Shape Up: Ab Fitness Answers

Hey, what’s good everybody? 

I hope that everyone is still making great progress towards your fitness

goals. In this edition of Shape Up, we’re going to address another round of

questions that were submitted and posted by our readers.

TMO asks: Good

read and real good information... I am on a diet right now, and started about

three months ago I was at 265 and am down to 240, but I still have a big gut. I

just started to lift weights last week, but my question is how can I get my gut

down? Will doing abs everyday help or what? Thanks Sorry for leaving you off the list of

responses last time TMO! I hope that

your workouts are still going strong though.

While some trainers may have a different philosophy on abdominal

conditioning, I personally don’t think that you need to work on them every

single day. In general, outside of a

specialized training program, I’d recommend allowing for at least two days rest

in between workouts for each particular muscle group. Since your stomach and

core are so heavily utilized on a day-to-day basis however, you can get away

with doing them every other day for a total of three or four times per week.

Keep in mind that most men tend to carry their weight in

their stomachs, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to see progress. That

area is almost always the final place that men see the results from their

workout routines.

I’m proud to see that you’re eating well, but make sure that

you also incorporate cardio into your routine as well. Your crunches and

sit-ups will only build up the muscle that lies below the surface. Until you

lose the extra weight through cardio and nutrition, those muscles will never

fully show and your stomach may remain the same size.

LL asks: I enjoyed your articles on I

probably should know the answer to this question since I am about to get a

degree in exercise science, but I would like you opinion. I’m 5'10 170lbs I

want to bulk up, but I also need to lose the fat I have around my stomach. My

question is do lose weight then bulk up, or approach the bulking up phase with

the hope that working out will flatten my stomach? Thanks

for the comments LL. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the articles!

If your goal is to bulk up, make sure that you’re doing it

the right way. I once had a friend who

thought that “bulking up” meant that he could just eat cheeseburgers and

doughnuts all day. As a result, he ended up gaining weight but still appearing

soft and flabby. If you’re looking to bulk up, make sure that your nutritional

selection still includes healthy choices so that you’re increasing size through

lean muscle instead of fat.

If you’re eating the right things and still getting in a cardiovascular

workout at least three times per week, you’ll start to see your stomach size

reduce even during your bulking phase. 

It’s a popular misconception that you can’t slim down and gain muscle at

the same time. If your strength and cardio workouts are intense enough, you’ll

see results in both areas.

As I stated in the last response, your stomach may be the

last area to slim down, so don’t be discouraged. Also don’t become preoccupied

with your weight. Instead, go by how your clothing fits - and if you have

access to have your body fat percentage taken, do so each month so that you can

track your progress.

In the meantime, I’d also recommend not ever blowing off

back and shoulder days. Having broader

shoulders and upper back muscles will create the illusion of that “v-shape”

most people look for, and the resulting tapering effect will make your

waistline appear slimmer than it actually is.

Arthur asks: I’ve recently started working out again for

like the past five months. just doing push ups, curls, dips and shoulders. I’ve been using 30 and 45 pound dumbbells for

curls and 45's for my shoulders. I do like two hundred push ups and 60 dips in

five sets. And five sets of curls and shoulders.

I’ve been working out like this because I haven’t been able

to go to the gym yet, but I plan on going first question is, I was

doing sit ups - like 100 a day - trying to lose my stomach, but I was told

that’s not the way to lose my stomach. I’m seeing great results in my chest

shoulders and biceps and triceps, but my stomach is still poking out. What do you suggest to tighten my stomach to

match the rest of my body?

Also do you see anything wrong with the work out I’ve just

described to you? I will greatly

appreciate your response. I found you on AllHipHop and took your advice about

skipping two days, and have seen improvements. I also have more energy. Thanks

for the comments Arthur; I’m glad that you’re already seeing improvements based

on the suggestions provided in the Shape-Up columns.You’re off to a great start

with your workout routine, and I’m proud of you for doing what you can on your


The main suggestion that I would make is that you’ll need to

make sure that you’re working all of your muscle groups by the end of each

week. For the most part, you’re hitting most of your major upper body muscles

with the routine that you described, but you’re completely ignoring your lower


Don’t worry, you’re

not alone – actually most men tend to ignore training their legs. The resulting “chicken legs” effect is not a

look that you’ll want to go for however, so make sure that you’re working your

entire body so that you’ll still look proportioned as your muscles change and


If you’re still doing your routine from home, try to incorporate

squats, lunges, calf raises and other lower body movements into your circuit.

If you have a flight of stairs at your place, you can also use those to step up

and down on to help work your lower body as well.

For your stomach, you’ll need to do more than just basic

sit-ups. Sit-ups are great, but they only target your upper abdominals. That

still leaves your lower, oblique (side abdominal muscles) and underlying core


As for the rest of your routine, it’s not bad, however

you’re going to eventually need some variety or your body will adapt to this

workout and you won’t see as much progress as you first did. If you’ve joined a

gym by now, make sure to read the various machines or ask a trainer to show you

other exercises to target each muscle group. Many exercise ideas can also be

found online (including my fitness website listed below) or at your local

library or bookstore.

Combine your new diverse strength routine with cardio and

proper nutrition, and you’ll see the results that you’re looking for.

Zak asks: Ok, I’ve

been working out for a few years now and I want abs. I have a flat stomach

right now I know good exercises, but how many times should I work them out per

week? Also, I lift weights five times a week, and I also wanted to know how

many times a week should I run? If you

read the other responses you may already know what I’m about to tell you. I’d

recommend cardio and abs at least two or three times per week - depending on

your time limitations and the intensity level of your routine. Since you’re

working out five times anyway, you can alternate doing either abs or cardio

each day.

You can also “cheat cardio into your routine” by decreasing

the amount of time that you rest in between movements or by performing a series

of exercises in a circuit without stopping. You can also jump rope or step up

and down on a bench or platform in between sets so that when you’re done with

your weight training, you’ll also be done with your cardio for the day as well.

If you’d like to have your questions answered in an upcoming

edition of this column, post your comments below or email me through the

website posted below.

Until next time be good…or be good at it.


Here is the MP3 soundtrack to go along with this edition’s


“Crunch and Munch” – Mike Jones

“Body Parts” – Three 6 Mafia

“I Wonder” – Kanye West

Darrell W. Butler is a

certified personal trainer and strength coach with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He is the founder of Industrial Strength & Performance (I.S.P Fitness) and has trained at

facilities throughout the nation. You can find out more about his work at