For advanced bodybuilders in today’s age of “mass at all costs” attitude and prevalence of insulin, growth hormone, and more, the waistline is the most dangerous area of the body. Look at any professional bodybuilding stage – Three quarters of the men onstage are facing the battle of the bulge when it comes to the waistline. Even at 3% body fat, they still possess a bulging belly. Why?
A large waistline is very often the byproduct of the heavy food, training, and steroid regimens required to compete at 220, 240, or 250+ pounds. It’s inevitable that the waistline will grow as the arms, legs, chest, back, and shoulders grow. A major key to bodybuilding success, then, is to minimize the negative appearance of a large waistline.
For advanced competitive bodybuilders, abdominal training should be done minimally throughout the year. I know, this might sound odd to those folks who have started their workouts with ten or twenty minutes of abdominal training for the last ten years. But a thick midsection – even if it is muscle – detracts from the width of the shoulders, the thickness of the legs, and the overall “v-taper” of a good bodybuilder.
You will need an initial base of strength in order to protect the midsection from a hernia or other injury when training back or legs. If you’ve been training for years, chances are, you already have this. If not, doing 2 to 4 sets for upper abs (crunches) and 2 sets for lower abs (lying leg raises) are more than enough to provide this strength base. Use low intensity, low reps when completing these exercises.
Abdominal cuts are largely a result of dieting. You will want to do some abdominal training in the last four weeks before a bodybuilding competition, but aside from that, training them year-round will result in a heavily muscled midsection which, while terrific for core strength and balance, does detract from the goal of classical bodybuilding aesthetics. A standard four-week abdominal training routine would look like this:
- 3 Sets Machine Crunches
- 3 Sets Hanging Leg Raises
- 2 Sets Lightweight Twisting Rope Crunches
This might not seem like much, but you must recall that the goal of the pre-contest diet is not to muscle up the abdominals, but to shape them so that the other body parts are featured more prominently. Diet should remove the body fat. Training should shape the abdominals. Your presentation should emphasize your larger muscle groups. Keep your waistline tight, and bodybuilding success will follow!