By Pete Sisco - Developer of Static Contraction Training
Is it possible to gain lean muscle
mass while losing body fat at the same time?
The short answer is yes, but this is a tricky issue.
The body has only so much capacity to recover from
exercise, and new muscle growth will not occur until
that recovery is complete. So if you perform a great
workout that will stimulate the growth of a half-pound
of new muscle, you can prevent it from ever happening
by doing so much more exercise that your body never
completes it's recovery.
For example, suppose on Monday you do a super productive
workout that stimulates new muscle growth that would
manifest on Friday after your full recovery was complete.
But on Wednesday you go for a six mile run and on
Thursday you go back to the gym and pump some more
iron. Guess what? On Friday your body will be busy
recovering instead of growing that new muscle you
would have gained. That's why the three-day-a-week
crowd sees no improvement after the first month or
The way to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time
is to perform very brief but very high intensity weight
lifting workouts that are supplemented with very low
intensity calorie-burning exercises like one hour
walks, jogging and the like. But this is very important:
it is critical to measure the intensity of your weight
lifting workouts so you know they are always increasing
in intensity. Achieving an increase means you were
fully recovered and your fat burning efforts did not
short-circuit your muscle building efforts. If you
don't measure, you're blind and you will not reach
your goals blindly.
Truly Effective Ab Training
Training of the abdominal muscles has recently been
the subject of more misinformation and mythology than
any other part of the human anatomy. Gizmos and gadgets
abound that are alleged to give you those coveted
six pack abs. But here's how you can rationally train
your abs to their absolute maximum limits of development
using everyday gym equipment.
What Builds Abdominal Muscles
There is nothing unique about abdominal muscle as
far as their training and response to training is
concerned. The principles that apply to biceps and
triceps apply equally to abs. So the three critical
elements of your ab workouts are:
1. high intensity of muscular overload
2. progressive intensity from workout to workout
3. proper spacing of workouts to avoid overtraining
Most people do sit-ups or crunches as an ab exercise.
While these are basically good exercises that can
satisfy point 1, above, how many people use them in
a way that satisfies point 2?
Muscles will only increase in response to overload
that is above normal overload. So if you do 20 crunches
every day for a year, why would your ab muscles develop
beyond that capacity? They won?. To force new development
you need to increase the intensity. You could add
a few crunches every day but that really just increases
duration, there is a better way to get fast results.
Why TV Abdominal Machines Are a
You've seen all those exercise gadgets on late night
TV - lightweight gizmos that make it easier for you
to rock back and forth on the ground while doing a
crunch. Have you noticed that none of them allow you
to add serious weight to increase intensity? Some
have rubber bands or similar devices to add a bit
of overload but it? a trivial amount.
I work with clients who have progressed to the point
of doing crunches with 300 pounds! That's the kind
of power and level of development your abs are capable
of. Really! So fiddling around with cheap exercise
equipment or those electric belts that stimulate your
ab muscles using the minuscule power of two flashlight
batteries is beyond laughable. Let's see two AA batteries
generate the power to lift a man's torso and 300 pounds
20 times in one minute. Please.
The Best Ab Exercises
We tested common abdominal exercises and ranked them
by their ability to deliver high intensity muscular
overload. We tested ab machines, vertical leg raises,
Roman chairs and others. The three winners were:
#1 Weighted crunches
#2 Weighted incline sit-ups
#3 Weighted sit-ups
The best way to do weighted crunches is to lie on
the floor with your head close to the low pulley weight
stack. Using the rope handle attachment, grasp the
ends and pull the cable until it is tight and your
hands are resting at the side of your head near your
ears. Now contract your ab muscles in a crunch that
lifts your shoulders off the floor and draws the weight
stack up an inch or two. Choose a weight that is so
heavy you can only to 8 to 12 reps. Even better, if
you know how to do SCT, do a static hold with the
heaviest weight you can hold for 5 seconds.
If you don't have access to a low pulley, there is
a good alternative. You can use the high pulley that
is normally used for lat pulldowns. Kneel on the floor
or sit in the seat directly under the rope handles
that you attach to the high pulley. Lock your legs
under the hold down. Pull the handles into position
next to your ears then contract your ab muscles into
a crunch that raises the weight stack an inch or two.
Choose a weight that is so heavy you can only to 8
to 12 reps.
As a further alternative you can lie on the floor
and do a sit up or crunch while holding a barbell
plate against your chest. The limitation of this exercise
it that, as you progress in strength it will not be
possible to hold enough plates on your chest safely.
But that's a good problem to have.
On each successive workout, shoot for a 5-15% increase
in the weight you use. If you can't get a 5% increase
in weight it't time to add more days off between your
There is no mystery to developing your abdominal
muscles to the limits of their genetic potential.
And you certainly don't need quirky gadgets. High
intensity exercises that can be progressed from workout
to workout will have you sporting that six pack!