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Could there be an ab-sculpting programme that actually works and is doable for most people? That's the million-dollar question. We turned to Mike Wunsch and Craig Rasmussen, creators of Men’s Health 24-Hour Abs! The answer: “Absolutely,” says Wunsch, who teams up with Rasmussen to design the workout programmes at Results Fitness, one of the top gyms in California.
Its trainers have developed a fat-loss formula tailored specifically for busy people (read: mostly everyone). The requirements are simple: 30 to 40 minutes a day, 3 days a week. So how do these trainers do it when so many others have failed? They threw out the old guidelines. The new ones they’ve created are based on 21st century science and the methods that work best with their clients. Now, you can benefit, too.
1. DON’T TARGET YOUR ABS TO LOSE FAT
Back in 2002, it was reported that it would take 250,000 crunches to burn less than half a kilo, according to estimates from University of Virginia scientists in the US. We’re pretty sure those researchers published that statistic to make a point. But after almost a decade, the point still may not have hit home. “I’m amazed at the number of people who think that simply doing ab exercises will make their belly disappear,” says Rasmussen. “That is probably the least efficient way to reveal a six-pack.”
2. WORK EVERY SINGLE MUSCLE
“Muscle is your body’s primary fat burner,” says Rasmussen. Your muscles require energy to contract, which is why you burn calories when you exercise. But resistance training, unlike running or cycling, also causes a significant amount of damage to your muscle fibres. And that’s a good thing. “Your body has to expend energy to repair and upgrade those fibres after your workout,” says Rasmussen. “And a single total-body weight training session can boost your metabolism for up to two days.”
So you shouldn’t neglect a single inch of your body. That goes double for the legs, a body part that plenty of men either train just once a week or simply ignore. Case in point: Syracuse University researchers in the US determined that people burnt more calories the day after a lower-body resistance session than the day after they worked their upper bodies. Why? Because your lower half houses more muscle.
The upshot: “A busy guy’s smartest approach is to train his entire body every other day,” says Rasmussen. “That allows you to elevate your metabolism maximally all week long, even though you’re working out only three or four days a week.”
3. DON’T START YOUR WORKOUT WITH CRUNCHES
“You can do lots of crunches and sit-ups and still have a weak core,” says Wunsch. “We see that all the time.” The reason: Classic ab moves like crunches and sit-ups work the muscles that allow you to flex (that is, round) your lower spine. True core exercises, on the other hand, train the muscles that prevent your spine from rounding. They also allow you to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body (in a golf swing, for example), and vice versa.
Core exercises target the same muscles that crunches do, but they also include your hip and lower-back muscles. So what’s a true core exercise? One that trains you to keep your spine stable and in its natural alignment. Besides the plank, scores of exercises qualify, including the side plank, mountain climber and even the push-up.
4. START WITH CORE EXERCISES
“We’ve seen people achieve far better results when they do core exercises at the beginning of their workout instead of at the end.” The reason: By training your core when your muscles are fresh, you achieve the fastest gains in strength. That’s important for the average guy, Wunsch and his colleagues found, because the core is the limiting factor in almost every exercise. “A weak core is what keeps most men from lifting more weight in the squat and deadlift, and just about everything else,” says Wunsch. “If we focus on strengthening our core first, we’ll ultimately be able to lift heavier weights, which allows us to work more muscle and burn more calories. We’re thinking about longterm success.” To find out how your middle measures up, take the test.