There’s a lot of conflicting information about the most effective way to get abs. One of the easiest ways to make sense of the confusion is to apply the exercise principles of FITT to your workout.
FITT is an acronym which stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type, all of which are important when training for a six pack. To make things easy, I’ll address each point below and outline the best practices to help you see your abs sooner.
FREQUENCY: Frequency refers to how often you train. With other body parts, such as the chest, it’s generally considered good practice to leave at least a 48hr window before retraining the same body part.This is done to provide the muscles and immune system with adequate time to recover and repair. After all, it is this downtime that spurs growth and adaptation and prevents burnout. The abs, however, can be treated differently thanks to their high workload capacity and resistance to fatigue.
Your abs, like your calf muscles, adapted to everyday movements like standing, bending, walking, sitting and stretching making them well-suited to handle endurance-type activities. While there may be sports-specific reasons for training your abs more often, one dedicated training session a week together with other workout activities designed to burn fat is more than enough, especially if you’re just starting out.
INTENSITY: Intensity refers to how ‘hard’ you train. This can be measured on a scale of 1-10 where 10 indicate a maximal effort. For the reasons outlined in the previous paragraph, a high intensity is generally favored to maximize calorie-burn and effectively work the abs. Low intensity does have its benefits for recovery sessions and beginners but generally doesn’t provide enough ‘overload’ or stimulation to cause the abs to adapt and grow.
TIME: Time refers to how long you exercise your abs in a given session. This can vary greatly, though it is generally advised to not exceed 45 minutes – 1hr. If you’re training with good intensity, anything exceeding this likely to be wasted effort, as this is more than enough to stimulate adaptation from the muscles, providing your level of exercise difficulty is suitable.
TYPE: Type refers to what sort of exercises and training styles you use. As getting abs requires a lean body fat percentage, It’s important to choose exercises and training styles that effectively burn body fat and strengthen your abdominal core.
Basing your workout routine around compound exercises like the squat and chest press will accelerate your results compared to isolation exercises, like the sit-up, which targets only one muscle group. Most people naturally assume that getting abs means performing hundreds of crunches. While these are good for strengthening the abs, they do very little to shift the belly fat which keeps them covered. Focus instead on performing 3-4 sets of 10-20 repetitions per exercise arranged in either a circuit or total-body routine.
The great thing about the principles of FITT is that they’re dynamical and can be adapted to suit varying levels of difficulty. So next time you’re in the gym, consider the principles of FITT to challenge your body and boost your six-pack results. For more on getting abs, click here.