The abs are able to withstand an incredible level of stress during the workout, and yet they can always be hit again just as hard after only a relatively small amount of rest time. Even after being exposed to a large set of stomach burning reps, they are ready to go again after just a minimum of one minute of rest time.
So why is that? Mainly due to the abdominals ability to quickly clear lactic acid away as well as the body’s ability to provide more oxygen to the abdominal muscles. This could possibly be because of their location relative to the heart. Regardless though, the abdominals seem to respond better to high output training than other muscle groups.
Now it should be said that there are of course no definitive answers as to which kind of stimulus has a greater amount of effectiveness in regards to the abs. Different people respond in different ways to changes in how the muscles are worked. This could be a change in weight used, reps used, sets used, etc. The important part is having the knowledge of how and when to use these changes in stimulus to one’s advantage.
There are a lot of people who think that the abs are best trained like other muscle groups. That is, with a high level of weight used. The reasoning behind this is that muscles respond best to higher amounts of weight. However if one has a knowledge of the abs than
they know that they respond better to different and higher rep stimulus’s than only higher amounts of weight. Ultimately, without some kind of high-rep regimen for your abs, the overall intensity of your ab workout would fade over time.
Undertaking workouts with a high amount of reps and sets uses a lot of the body’s energy, and can quite easily make the average person void of that energy in a short amount of time. Workouts that use both heavy and light weights in addition to high reps and sets can additionally benefit the abdominals as well. What it comes down to, is that adding reps allows for more potential energy than aimlessly adding sets does.
Although the abdominal muscle group oxygenates rather quickly, people still differ according to how much stress they can endure while working out – so optimal set and rep totals will obviously be subjective from person to person.
There are some general guidelines for sets which aid in making advancements in one’s abdominal training. The first being that you should completely forget about the mantra of “less is more” in regards to working the abs. It’s a simple concept really, as soon as you are comfortable or complacent with the amount of sets you are doing – raise that number up. The vital aspect to utilizing sets to advance your training is to try and induce as much stress and fatigue as possible, with periods of short recovery in between. Try and realize that with the abs, more is better, as they can take more stress than other muscles can. One other specific way that one can use sets in their workout is to include giant or super-sets into their regimen. It’s because the six pack is able to recover so quickly that larger sets may be just what is needed in order to take them to a further level of aesthetics. When doing supersets, rest between sets is realistically the time that it takes to move from one exercise to the next.
Another thing that can also aid in the development of the abs is changing set schemes. Just like any other muscle group, the abs can become complacent and essentially become familiar to the same exercises and stress that they are put under. Altering how many sets you do in your routine is an excellent way to monitor how much progress you are making in relation to the amount of work you are putting the muscles through.
Weight, used as a way to encourage muscle change and growth is an excellent idea for specific exercises. An example of an exercise that falls into this category would be rope crunches. People always seem to forget that the abs respond differently than other muscle groups do. And the reason for this is because they are supremely different to other muscles; they have a relatively pre-defined maximum size and thickness that can be achieved. For an extreme example; you never hear of people having 20 inch abs – but of course people can have 20 inch arms. Weight can increase stress because it is not reliant on reps or sets. Increasing weight is a direct way to induce more stress onto a muscle group. Making use of heavy weight also means that one doesn’t need to slave away doing endless sets and reps either. So essentially what this provides is a way to induce greater amounts of stress towards the abs while shortening the amount of time you work on them. That means you don’t have to do hundreds of crunches in order to efficiently work the abs.
In the end, there is really no one stimulus that works better over the other in regards to the abdominal muscles. It is better to use different kinds of exercises and regimens to induce stress rather than simply rely on one kind of exercise or routine. Alternating your ab workouts is a great way to ensure that they do not become complacent and stop growing or reacting to the stress that you put them under. Although one may have been able to do 100 crunchesas a 16 year old and see some results, now it takes a bit more of a scientific approach in order for the abdominal muscles to really grow into their potential.