep the same number of regular training days, I’d recommend slightly lowering the volume of demanding core exercises (squats, deadlifts, lunges, overhead work, olympic lifts…). That’s doesn’t mean that you should stop doing them, just that you should use a bit less volume at first and build-up the volume as you feel that you are adapting to the added workload.

Also, given that you recommend it be a training day of its own, do you think high GI post-training nutrition is necessary?

The post-workout strategie always vary according to the difficulty of the workout. For the “abs circuit day” I use the following strategies:

  1. If 1-2 circuits are completed = 10-15g protein, 40-50g of carbs, 3-5g of EFA

  2. If 3-4 circuits are completed = 15-20g of protein, 50-60g of carbs, 4-6g of EFA

  3. If 5-6 circuits are completed = 20-25g of protein, 60-70g of carbs, 5-7g of EFA

  4. If 7-8 circuits are completed = 25-30g of protein, 70-80g of carbs, 7-8g of EFA

  5. If 8-10 circuits are completed = 30-35g of protein, 80-90g of carbs, 8-9g of EFA

  6. If 10-15 circuits are completed = 35-40g of protein, 90-100g of carbs, 9-10g of EFA

  7. If 15-20 circuits are completed = 40-45g of protein, 100-110g of carbs, 10-11g of EFA


A) If your weight(lbs)/height (cm) ratio is less than 1 = lower protein and carbs by 10g, EFA by 1g.

B) If your weight(lbs)/height(cm) ratio is between 1 and 1.3 you use the recommended portions.

C) If your W/H ratio is more than 1.3 you increase protein and carbs intake by 10g and EFA by 1g

Fantastic article Christian ! I especially like the way that you have laid it out (frequency). It often seems so many of us are always thinking along the “more is better” way to train with the mid-section. I also believe that the tempo is a critical element here. So many people use an increased speed of movement to get through a challenging set. Do you think that a back extension machine would work for the Gagne’s cyclone exercise? Thanks for your input and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.