-          “Book Review: “Winning and Losing” by Ian King.”

-          “Training Tips for Visible Abs”

-          “Advanced Abdominal Movements”

-          “Another reason for Ab Training: Low back health!”





Regardless of your profession, “Winning and Losing” by Ian King is a very practical read. Should you ever get a chance to cover his books or newsletters you will quickly realize that Coach King has a deep belief in self-improvement and motivational techniques and therefore King’s principles can be applied across the board, whether you are a salesman or a strength coach. In fact, authors regularly quoted by King often include experts in fields far removed from strength and conditioning (i.e. Anthony Robbins – a motivational speaker).


“Winning and Losing” was the best out of his 4 books that I have read (Coach King promised me an updated version in 2001!). In fact, I am going to re-read another of his books so that I might get more info from it than I did initially. While Coach King’s bodybuilding programs in his book “Get Buff” are not revolutionary, they are effective. His unique 4-day training split is definitely recommended!


For bodybuilding, if proper diet, rest, and discipline are in place, than most training programs are as successful as the next. What Coach King truly excels in is what he calls “physical preparation” for athletes, helping athletes get stronger and to improve sport-specific fitness, as well as helping to reduce injury risk.


“Winning and Losing” profiles the frustrations that strength and conditioning coaches (or any professionals for that matter) must go through. We all need to gain experience, establish rapport with clients, keep an open mind, and learn from our mistakes and others. And even King, who had a strong physique, has had to endure through stereotypes. No one believed that he could make athletes faster, but Coach King persisted.


King suggests, “stepping outside of your boundaries” and he is a great example of what my colleague Matt Spino terms, “thinking outside of the box”. King challenged the traditional fitness regimens of power athletes and questioned why they were doing large volumes of aerobic training when the weakness of the players was in strength and speed. He also helped to advance the concept of sport-specific training. Future articles from CB ATHLETIC CONSULTING will deal with developing a better athlete outside of general strength and endurance training.


Coach King’s experiences detailed in “Winning and Losing” are applicable to everyone. It is certainly worth a read.





How important is it to train the abs frequently if your goal is “visible abs”?


There is no shortage of opinions on this topic. People can succeed (and fail) with all sorts of abdominal training programs. Besides, great abs have been found on many people that train them religiously each day, but better abs have been found on athletes that do no formal abdominal training at all!


The most important factor in developing eye-catching abdominal muscles (the “6-pack”) is decreasing the body fat in that area, plain and simple. As for training techniques, almost everyone should train this area as you would any muscle group. Why spend 20 minutes per day doing endless crunches when 5-10 minutes every other day (or less!) will accomplish the same results? Only athletes (or back pain rehabilitation patients) may need additional abdominal work to assist their core stability in sport (or everyday function).


While most individuals in the gym believe that daily, high-volume training is optimal, there is nothing special about the abdominal muscles to suggest that a greater training frequency is required. Muscle biopsies have determined the rectus abdominis to be composed of 46% slow-twitch fibers, not unlike the vastus lateralis of the quadriceps (Johnson et al., 1972). As mentioned earlier, a more important aspect in developing a well-muscled midsection that can be shown off at the beach, is the reduction of as much body fat as possible.


To be precise, in order to have visible abs you must decrease your body fat to 10% or less. Test your body fat monthly. Have the same skilled professional do the testing each time in the same manner under the same conditions (i.e. same time of day, pre-workout, same day of the week, same diet pre-test). You would be surprised how small fluctuations in these variables can influence the outcome of body fat estimation tests.


Fortunately, the greatest body fat reductions are not achieved through multiple sets of high repetition abdominal exercises and therefore there is no need to waste your precious time performing endless sets of abdominal crunches. In fact, your time is better off spent including compound resistance exercises (exercise using many of the body’s large muscle groups; i.e. the squat, bench press, pull-ups, deadlifts, etc) and performing strategic anaerobic interval and aerobic training. When you perform compound exercises and interval training you will realize that more muscles are working and more metabolic effort is necessary in comparison to a simple abdominal crunch. Remember that when you head back to the gym in January!


Compound exercises should be the best choice for helping to maintain muscle mass while shedding body fat. Anaerobic interval training promotes the expenditure of energy (fat) long after you have left the gym, thus helping to shed the body fat while you are no longer exercising. Aerobic exercise is beneficial for individuals with a lot of fat to lose (i.e. if you test at greater than 15% body fat). However, if you only have a little fat to lose before the muscle stands out, then dietary manipulations and more anaerobic training (intervals and resistance training) are the priority changes. 


As for specific abdominal training recommendations, isolated abdominal training 1-3 times per week is sufficient. Abdominal training should be brief and to the point (i.e. 2 exercises, a handful of sets, and a high-intensity of training). This will require passing on the basic lying abdominal crunch and instead use exercises that incorporate resistance. Like any other muscle group, the abdominals can be trained in a rep range of 6-15 per set. This will help build optimal abdominal strength for sport and daily function and will be of greater benefit in attaining abdominal musculature “definition”.


Johnson, M.A., J. Polgar, D. Weightman & D. Appleton. Data on the distribution of

fiber types in thirty-six human muscles: An autopsy study. Journal of the

Neurological Sciences 18: 111-129, 1973.





Here are some advanced abdominal exercises that require a greater effort than that from normal abdominal crunches…


Seated cable crunch at a lat pulldown station

          Attach the rope or V-handle to the lat pulldown cable. Sit facing away from the cable stack grab the attachment and pull it down until the hands are just behind the head (Start position). Curl the torso forward (head toward knees) using only the abdominal muscles (don’t pull down with your arms). Pause at the bottom, and then slowly return to the starting position to complete one rep. Start with a light resistance and work your way up to greater intensities.


Stability (Swiss) ball crunches

          Lie on the stability ball (with the ball under the low back area) with your feet spread slightly greater than shoulder width apart on the floor (a wider stance equals greater stability and an easier exercise). Curl your shoulder blades off the ball as if performing a regular abdominal crunch off the floor. Return to the start position. The benefit of the ball is to allow for a greater range of motion, permitting the abs to go through a greater stretch (full range of motion) and thus permitting a greater contraction. Light weight-plates can be held across the chest to further increase difficulty.


Hanging knee raise

          This is a very difficult exercise, yet if performed correctly it is effective. Most people do this exercise improperly and resort to swinging the knees up, but the key to this movement is to roll the hips back because the rectus abdominis (large abdominal muscle) functions to flex the trunk at the pelvis.

          Performing this exercise: Hang freely from a Chin-Up bar (using your extremely strong grip OR a commercial device that allows you to be suspended from the bar). Bend the knees slightly (less bend in the knees makes for a more difficult exercise) and slowly tilt your pelvis back by contracting the abdominals. You will also use your hip flexors in this movement. Bring the knees towards the chest, but be very strict and slow as you pull the knees up as high as possible. Pause at the top and slowly lower your legs, emphasizing control by the abdominal muscles.

          If you were able to do 10 reps in the past with the “swinging” technique, you may only be able to do 4-5 controlled reps. But remember that the controlled reps are much more effective. If your repetition number is low, add extra sets to enable a greater training volume.


Barbell ab-rollout

          Are you familiar with those rolling ab-devices (i.e. wheels) as seen on TV infomercials? These can be effective in building abdominal strength, especially for athletes and other individuals that are seeking greater muscular control of the torso area and balance. Adam Campbell from Men’s Health magazine helped in designing a modified version of this exercise than you can do at your gym…


- kneel before a barbell with an upright torso

- place your hands on the bar, slightly greater than shoulder-width apart       

- bend forward at the hips and keep your back flat as you role the barbell out and move   forward until your body reaches an angle of about 20-45 degrees to the floor (as far as your abdominal-core strength permits)

- your upper body should be in a straight line and your back should be flat

- pause briefly, and then reverse the movement  (hold the pause for a greater “core balance” training stimulus)

- roll the barbell back to the starting position by pulling back, initiating the movement with the lats, and then let the abs contract and take over

- decrease triceps involvement in this exercise by limiting the bend in your elbows

- as you return to the starting position continue to contract your abs and suck in your gut, and allow your back to round up as you return to an upright position

- repeat for the remainder of reps in the set


          For a more advanced movement, start from a standing position rather than while kneeling. Make sure to keep the back in a safe, flat position as you begin the roll-out.





Four out of five North American adults (80%) will have lower back pain in their lives. But rather than treating these injuries, we all agree that preventing them is a much better option. It is very important to have proper muscle strength and conditioning and to learn and use the correct movement technique in and out of the gym.


The abdominal and lower back muscles work together to control movement of the trunk/torso. The rectus abdominis controls trunk flexion (curling forward) and the lower back muscles (specifically the erector spinae) control trunk extension (bending backwards). These muscle groups help to stabilize the pelvis and maintain proper vertebral alignment.


Like any pair of muscle groups (such as the biceps and triceps or quadriceps and hamstrings), the abs and extensors work most effectively and correctly when they are strong and also when they are of the correct relative strength. Although muscle strength ratios are mere estimates and vary greatly on the speed of the movement (see ISSUE # 10), therapists recommend that flexion and extension movements of the lumbar spine are equal in strength.


If an individual has weak abs and a strong low back this may lead to postural problems. Excessively strong lower back muscles and weak abdominal muscles would result in a state of constant trunk extension and this may compress the vertebrae in the spine. Fortunately, strong abs should help correct this imbalance and reduce spinal stress. The opposite would hold true as well (i.e. when your abs are too strong, the low back will require priority training).


Furthermore, a strong abdominal wall helps to keep all the other structures in the stomach area supported. For individuals with excessive abdominal fat, having a strong abdominal area is even more important, because strong abdominal muscles should help to compensate for the excess weight in the belly (although losing that fat weight is just as important).


Whether lifting concrete or dumbbells, always keep the object close to your body, bend the knees and keep your lower back straight. Regardless of whether you are a construction worker that lifts and walks or an office worker that sits behind a desk all day, you will need strong abs and extensors to keep good posture and to prevent injuries.

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