Excerpt: 'The Abs Diet' Chapter 12

July 21, 2004 -- In chapter 12 of The Abs Diet, authors David Zinczenko and Ted Spiker present what they call the most effective workout plan.

Chapter 12: The Abs Diet Workout

The Easiest, Most Effective Workout Plan EverYou see every kind of person in the gym. The guy with no fat. The guy with no neck. The guy with lots of fat. The guy with lots of necks. And it seems they all get there a different way. I know that guys have as many different workout philosophies as they have pirated MP3 files, but the one guy I really know I can help is the overweight man who's working his forearm muscles by doing wrist curls in the corner. He's like a guy who has totaled his car but wants to get the radio fixed first. There's no point working on the fine points until you've taken care of the bigger issues.

That's why I've built a total-body strength training workout: to increase your lean muscle mass as efficientlyas possible. It's simple: To show off your abs, you have to burn fat. To burn fat, you have to build muscle. Remember that adding just 1 pound of muscle will force your body to burn up to an additional 50 calories a day, every day.

This workout emphasizes the larger muscle groups of your body — chest, back, and legs. In one workout during the week, you'll give extra attention to your legs. I know what you're thinking: My abs are up here. Why do I care about working what's down there? Because most of your body's muscle is found below your belly button. Your lower body is where you'll build the most muscle in the least amount of time; working this giant muscle mass triggers the release of large amounts of growth hormone, which in turn stimulates muscle growth throughout your body, kicks your fat burners into overdrive, and gives you that washboard stomach you want — in no time flat. Indeed, leg exercises are the key to total-body strength:

In one Norwegian study, men who focused on lower-body work gained more upper-body strength than did those who emphasized upper-body exercises in their workouts. That doesn't mean you'll ignore your upper body entirely, though. With the upper-body workout, you'll also work your largest muscles — your chest, back, and shoulders — to burn more fat. If you follow this program, you'll still notice more growth and definition in your whole body — even your forearms, even your shoulders, and, yes, even your abs — and you'll begin to reshape your body.

Here, you're going to do circuit training to optimize your muscle-building potential. That is, you'll perform one set of an exercise and then move immediately to the next exercise, with just 30 seconds of rest. Follow the order of the exercises I've listed on the following pages; that will allow you to work different body parts from set to set. (A complete set of exercise descriptions and instructional photos begins on page 176.) By alternating between body parts, you'll keep your body in constant work mode and be able to perform the movements back-to-back without rest.

Here's why circuit training works so well: You'll save time because you'll cut the amount of rest you need when you alternate muscle groups. More important, you'll keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout, so you'll burn even more fat while you're exercising — whether it's in the gym or in your own living room.

In the first 2 weeks of the program, do the circuit twice. Move from exercise to exercise with no more than 30 seconds of rest in between. When you complete one circuit, rest for 1 to 2 minutes, then complete the second circuit. After the first 2 weeks, when you've become comfortable doing two complete circuits during a workout, increase your workload to three circuits per workout. In every exercise, use a weight that you can handle comfortably for the number of repetitions noted. When that becomes too easy, increase the weight on each set by 10 percent or less. Here's a sample schedule of how you might arrange your workouts.

Monday: Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Ab EmphasisComplete one set of each ab exercise*, then complete the rest of the circuit twice.Exercise Repetitions Rest SetsTraditional Crunch* 12–15 1Bent-Leg Knee Raise* 12–15 1Oblique V-Up* 10 each side none 1Bridge* 1 or 2 none 1Back Extensions* 12–15 none 1Squat 10–12 30 seconds 2Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2Military Press 10 30 seconds 2Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2Triceps Pushdown 10–12 30 seconds 2Leg Extension 10–12 30 seconds 2Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2Leg Curl 10–12 30 seconds 2Tuesday (Optional): Light Cardiovascular Exercise Such as Walking (Try for 30 Minutes at a Brisk Pace)Wednesday: Total-Body Strength Training Workout with Ab EmphasisComplete one set of each ab exercise* once, then complete rest of circuit twice.Exercise Repetitions Rest SetsStanding Crunch* 12–15 none 1Pulse Up* 12 none 1Saxon Side Bend* 6–10 each side none 1Side Bridge* 1 or 2 each side none 1Back Extension* 12–15 none 1Squat 10–12 30 seconds 2Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2Military Press 10 30 seconds 2Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2Triceps Pushdown 10–12 30 seconds 2Leg Extension 10–12 30 seconds 2Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2Leg Curl 10–12 30 seconds 2Thursday (Optional): Light Cardiovascular Exercise Such as Walking (Try for 30–45 Minutes at a Brisk Pace)Friday: Total-Body Strength Training Workout, with Leg EmphasisRepeat entire circuit twice.Exercise Repetitions Rest SetsSquat 10–12 30 seconds 2Bench Press 10 30 seconds 2Pulldown 10 30 seconds 2Traveling Lunge 10–12 each leg 30 seconds 2Military Press 10 30 seconds 2Upright Row 10 30 seconds 2Step-Up 10–12 each leg 30 seconds 2Triceps Pushdown 10–12 30 seconds 2Leg Extension 10–12 30 seconds 2Biceps Curl 10 30 seconds 2Leg Curl 10–12 30 seconds 2Saturday (Optional): Abs Workout Plus Interval WorkoutComplete one set of each ab exercise, then choose one interval workout from the selection on pages 198 and 199.Exercise Repetitions Rest SetsTraditional Crunch 12–15 None 1Bent-Leg Knee Raise 12 None 1Oblique V-Up 6–10 each side None 1Bridge 1–2 None 1Back Extension 12–15 None 1Sunday: OffBasic ExercisesSquat Hold a barbell with an overhand grip so that it rests comfortably on your upper back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent, back straight, and eyes focused straight ahead. Slowly lower your body as if you were sitting back into a chair, keeping your back in its natural alignment and your lower legs nearly perpendicular to the floor. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause, then return to the starting position. Home variation: Same, but with one dumbbell in each hand, your palms facing your outer thighs.Bench PressLie on your back on a flat bench with your feet on the floor. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar off the uprights, and hold it at arm's length over your chest. Slowly lower the bar to your chest. Pause, then push the bar back to the starting position. Home variation: Just do standard Pushups: Get in a Pushup position with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Bend at the elbows while keeping your back straight, until your chin almost touches the floor, then push back up.PulldownStand facing a lat pulldown machine. Reach up and grasp the bar with an overhand grip that's 4 to 6 inches wider than your shoulders. Sit on the seat, letting the resistance of the bar extend your arms above your head. When you're in position, pull the bar down until it touches your upper chest. Hold this position for a second, then return to the starting position. Home variation: Bent-Over Row. Stand with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is almost parallel to the floor. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang toward the floor. With your palms facing in, pull the dumbbells toward you until they touch the outside of your chest. Pause, then return to the starting position.Military PressSitting on an exercise bench, hold a barbell at shoulder height with your hands shoulder-width apart. Press the weight straight overhead so that your arms are almost fully extended, hold for a count of one, then bring it down to the front of your shoulders. Repeat. Home variation: Sitting on a sturdy chair instead of a bench, hold one dumbbell in each hand, about level with your ears. Push the dumbbells straight overhead so that your arms are almost fully extended, hold for a count of one, then return to the starting position. Repeat.Upright RowGrab a barbell with an overhand grip, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Let the barbell hang at arm's length on top of your thighs, thumbs pointed toward each other. Bending your elbows, lift your upper arms straight out to the sides, and pull the barbell straight up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and the bar is just below chin level. Pause, then return to the starting position.

Home variation: Same, using one dumbbell in each hand.Triceps PushdownWhile standing, grip a bar attached to a high pulley cable or lat machine with your hands about 6 inches apart. With your elbows tucked against your sides, bring the bar down until it is directly in front of you. With your forearms parallel to the floor (the starting position), push the bar down until your arms are extended straight down with the bar near your thighs. Don't lock your elbows. Return to the starting position. Home variation: Triceps Kickback. Stand with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Bend over so that your back is almost parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows to about 90-degree angles, raising them to just above the level of your back. This is the starting position. Extend your forearms backward, keeping your upper arms stationary. When they're fully extended, your arms should be parallel to the ground. Pause, then return to the starting position.Leg ExtensionSitting on a leg extension machine with your feet under the footpads, lean back slightly, and lift the pads with your feet until your legs are extended. Home variation: Squat Against the Wall. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold that position for as long as you can. That consists of one set. Aim for 20 seconds to start, and work your way up to 45 seconds.Biceps CurlStand while holding a barbell in front of you, palms facing out, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging in front of you. Curl the weight toward your shoulders, hold for a second, then return to the starting position. Home variation: Same, only use a set of dumbbells instead.Leg CurlLie facedown on a leg curl machine, and hook your ankles under the padded bar. Keeping your stomach and pelvis against the bench, slowly raise your feet toward your butt, curling up the weight. Come up so that your feet nearly touch your butt, and slowly return to the starting position. Home variation: Lie down with your stomach on the floor. Put a light dumbbell between your feet (so that the top end of the dumbbell rests on the bottom of your feet). Squeeze your feet together, and curl them up toward your butt.Traveling LungeRest a barbell across your upper back. Stand, with your feet hip-width apart, at one end of the room; you need room to walk about 20 steps. Step forward with your left foot, and lower your body so that your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your right thigh is perpendicular to the floor (your right knee should bend and almost touch the floor). Stand and bring your right foot up next to your left, then repeat with the right leg lunging forward. Home variation: Use dumbbells, holding one in each hand with your arms at your sides. If you don't have enough space, do the move in one place, alternating your lead foot with each lunge.Step-UpUse a step or bench that's 18 inches off the ground. Place your left foot on the step so that your knee is bent at 90 degrees. Your knee should not advance past the toes of your left foot. Push off with your left foot, and bring your right foot onto the step, keeping your back straight. Now step down with the left foot, followed by the right. Alternate the leading foot, or do all of the repetitions leading with one foot and then alternating. Once you're comfortable, add dumbbells. Home variation: Same, only use a staircase instead of a step (if you don't have one).The Interval WorkoutThey say that slow and steady wins the race. But the cardiovascular key to fat burning is using interval workouts — workouts that alternate high-intensity levels with lower-intensity effort. As I mentioned earlier, that formula keeps your body burning calories long after you've stopped working out. Interval workouts mimic sports — start-and-stop motions with periods of sprinting or close-to-sprinting speeds followed by light jogging or rest. You can use interval workouts any way you want — running, cycling, swimming, on elliptical trainers, even walking if you alternate a speed walk and slow walk. You can also vary the intensity levels in different combinations. To start, here are three options for setting your workout. (If you use exercise machines, don't choose the interval workout; choose the manual one, and create your own intensities by adjusting it yourself. It'll give you greater control over the speeds and will help you burn fat faster.) You'll derive benefits in as little as a 20-minute interval workout. As you build up endurance and strength, you can add time to your workout.

Interval Variation I: StandardThe following is a typical interval workout. You alternate the same period of low intensity with the same period of higher intensity.3–5 minutes warmup (light jog, low intensity, gradually increasing at the end of the warmup period) 1 minute moderate or high intensity followed by 1 minute low intensity (repeat 6–8 times)3–5 minutes cooldown (light jog, low intensity, gradually decreasing by the end of the cooldown period)

Interval Variation II: PyramidThis pyramid structure allows you to start with short bursts of speed, and then you'll peak at the longest surge of energy in the middle of your workout before coming back down. 3–5 minutes warmup30 seconds high intensity1 minute low intensity45 seconds high intensity1 minute low intensity60 seconds high intensity1 minute low intensity90 seconds high intensity1 minute low intensity60 seconds high intensity1 minute low intensity45 seconds high intensity1 minute low intensity30 seconds high intensity3–5 minutes cooldownInterval Variation III: Sports ConditioningSports are unpredictable. This interval simulates some of that unpredictability by having you doing different times and different intensities. You can mix and match the orders and repetitions as much as you want. Rest longer after the periods in which you use the most energy.3–5 minutes warmup2 minutes moderate or high intensity followed by 2 minutes low intensity (repeat once)30 seconds high intensity followed by 30 seconds low intensity (repeat four times)60-yard sprints (or 10 seconds if not running) followed by 90 seconds rest (repeat 6–10 times)3–5 minutes cooldown

Excerpted from The Abs Diet, copyright 2004, Rodale Press.

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