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By David Peck, Ph.D.

Great abs are on the “most wanted” list for many of us this summer, yet you see so few people with mind-blowing six-packs. Unfortunately, the avenue to amazing abs is cluttered with training evangelism, and everyone has his own opinion, technique or idea about how to best train this often troublesome area. So, how can we find what exercises work best to tone and tighten the total midsection? To weed out the flack and uncover what really works in the elusive world of abdominal training, let’s turn to the reliability of scientific research.


Your abdominal area consists of four separate muscle groups. The transversus abdominus lies innermost and keeps your insides, well, inside! The internal obliques run from your pelvis diagonally up to your sternum, while the external obliques lie atop the internal guys and help you bend, twist and turn.

Outermost is the rectus abdominis, the muscle we lovingly call our “abs.” Originating in the pelvis and attaching to the sternum, the rectus abdominis supports the spine and allows us to bend forward. Bands of connective tissue run across this single muscle, and create the desired “six-pack” appearance most evident in a lean, toned individual. While certain movements can target different areas of the rectus abdominis to a greater degree, there’s really no such thing as the “upper” and “lower” abs; the entire muscle gets stimulated each time you perform an exercise.

Science and a Six-Pack

Although you can’t willingly divide your rectus abdominis in half like Moses did the Red Sea, you can choose exercises to work it wisely, and some exercises are scientifically superior to others. In a study conducted at the University of San Diego, California, 31 subjects were tested using an electromyography machine (EMG). Electrodes were attached to both the topmost and bottommost sections of the rectus abdominis, atop the obliques, and on the hip flexors. “When a muscle contracts, it sends out an electrical impulse which is read by the electrodes, and in turn computes into a reading,” explains Dr. Peter Francis, Director of the Biomechanics Laboratory and conductor of the study. “It’s this reading that tells us which exercises are eliciting the most work from the different areas of the abdominal region.”

Subjects performed 14 repetitions of 13 different exercises, and a ton o’ crunches later – 182 to be exact – the results were in. While all the exercises tested elicited lots of work from the rectus abdominis, three exercises beat out the rest when it came to total abdominal recruitment: The Roman chair leg lift, the bicycle crunch and the reverse crunch. “These exercises all put your pelvis in an unstable position, causing all of your abdominal muscles to contract to help stabilize it,” explains Francis. “This happens when you hang in space or pick your feet or hips up off the floor. Add to that a body rotation, and you generate even more muscle activity by recruiting the obliques to a greater degree.”

Realistic Results

For all the exercises tested, Francis also found that the positive contraction (on the way up) evoked more muscular work than did the negative contraction (on the way down). And whereas some people are obsessed with keeping their hip flexors out of the exercise, Francis found this to be an anatomical impossibility. “The hip flexors, obliques and abs are synergistic – they work as a team and you cannot successfully use one without using the others,” he states.

Although they are technically separate muscle groups, your abdominals work together to support your body and enable you to run, jump or participate in a sport. With that in mind, try a new approach to wholistic abdominal training: Instead of focusing on which exercise works which part, concentrate instead on developing all your abdominals thoroughly to ensure good posture and balance, and to better procure that killer midsection.

Crunch and Munch

You can crunch and crunch until the cows come home, but if you’re still eating like one, you’ll never see the fruits of your labor. Reduction of body fat is the only way to uncover that hidden six-pack. Eat a low-calorie diet that includes lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and fruits and veggies. High-protein/low-carbhohydrate diets work best for fat loss and preservation of lean body mass. Combine your healthy diet with high-intensity cardiovascular activity seven days a week and the excavation of your abs will be underway. Shoot for 60 minutes of cardio inside, outside or on any piece of equipment. Try to stay in your target heart rate range for the majority of the session to best enable your body to utilize fat as fuel, and reveal that six-pack of your dreams. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get to work sculpting your stomach to reveal the six-pack that lives within us!

Plan of Attack

The Time Cruncher: Choose three to five of the exercises described, and perform them in a circuit manner. Execute 10-20 controlled repetitions for each exercise, doing one right after the other with no rest. Repeat the circuit two to three times. Nonstop circuits such as these should be performed no more than three times a week, with a minimum of 48 hours rest between sessions.

The Slow and Steady: If you prefer to train abs every day, choose one of the listed exercises and perform three or four sets of 15-30 slow, controlled repetitions per session. Choose a different exercise for each day you train, always using impeccable form and remembering to breathe.

Although you may be tempted to utilize only the top three in your routine, Francis warns against this. “Changing your exercises around and utilizing different strategies will best train your total abdominal region,” he says. “Beginners especially should work their way into the top three, as they proved difficult even for our more advanced participants.”

No matter which plan you choose to sculpt that stomach, use a count of four to elevate and a count of two to descend to elicit the most muscular activity possible.

The Exercises

1. Roman Chair Leg Raises

This exercise proves best for total muscular recruitment. Keeping your shoulders down and your back flat, balance your weight evenly between your forearms and allow your body to hang freely inside the machine. Exhale and slowly lift your legs upward, keeping them straight and avoiding the use of momentum, until your body forms an “L” shape in mid-air. Pause a moment before slowly lowering your legs back to the start. Repeat.

Alternative: Oblique Roman Chair Raises. Not only will this exercise target your six-pack, it will also trim and tighten your waistline. Position yourself in the Roman chair as you did for the straight leg lift, but begin with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle as if you were sitting in an “air-chair.” From here, exhale and simultaneously lift and twist, bringing your knees up to one side of your body. Pause a moment at the top before slowly lowering them back to the start. Repeat on the other side.

Alternative: Hanging Leg Raises. Take an overhand grip on a pull-up bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart, and allow your body to hang freely. Keeping your legs straight and your toes pointed, exhale and slowly lift your legs upward, avoiding the use of momentum, until your body forms an “L” shape in mid-air. Pause a moment before slowly lowering your legs back to the start.

Alternative: Hanging Oblique Raises. Position yourself on the pull-up bar in the same manner as for the hanging straight leg raise, and bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair in mid-air. From here, simultaneously lift and twist, bringing your knees up and to the side of your body. Pause a moment before returning to the start and repeating on the other side.

2. Bicycle Maneuver

This exercise works the whole abdominal region, especially the obliques and hip flexors. Lie on the floor with your fingers touching your ears, your elbows flat on the ground and your knees bent. Lift your feet off the floor so they make a 90-degree angle with your hips and point your toes. This is the starting position. From here, lift and twist your upper body while simultaneously bringing one knee in toward your head. Try to touch your right elbow to your left knee without allowing your arm to fold across your face, and push your right leg out and away from your body. Come back to the center. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Vertical Crunch

Lie on the floor with your back flat, your fingers touching your ears and your legs elevated straight up from your hips. Pick a spot on the ceiling on which to focus, and exhale, slowly lifting your head and shoulders off the floor by using your abs. Avoid pulling your head and neck with your hands.

4. Reverse Crunch (on floor)

This exercise initiates the work from the lower portion of the rectus abdominis, and utilizes all the abdominals for pelvic stabilization when the hips are in the air.

Lie on the floor with your back flat, your focus forward, and your feet straight up in the air above your hips. Place your hands either straight out to the sides like a cross, or underneath your hips for support. From here, press the soles of your feet straight up toward the ceiling and contract through your abs to pick your tailbone up off the floor three to four inches. Slowly allow yourself to return to the start and repeat.

Alternative: Reverse Crunch (on bench).

Position an abdominal bench so it rests at a slight angle. Lie on the bench with your hands over your head gripping the pad or bar behind you, your back flat and your knees bent and held above your hips. This is your starting position. From here, slowly curl your knees up and in toward your head, lifting first your tailbone, then your hips off the bench. When your knees come to eye level, reverse the motion and slowly uncurl one vertebra at a time. Pass the start position and extend your legs straight out and away from you, keeping your back on the pad and your shoulders down. Pause a moment and come back to the start. Repeat.

5. Exercise Ball Crunch

This exercise works primarily the rectus abdominis and allows the spine to move through its complete range of motion. Balance yourself on an exercise ball with your arms folded across your chest, your focus on the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. Your starting position should find your back slightly arched over the curve of the ball. Exhale and slowly lift your upper body off the ball, keeping your focus high and your elbows wide. Pause a moment in the topmost position before inhaling and slowly lowering yourself back to the start.

You can also change the difficulty of this exercise by changing the positioning of your feet. The farther they are apart, the greater your balance and the simpler the motion. The closer they are together, the greater your imbalance, the more difficult the motion and the more stabilization you require from your obliques.

man performing cable crunch

6. Cable Crunches With Rope

This exercise challenges primarily the rectus abdominis, but recruits work from the obliques as well balances and holds the body in space. Attach a rope to a high pulley and kneel on the floor approximately three feet away from a cable machine. Sit up and off your heels and hold the rope with both hands, keeping it close in to your ears with your elbows bent and pointed down toward the floor. This is your starting position. From here, exhale and slowly crunch downward and inward, aiming your elbows toward your knees, and keeping your hips and lower back stationary. Pause a moment at your peak contraction before slowly coming back to the start position, breathing in and resisting the pull of the weight stack on the return.

Finding Your Target Heart Rate Zone

220 MINUS [your age] x 0.65 = Target Heart Rate

(Example using age 30: 220 – 30 = 190 x .65 = 123.5)

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Published Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2022 18:57:19 +0000

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Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs



Powerful and thick thighs require gut-busting exercises like squats and leg presses. However, once you have acquired adequate thigh mass and strength, you should consider adding some balance and sharpness to the muscle bellies in your thighs. Although tough to accomplish, leg extensions provide a great way to carve the separations between the muscle bellies, and to accentuate the “teardrop” shape of the four quadriceps muscles of the anterior thigh.

Active Muscles in Leg Extensions

The three vasti muscles comprise most of the anterior thigh.1 The vastus medialis covers the medial (inner) part of the femur bone (thigh bone). When it is well developed, it forms a teardrop-like shape over the medial side of the knee joint. The vastus lateralis muscle attaches to the lateral (outer) part of the femur bone. The vastus intermedius connects to the femur bone between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis muscles. The fibers of all three vasti muscles come together at the quadriceps tendon, which crosses the patella (kneecap) to attach to the tibia bone just below the knee.1

Together, the three vasti muscles extend the leg at the knee joint, although the vastus intermedius may be more fatigue resistant than the vastus lateralis.2 The vastus medialis oblique (VMO), which is a small part of the vastus medialis muscle, attaches to the medial part of the patella. It is thought to help the patella track properly during movement of the knee. Improper tracking can increase the likelihood for knee injury.

The vastus medialis and especially the VMO part of this muscle are primarily responsible for tibial rotation (rotation of the tibia bone of the lower leg on the femur) during knee extension. This rotation or “twist” has been shown to increase the activation of the VMO portion of the vastus lateralis even more than doing knee extensions with the hip adducted (thigh rotated so that the medial portion of the knee is facing mostly upwards).3 Dorsiflexion of the foot (moving the ankles so the toes are pointing towards your head) also increases the activation of the VMO by more than 20 percent.4 Likely this is because the dorsiflexor muscles stabilize the tibia during knee flexion and resist rotation of the tibia on the femur as the knee straightens.

The fourth muscle of the quadriceps group is the rectus femoris muscle. It attaches to the anterior part of the hip bone just above the hip joint.1 The largest bulk of the muscle fibers are located on the upper three-quarters of the thigh, whereas the largest belly of the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis are more inferior (i.e., closer to the knee). The distal end of the rectus femoris muscle becomes tendinous and it creates a deep valley between the lateral and medial vastus muscles as it approaches the knee.1 It assists the other quadriceps muscles by extending the leg at the knee joint, although it is less effective when the hip is flexed than if it is straight.

Leg Extensions

The three vastus muscles of the anterior thigh are strongly activated by single-leg knee extensions. The rectus femoris is not activated as strongly, but it does undergo some overload when the anterior thigh is under contractile effort, about halfway up to the top of each repetition.

1. You should always warm up your knees with some stationary cycling prior to getting into leg extensions. Furthermore, the resistance on your first set should be fairly light to allow the joint to fully warm up before you get to the heavier stuff.

2. Adjust the knee extension machine so that the pivot point of the lifting arm is directly adjacent to the center of the side of your knee joint.

3. Position the ankle roller/leg pad over the lower part of the leg (above the ankle joint).

4. Take about three seconds to slowly extend (straighten) both leg so that the weight is lifted upward from the stack.

5. Continue upwards until the tibia and the femur bones form a straight line and the knee angle is straight. Hold this for two seconds at the top.

6. Slowly lower the weight (about four seconds down) towards the starting position. Once the knee has reached 90 degrees, start the upwards extension phase again. Continue for 12-15 repetitions for the first set. Lower the number of repetitions but increase the resistance for subsequent sets.

7. On the next sets, lift the weight upwards until the knee joint becomes almost straight, but just slightly short of a total knee lockout. Be careful that you do not “jam” the knee joint into a fully locked out position, because this could cause knee cartilage damage5, especially with heavy weights. Hold the top position for a count of three before lowering the weight.

8. Lower the weight slowly (four to five seconds) towards the starting position where your knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Just before the weight stack contacts the remaining plates at the bottom, start lifting it upward for the next repetition.

The downward movement should be slower than the upward phase because you are resisting the pull of gravity. The slow lowering of the weight stretches the muscle under a resistance and this is a great stimulus to improve muscle shape and size.6

Make sure that you do not hold your breath during the lift upwards.7 Rather take a breath at the bottom (start) of the lift, and exhale as you extend the knees/legs. Take another breath at the top and slowly exhale as the weight is lowered. Take another breath at the bottom and repeat the sequence.

This is a mechanically simply exercise, but it really can be very challenging and blood depriving8,9, especially if you try to control the weight as it is moving up and down. However, if you are willing to work through some discomfort, you will be soon enjoying your new shape and slabs of carved thighs.

GettyImages 674163248 600


1. Moore K.L. Clinically Orientated Anatomy. Third Edition. Williams & Willkins, Baltimore, 1995; pp 373-500.

2. Watanabe K, Akima H. Neuromuscular activation of vastus intermedius muscle during fatiguing exercise. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2010;20:661-666.

3. Stoutenberg M, Pluchino AP, Ma F et al. The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. J Strength Cond Res 2005;19:931-938.

4. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Cramer JT et al. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses of the vastus medialis muscle during isometric and concentric muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19:412-420.

5. Senter C, Hame SL. Biomechanical analysis of tibial torque and knee flexion angle: implications for understanding knee injury. Sports Med 2006;36:635-641.

6. Alway SE, Winchester PK, Davis ME et al. Regionalized adaptations and muscle fiber proliferation in stretch- induced enlargement. J Appl Physiol 1989;66:771-781.

7. Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011;43:1334-1359.

8. Denis R, Bringard A, Perrey S. Vastus lateralis oxygenation dynamics during maximal fatiguing concentric and eccentric isokinetic muscle actions. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2011;21:276-282.

9. Ueda C, Kagaya A. Muscle reoxygenation difference between superficial and deep regions of the muscles during static knee extension. Adv Exp Med Biol 2010;662:329-334.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs
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Published Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2022 19:11:16 +0000

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PRIMAL Preworkout



Training hard and intensely is the only way to train – you can’t step into the gym in low gear or
asleep at the switch and expect results. To get the most out of every training session with no
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your limits and that’s what Animal’s PRIMAL Preworkout delivers.

A Better Pump

PRIMAL is Animal’s most comprehensive pre-workout supplement ever, and is scientifically
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to deliver the ultimate pre-workout:

• Endurance & Performance Complex so you can train longer and harder. Beta-alanine,
betaine and taurine are combined as a powerful endurance trio†. Beta-alanine is a vital ingredient
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• Focus & Intensity Complex helps you keep your head in the iron game so you train hard and
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the brain send messages for improved mental endurance and focus†.

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Preworkout tops it off with a combination of AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake and Senactiv,
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producing more ATP†.

How to Use PRIMAL
30 minutes prior to training, consume 2 rounded scoops (20.3g) with 8-12 oz of water or your
favorite beverage. Users that are sensitive to stimulants should start off with 1 rounded scoop
(10.1g) to assess tolerance.

PRIMAL Preworkout

• Enhances energy and endurance†
• Supports muscle hydration†
• Supports intense focus†
• Contains AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake†
• Contains Senactiv ® which helps the production of citrate synthase, an important enzyme that is
responsible for producing more ATP†
• Absorption and nutrient enhancers
• Great tasting, easy to mix

PRIMAL is a pre-workout that will power your performance and enable you to crush it every time you train.

For additional information, visit
†These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not
intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Title: PRIMAL Preworkout
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