This is a recent interview that was done with me. Pay close attention and you'll find TONS of useful info that will help you get lean sexy abs much faster and stop struggling with excess body fat. Enjoy!
SN: It's great to sit down and speak with you, Mike. To start off, how about telling our readers a little bit about yourself and your fitness background.
MG: I've actually been involved in the fitness industry for about a decade now, as a Certified Nutrition Specialist and a Certified Personal Trainer. I'm also the founder of TruthAboutAbs.com and author of the #1 best selling abdominals ebook in the world currently, The Truth about Six Pack Abs, with over 250,000 readers in over 155 countries.
I started developing the Truth about Abs program about 5 years ago based on how much I saw most people struggle with this topic and the amount of confusion and scams / gimmicks that were out there regarding abs and belly fat. I just saw that it was time somebody laid out the TRUTH about what REALLY works to get ripped six pack abs.
SN: Let's get right down to it. Everyone wants a flat set of 6-pack abs, yet very few people ever achieve that goal. Why do you think there's so much confusion on the subject? Is it really all that complicated of a process?
MG: You know, it's really NOT that complicated… However, with that said, to get your body fat % low enough to really see a nice set of abs, it does take a decent amount of discipline with your food intake as well as a whole new level of intensity with your workouts than what most people are used to. The thing is, most of my clients always comment that the style of eating that I recommend is actually fun, and they feel more energy due to the more natural unprocessed healthy foods they're eating and more balanced blood sugar and hormone levels in their body.
The problem is that there's so much conflicting advice out there these days, it leads the average joe or jane to over-complicate things and end up totally confused about what's the best way to train and eat for six pack abs.
SN: You've said before that abdominal exercises such as crunches and situps are extremely ineffective when it comes to achieving a flat stomach, and that they can actually make your stomach look WORSE. Can you elaborate on that?
MG: Sure… First of all, let me make clear that I'm not saying that you shouldn't do any abs-specific exercises. Rather, my point of contention is that most people spend WAY too much time focusing all of their efforts on abs-specific exercises, instead of focusing their efforts on more effective full body exercises that stimulate a much greater fat-burning and muscle building hormonal response, burn more calories, stimulate the metabolism to a higher extent, and also indirectly work the abs to a decent degree anyway.
Let me give an example of how many people typically waste too much time on abs-specific exercises…
A lot of times I see the average joe or jane spending about 15-30 minutes of their total workout just doing tons of pointless repetitions of crunches, situps, leg raises, or some other "abs pumping" exercise. Many times this comes out to almost HALF of their entire time working out.
My point here is that this type of excessive abs training is really a waste of time training a relatively small muscle group such as the abs, when that time could have been better spent on full body exercises such as squats, deadlifts, clean & presses, lunges, upper body presses and pulls, dumbbell swings, snatches, etc, etc. Compared to spending that time doing abs exercises, all of the above types of exercises will give you magnitudes more results in terms of hormonal response, metabolism increase, calorie burning, etc… all while indirectly working the abs to an extent anyway.
After focusing the majority of your workout efforts on those types of more effective full body exercises, then it's ok to spend about 5-7 minutes directly training the abs with abs-specific exercises… but the point I'd like to make is that abs training should only be a small portion of your training program as a whole, and not the majority of it.
Also, back to the topic of crunches and situps in particular… Once you've got a decent amount of abdominal training under your belt, crunches tend to be one of the least effective ab strengthening exercises since they are actually a fairly low-resistance exercise. An example of a higher resistance abs exercise would be a hanging leg raise with a proper pelvic curl-up (different than what you see most people doing in the gyms, where they only raise their knees up).
SN: How often do you recommend an individual train their abdominals on a weekly basis? Is basic, straightforward training the best protocol, or are there advanced ab training techniques that will yield better results?
MG: I usually recommend incorporating abs-specific training into your routines about twice/week, and 5-7 minutes per workout. Remember though that you're also getting indirect ab work through most of the full body exercises that should be comprising the majority of your workout time.
Beyond the typical leg raises, ab bicycles, hip thrusts, ab pikes, crunches, etc… there are definitely ways that you can take your abs to a new level that most people don't even think of. For example, some of the best abs exercises aren't usually viewed as abs exercises at all…
A couple examples that come to mind are front squats, renegade dumbbell rows, mountain climbers, 1-arm snatches, and others. Front squats are typically viewed as just a leg exercise, but if you've ever learned to do a proper front squat, you'll feel a tremendous stabilization tension required in your abs due to the weight being shifting more to the front of your body compared to the back as in back squats. If you haven't done front squats in a while, or are just learning them, I guarantee if you do a few sets of them, your abs will be feeling it big time the next day!
Renegade rows are another example of an exercise that's typically just viewed as an upper back exercise. However, while you're rowing a dumbbell up from a pushup position while stabilizing your body with your other arm, there is an insane amount of tension and stabilization strength required in your entire abs/core area. This is another exercise that really surprises people at how much they feel it in their abs.
(I have posted an article giving more detail and pictures for properly performing front squats, renegade rows, and mountain climbers as great alternative ab exercises)
SN: The viewpoints on the effectiveness of cardiovascular exercise seem to be shifting among fitness experts recently, with some advocating no cardio whatsoever. What is your stance on cardio as it relates to achieving 6-pack abs?
MG: Well, I know there's a lot of mixed views in the cardio area, and I'll proudly say that I'm pretty much totally against traditional cardio in the sense of just doing long duration, steady pace cardio. I feel that steady pace cardio is a very ineffective way to train and a waste of time in my opinion that could be better spent on variable intensity (interval) training, or more high intensity resistance training (weights, bodyweight training, etc). In general, I feel that anaerobic training gives you more bang for the buck compared to wasting time with lots of aerobic training.
Let me elaborate a little so I can make my point more clear…
Let's look at a typical cardio workout such as someone going out for a 45-minute steady pace jog, or going on the treadmill or elliptical for a long duration steady pace workout. While this steady pace workout is going on, you're only training your heart in one specific heart rate range… basically, you're keeping approximately the same heart rate throughout the entire workout… as an example, let's say that your heart rate stays at 125 beats/minute for most of the workout. In essence, you're only training your heart in a very limited range.
Now let's take a look at the mother of all interval training workouts…the highest intensity version of interval training… wind sprints or hill sprints… During a wind sprint or hill sprint workout (which based on higher intensity, generally can't last much longer than about 15-20 minutes at the most, saving you time), you're doing very high intensity "sprint" intervals of 10-20 seconds, followed by "recovery" intervals of walking back to your starting point for 40-60 seconds.
This type of highly variable training takes your heart rate screaming probably up to 150 or 160 beats/minute at the end of the sprint intervals, and then drops down to 100-110 beats/minute during your recovery intervals. This means that you're training your heart in a much higher range and making it MUCH stronger compared to traditional steady-pace cardio.
At the same time, the highly variable intensity training actually works your muscles in a more resistive fashion, stimulating a higher residual metabolic effect, hence burning more calories in the post-workout period compared with steady pace cardio.
I could go on with more reasons why I strongly believe that steady pace cardio is an ineffective method of training, but I'll make this point instead…
Look at the typical emaciated, sickly-looking body of a dedicated marathoner who has wasted most of their muscle away with long duration endurance cardio. Now compare that to the totally ripped, muscular, strong and healthy looking body of a world class sprinter, wide receiver, or other athlete that does mostly high intensity sprint work… which would you rather resemble? I rest my case!
SN: I'm sure you literally cringe when hearing words like 'ab belt' or 'ab rocker'. What's the honest truth about all of these infomercial gadgets? How about dispelling the myths right here once and for all?
MG: They're just about all complete junk! You can do more effective exercises just doing bodyweight exercises than all of this crap that they're hawking on the infomercials. I mean, does anybody really think they can "melt off slabs of belly fat" by sitting on their couch and strapping on some useless electro-stim ab belt? Don't get me started!
And I hope everyone realizes that those perfectly ripped fitness models they use in the infomercials didn't get their awesome bodies by using their pointless contraption they're selling… they got their perfect body because they are a professional fitness model, and they work their butt off with REAL full body workouts and lots of dietary discipline.
SN: How important is diet in relation to achieving a ripped stomach? Can you outline some common mistakes that you see people making with their nutritional approach?
MG: Diet is VERY important… probably the MOST important aspect. I've seen plenty of people that workout like animals almost every day of the week, but they have horrendous eating habits, and guess what… THEY'RE FAT! What's the point of working that hard in the gym, if you're gonna be embarrassed to take your shirt off because you have a big sloppy belly?
I also think that diet is the area of the most confusion. Everybody seems to think that they must follow some sort of "dieting gimmick" such as a "low fat" diet, or a "low carb" diet, or high or low something. The thing is, we should NOT be restricting what our bodies need… we should be feeding our bodies what they need with a balanced approach instead of restriction of a certain macronutrient or food group.
The only thing we need to restrict is processed junk food, sodas, deep fried food, and anything along those lines. I would also recommend restricting wheat-based foods and soy-based foods as both of these can cause major problems in the body (despite the hefty billion dollar marketing budgets behind both of these claiming them to be "health foods").
It doesn't have to be as complicated as the "diet gurus" make it out to be. It can be a lot simpler. Focus on the following aspects and you'll be well on your way to a more enjoyable eating style that will last you for life and get you better results at the same time…
1. Choose whole, unprocessed organic foods, as close to their natural state as possible
2. Choose high nutrient density food choices instead of nutrient deficient processed foods
3. Fruits and vegetables (lots of vegetables) as your main source of carbohydrates instead of so much reliance on grains as is so prominent in our food supply these days. Small amounts of grains is ok, but try to focus more on veggies/fruits for your carb sources.
4. Make sure to get moderate amounts of high quality protein at each meal
5. High fiber intake to help appetite control and glycemic control (maintaining more balanced blood sugar)
6. Don't neglect an ample healthy fat intake from nuts, seeds, nut butters, organic free-range whole eggs, wild fish and/or fish oil, virgin coconut oil and olive oils, avocados, etc (helps appetite control and hormonal balance).
You can also take some daily Krill Oil for healthy fats that are even more powerful than fish oil.
Once you gain control over the aspects listed above, everything else usually works itself out in your diet… you no longer crave sweets or junk food because your body finally has all of the nutrients it needs and balanced hormone levels. Another important thing that this style of eating does is that it tends to bring people naturally back to the proper amount of calories they need each day without having to attempt to count calories or anything like that.
Hopefully that helps to simplify some things with this confusing topic.
SN: Let's say you have an individual who knows absolutely nothing about how to properly train and eat for 6-pack abs. What are the top 3 pieces of advice you'd give them right off the bat?
MG: Top 3 tips…
1. Focus at least 90% of your workout time on high intensity combinations of full body multi-joint exercises such as variations of deadlifts, squats, lunges, clean & presses, pullups, pushups, dips, bench presses, overhead presses, and upper body rows and pulls. The other 10% or less of your workout time can be dedicated to direct abs training.
2. Focus your "cardio" efforts on shorter duration variable intensity interval training, wind sprints, hill sprints, stair sprints, jump rope, and other higher intensity (and variable intensity) forms of training instead of relying on long duration, steady-pace boring traditional cardio.
3. With your diet, don't try to be too restrictive on certain macronutrients or go too low on overall calories as this can lead to muscle loss and reduced metabolic rate. Instead, feed your body what it needs to perform optimally and build/maintain lean muscle mass… lots of whole unprocessed foods such as nuts, fruits, veggies, seeds, eggs, organic meats, etc.
Try to maintain a reasonable balance of protein, carbs, and fat instead of trying to go too low or high on any one macronutrient. Some of the most important aspects of a diet that creates a lean body are getting enough quality fiber, protein, and healthy fat intake at most of your meals, and limiting foods such as refined starches, refined sugars, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), processed polyunsaturated oils such as soy and corn oil, and excessive alcohol.
SN: Thanks for joining us, Mike! Great interview!
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