Friday, March 11, 2011

Q & A: Best Exercise for the Obliques, Part 1

 Question: "I was wondering if you had a great work out for the inner obliques and outer obliques? because Ive been looking for a great work out other than those "Russian twists".  Thanks."

Answer:  When I received this email the other day, I knew I should address it on the blog as it's a question I've received over and over again.

You didn't specify whether you desire a workout for the obliques because of physique or performance goals, so I'm not exactly sure how you want the answer directed. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this is for physique purposes, as you didn't mention that you were looking to improve performance with a particular sport (although training the obliques would be a VERY small part of the entire equation).

First off, any so-called fitness guru who tells you they have "THE workout" for your obliques, or your abs in general, they either:

       A.  Have no clue what they are talking about.
       B.  Are trying to steal your money.

Look, I'll get straight to the point (a little dose of tough love ahead).  If you want a better-looking abdominal wall, I have two fool-proof strategies:
  1. Ask for different parents. 
  2. Clean up your act in the kitchen. 
Then, and only then, worry about the latest and greatest ab exercises.  This isn't the advice people want to hear, but it's what they need to hear.

Why ask for different parents?
The "look" of your abs is largely genetic.  Your genetic make-up will determine what percent body fat you need to be at in order to have visible abs (ex. some people need to get down to <10% bodyfat, while others can see their abs at around 13-14% bodyfat).

Your genetics will also determine the "shape" of your abs once they're visible.  Please, I'm not going to go all mainstream on you and tell you that you can make your abs "long" or "compact" through training (hint: you can't), but your abs will appear a certain way based off your pre-determined body type.  And you can't change this.  You can change whether or not your abs become visible, but everyone's will look slightly different.

I can't tell you how many guys have told me "I want abs like Brad Pitt."  My first answer is always:

"Have Brad's parents give birth to you."  

I'm serious.  You can do russian twists, side crunches, side bends, jacknives, etc. until you are blue in the face and you'll never achieve abdominals exactly like your coveted celebrity's abs as the two of you are of a completely different physiological make-up.  The goes for women who are chasing the abs of a particular female celebrity. 

I say all this because I'm hoping it will at least set you up for realistic expectations, as otherwise it will be as worthwhile as chasing a moving a target your entire life.  Once you understand what you can actually accomplish, you won't consistently be met with disappointment. 

Clean Up Your Act in the Kitchen
Since you can't ask for different parents, this is your best bet if nature didn't bless you at birth with abs that could scratch diamonds.

Your abs are made in the kitchen, plain and simple.  You can not out-train a poor diet.  Yes, this means you have to develop some self-control and good habits.  Get your body fat down, and then you'll see your abs!  I often tell people, "Everyone has a six-pack, it's just that some are more insulated than others."

I honestly don't look down on those that have poor nutrition habits.  Heck, I enjoy ice cream every weekend, but I do crack down on what I eat throughout the week (you shouldn't be a slave to your body or nutrition habits; you should have your nutrition/body work for you).  What I have an issue with is people who constantly complain about their physique, when they aren't taking the necessary measures to change.  Yes, it is HARD.  It's simple, but not easy.  

It comes down to a very simple question: Which do you like better?  That treat you're about to shove down your pie hole, or creating a body that is HEALTHY and sets you up to look, move, and feel better?  It all comes down to priorities.

I'm out of time for the moment, but I'll be back on Monday with some exercises that can give you your "fix."  I almost don't even want to give them, as nutrition is really over 80% of the "abz equation" but I'll show you a few to toy with.  Stay tuned for part 2!


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