Ab Training 101: Part 1

The “abs” are often one of the most desired muscle groups to “have” when people begin to think about summer or fat loss. I will let you all in on a little secret and inform you that you ALL have abs. Everyone was born with the rectus abdominus muscle group, although some may have theirs more pronounced and revealing than others. That’s okay! Not everyone needs a six pack! Depending on what type of athlete you are and what your current goals are and what your body type is, chasing a six pack may not be the best thing for you at this stage in your fitness/athletic career. When people think of “abs”/core they traditionally think of a 6/8-pack, although the core includes many other muscles deep under one’s rectus abdominus as well as the lateral and posterior sides of the body (the back). Given that this blog caters also towards the sport of bodybuilding and people who want to change their physique along with athletes looking to enhance performance, I will address both groups. Part one of this series will be a short introduction to the abdominal muscles, their functions, locations, and different ranges of motion. The second article will address how to train your abdominal muscles for aesthetics, a.k.a, how to get a six pack. The third and final article will primarily focus on training the abs and midsection for performance in sport.

 

What Muscles Make Up the “Abs”/Core?

The main muscles of the abdomen include the rectus abdominus, the external obliques, and the intercostals. They are located on the frontal plane of the torso and run from the bottom of the chest and mid rib cage, down to the pelvis. These are the superficial muscles of the abdomen that you can see when someone is in incredible shape at a very low percentage of body fat. Some of the internal muscles of the midsection include, the transverse abdominus, the internal obliques, diaphragm, and the spinal erectors. These muscles in conjunction with one another help brace the spine, flex the torso in global flexion (bending over or “crunching”) and extend the torso in global extension (bending backwards or arching the back).

Rectus Abdominus (Image 1.A):

The rectus abdominis originates at the base of pelvis in the pubis, and inserts into the cartilage of the fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs. It’s main function is to contract and flex the spinal column, drawing it toward the pelvis. The rectus abdominus muscle is what people often call a “6-pack” or “8-pack” if their are in very good condition and have a low percentage of body fat.

External Obliques (Image 1.B):

The external obliques (obliquus externus abdominis) are located on either side of the torso originating at the lower ribs and inserting at the side of the pelvis. Their main function is to assist the rectus abdominus in flexing to spinal column forward as well as rotate the spinal column in a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position.

Intercostals (Image 1.C):

The intercostals are two thin planes are muscle and tendon that populate the space between the ribs. Their main function is to lift the ribs as well as contract and draw them together.

Transverse Abdominus (Image 1.D):

The transverse abdominus is located deep underneath the obliques and wraps entirely the spine. It’s main function is to properly brace and protect the spine in both a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position both unloaded (bodyweight movements) and loaded (weighted movements).

Internal Obliques (Image 1.E):

The internal obliques are located underneath the external obliques on either side. It’s main function is to support the abdominal wall, helps create pressure in the torso during forced respiration, and also assist other muscles of the midsection in rotation of the spine.

Diaphragm (Image 1.F):

The diaphragm is located underneath the ribs and is a large sheet of muscle that assist in respiration as well as separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Spinal Erectors (Image 1.G):

The spinal erectors are located on the posterior (back side) of the torso and run from the lumbar region of the back through the thoracic region and into the cervical region. Their main function is to assist in global extension of the spinal column, as well as bracing the spine.

 

Why Do We Need to Train All Sides of Our Midsection?

The body does not just function in any one plane of movement. When it comes to abdominal training, often times people will only train the front of their midsection, leaving the sides, and back completely untouched. Sure, the sides and lower posterior muscles of the midsection get stimulus from exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and overhead work while standing by assisting with balance and bracing during the exercise. Although, if someone is training only their rectus abdominus in hopes for a six pack, they can often create imbalances that could lead to injury. The same idea applies to sport as well. Depending on the sport, the front of the abdominal region may experience a lot of load and stimulus from being in global flexion, while the muscles of the lower back are not being stimulated to achieve eliminate muscular imbalances.

In sport, our bodies are moving in many directions. Very rarely do athletes move in a completely linear plane. In a sport like wrestling or jiujitsu, the body is often twisting, arching, and bending in many positions while under load from their opponent. When an athlete like a wrestler or a jiujitsu athlete has a strong rectus abdominus from the endless amount of crunches they do at the end of their workout, they can perform well in movements involving global flexion. Any time they need to move into global extension, such as lifting their opponent off their feet from a takedown, their spinal erectors, and transverse abdominus often have a hard time bracing the spine properly. This leaves the athlete very susceptible to injury. Take a sport like powerlifting for example, where the spine needs to be maximally braced by the muscles surrounding it to be protected and produce the maximum amount of force in a lift. In an exercise like the deadlift, if the spine is not braced the athlete risks slipping a disk in the vertebrae, and leaking force production and strength through poor technique. 

image

In a sport like bodybuilding, having well trained abs is a must. The quality of a bodybuilding competitors abdominal region is a reflection of how well they dieted and conditioned during prep, as well as how well they were able to train their abs to take a particular shape and look on stage. Not just the “8 pack”, but all sides of the abdominals. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, he refers to the abs at the, “…visual center of the body.” (Schwarzenegger & Dobbins, 1998). When viewing the human physique, they are naturally drawn to the abdominal area of the body. The shoulders and feet act as the points in an “X” shape across the body with the abs lying in the intersection. Well trained and displayed abs in bodybuilding are signs or being in well conditioned as well as having dense and strong physique. The muscles in the sides and lower back of the midsection must also be trained to achieve a balanced look between the anterior and posterior sides of the body.

image Frank Zane trained the obliques with the use of exercises like the abs twist to make his external obliques almost, “disappear”. They were specifically trained and developed to be tight and lean, making his waist appearing very small compared to his wide lats and large shoulders, thus adding to the illusion of the “X” frame.

    The muscles of the midsection include more than what we can see from someone’s six pack and their purpose is more than just for doing crunches. The abdominal region is composed of many other muscles that for aesthetic purposes must be trained individually, as well as trained as a whole for improving athletic performance. In the next article, we will focus on how to train and develop one’s abdominal area for the sport of bodybuilding and/or physical appearance.

 

Muscles of the Abdomen:

 

Abs-Rectus-abdominis-muscle(Image 1.A)

external-obliques.jpg(Image 1.B)

intercostals(Image 1.C)

 

Transversus_abdominis(Image 1.D)

internal-obliques(Image 1.E)

diaphragm (Image 1.F)

Spinal Erectors.png(Image 1.G)

Where I’ve Been & What’s Next?

     The website I was originally so eager to flood with content, has been dryer than the Sahara Desert. At the time of starting up the website, I had just started a new full time semester of college as well as balancing three different jobs. To say I was busy just as I was eager is an understatement. I do not want this to be an excuse for absence. Although the things I had to do quickly took up most of my time compared to the things I wanted to do.

     Tim Ferriss has stated several times that, “If you find yourself running out of time often, your priorities are not right.”  From August to the beginning of December, my priorities were not right. I was being pulled in to many directions, stretched across educational goals, relationship maintenance, and financial necessity. At the turn of the new year, I was able to get all the hours need to meet my monthly minimum at one occupation. Thank you, Jesus. Not only did this help me save on gas, but it made life much simpler.

    I do not intend for this post to be a concoction of stories about being stressed and fatigued. There are many people who are busier and more stressed than myself. I wanted to address that absence, and return to doing what I love doing. Lifting weights, and helping athletes be the best they can be through strength and conditioning.

     I cannot promise that the website will be the most up to date and the most educational and user friendly site on sport specific strength and conditioning out there, but I can promise a substantial effort to provide the best content I can as frequently as I can.

    So if you are reading this because of my Instagram post, thank you. Stay tuned. My personal workouts and training logs, client testimonials, nutritional advice and training programming is on its way.

    As far as what is next, I decided it was time to set new goals and pursue new experiences. What started my athletic career was the martial arts. I trained in the art of Bok Fu underneath, Dave Marinoble for four years, as well as Jujitsu under Marinoble for 3 years. When I began wrestling year long in high school, I was no longer training with Marinoble.

    After feeling the burn out of competitive high school wrestling and a over year long break from combative sports, I felt the itch to come back. The college I am at does not have a wrestling team, and I am not complaining. I wanted to get back to my first love. Jujitsu and Brazilian Jiujitsu.

    The first week of the year I returned to Marinobles and signed up for their grappling programs. This is now my current competitive venture. Upon signing up I realized I have four weeks to train and get ready for their annual winter season tournament on February 4th, 21017.

    After some changes to my current training program and schedule, I am ready to put the rubber to the road and prepare best I can for the tournament. Follow me and my daily workouts and updates on how training is going and what I am doing specifically to prepare. As of today, I am 24 days out, so in the words of Jocko Willink, it is time to GET AFTER IT.

Post Tahoe Show 2016 Reflection

It’s been nearly two weeks since I stepped off the stage in Lake Tahoe, NV. With the show being a thing of the past, I can now take a step back and analyze the amazing and refreshing experience.

Friday:

As we were driving up to Lake Tahoe, NV I spent my time in the car to relax and not let my nerves act up. Once we got there we checked into the hotel and realized I forgot my NPC card at home (my mistake).

After scrambling with the computer in the business center of the hotel to print it out, I left to head to the male athlete briefing and registration. As soon as I walked in the door I was immediately thinking back to those classic scenes of “Pumping Iron” where enormous (at least from my point of view) muscle bound artists walk around with their Tupperware and chicken breast.

I still kept my 14-16 hour fast period, and added in carbs in the form of vegetables after spending the last 6 days with completely no carbs. I will say my body felt a lot better with the addition of carbs.

I tend to get nervous before competition and I could feel my stomach crawling up my esophagus. Even when I was filling out the liability form, my hand writing went to crap due to some slight shakes.

Once I was chilled out and registered and going back up to the room for some chicken, it was time to get my tan. I will just say I did not expect to look like Robert Downey Jr. In “Tropic Thunder”. It was pretty comical to have such a starkly different skin tone in 20 minutes.

After my tan I realized that my big sweats would help keep the tan off everything I touched, but the short sleeve shirt would not. 30 bucks later I had a big long sleeve shirt which would help prevent any smearing and getting orange on everything.

The last meal of the day included a banana, and several spoon fills of almond butter. Not so much that I had a overly full stomach, but just enough to fill me up. My water in the morning till lunch time was normal, after lunch I just cut my normal water intake by half. The end of the evening concluded rest and lots of sleep.

Saturday Morning:

After a less than decent night’s sleep, it was time to start the carb up process. The carb up process is a tactic a lot of body builders use to fill their muscles with glycogen which in turn will give them a more fuller look.

The carb up process consisted of 10 Oreos right when I woke up and 10 more about an hour before I went on stage for prejudging. While I was waiting during prejudging I had some more chicken and a bell pepper to stay fueled and ready to pose.

The ladies went first, each striving to display figure as well as finesse followed by the men to show physique and power. I decided to go back stage several classes before mine to prepare and pump up. Little did I know that when i got back stage a loud female voice yelled, “We’re skipping intermission! Men’s Physique you’re up next!” My heart raced and I was freaking out. I quickly changed into my posing trunks and grabbed my band trying to pump up as quickly as possible with out getting out of breath. Thankfully the rest of the competition was in the same frenzy as I. When the super heavyweight bodybuilders filed off stage, I was filed in line behind the curtain praying that I would just hit my first pose smoothly with any noticeable rookie mistakes.

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I said a short prayer before I walked out and turned on the “x” made in masking tape to proceed to the next “x” in front of the judges. I hit my front pose, and nerves disappeared. On to my back pose, then to my second front pose, and off to the side. I maintained composure and the best posing i could while the other competitors displayed their physique before the judges.

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The time for first call outs came and my heart was relieved and thoroughly excited when they said they wanted to see me, #223. I went out for comparisons and when the judges said we could exit the stage, I knew I was hooked. All the workouts, early mornings, skipped cheat meals, and going to bed early paid off in an amazing experience which I am thirsty to have again.

Saturday Evening: The Night Show

After spending time with my family as well as my girlfriend and her family, it was time to return to the hotel for the night show. Things were moving along quickly. Competitors would come out, hit one pose, receive their medals and then file off to enjoy the donuts provided by the promoter backstage. Now it was time for the physique competitors and bodybuilders to all perform their posing routine… After probably 30 routines deep I was ready to leave. I was hungry, anxious, and wanting the anticipation to be over. It reminded me of what is was like to have one more wrestling match for the tournament and having to wait sometimes an hour and 45 minutes before you step onto the mat. The anticipation for the big hurrah sometimes can be mind numbing and progressively lethal.

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After upwards of 30 more posing routines, I went back stage to pump up. Properly this time. I grabbed my band, tucked my self in a corning dodging more neon workout bands, and dumbbells. The wait seemed like forever for my class to be called, but in due time it was finally called for. I was back behind the same curtain I was during the morning prejudging. This time the nerves were gone and I could distinctly hear the crowd and the music. The facilitator in back told me i was good to go and I walked and turned on that first “X”. It was at that moment I knew I was hooked and already wanted to start training for another show. I took third place in my class, and was so thankful for that awesome experience. The support from all my friends and family was such a huge part of that experience. People to wait out the long prejudging night show and travel with me was something incredibly special, so thank you Mom, Dad, Rilee, Caleb, Burke, and Angel.

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I know i have a lot to work on, but I am so incredibly excited to build up those weaknesses and step on stage again. Training for next year begins now.

Personal Training Update: 9/5/16

Date: 9/5/16Wake time, total hours of sleep: 4:15 am/ 7 hours 

Morning Weight: 159.4

Pre workout & Intraworkout: BPI Vortext: 3g/ 5g Creatine, 7g BCAA

Workout Overview: Big 3 Training (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) + Extra back strength work

Meal #1: Chicken, Madra’s Lentil Soup, Almonds

Snacks: Protein shake

Meal #2: Chicken, 1 bell pepper, mixed nuts

Carb Spike: 1/2 banana, strawberries, peanut butter and milk

Reflection: Good day of training, good day of diet. Probably could have had another shake somewhere today just for the extra calories. 

  

  

  

Personal Training Update #5

Wake time: 4:15 am. 7 hours of sleep. 

Work out: CoryGFitness #GS14, Back squats and shoulders. 800m lunges, and nightly ab training. 

Meal 1: 2 pieces of chicken, 1 bell pepper, several handfuls of walnuts. 

Meal 2: Chicken, almonds. 

Carb spike: Mixed fruit with peanut butter. 

Personal Training Update #4

Please excuse my absence due to vacation, and lack of discipline. I still trained on vacation last week, but not as much volume and intensity. 
Wake time: 4:15. 7 hours of sleep.

Morning weight: 155.6lbs

Workout: Cory Gregory’s #GetStacked14 Day 3. Front squats, and more legs. 

Meal 1: Steak, chicken, bell peppers, almonds. Eaten at 2:00pm, 18 hour fast. 

Meal 2: Chicken, lentil soup. 

Carb Spike: Blueberries and strawberries with peanut butter. 

Day One Dark


Welcome to Settlage Strength and Conditioning. My name is Josh Settlage and my goal is help people and athletes of all shapes, sizes, experiences, skill, levels, and domains, become develop strength, power, health and athleticism in sport, as well in life. I have always had a passion for health and fitness as well as a deep desire for competition. My fitness journey started when I began doing push ups, sit ups, and curls in my room my 7th grade year in school. I used my dad’s old weight set I had seen him workout with since I was a boy. I was infatuated with Rocky, Rambo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean Claude Van Damme and wanted to look and perform like them. Fast forward several years and now I am studying kinesiology at William Jessup University and am still filled with a love for working out and helping other workout to reach whatever health and fitness goals they desire.

Image result for eugen sandow press

This website came about this fire I had inside me to help others along in their fitness journey, specifically in sports. I did martial arts for 4 years until I began to devote most of my time to wrestling year long for another 3 years. I was not the best wrestler by any means, but I did excel and work to be the best on the team when it came to the conditioning workouts. I hated losing matches, but I hated losing conditioning workouts even more simply because those were in my wheel house and I knew it was a strength of mine. 

After deciding to not wrestle my senior year in high school and to focus on school, I had more time on my hands to just workout. Not to workout to get better at any specific sport, but just to test out different methods of training and see what works for size, what works for maximum strength, endurance and what works for leaning out. After over a year of trying different training methods and workouts, I felt like it was time for me to share this knowledge and provide a platform to reach others who were interested in similar ventures.

This is just a place where I can post workouts, training tips, talk about my own fitness endeavors, and cultivate a community of people looking to improve their performance in sport and in life. This is the start of something new and I am learning along the way. Today marks day one. The first day of many that will hopefully reach and inspire those around me and many more I have yet to meet. Whether you want to put on size and get stronger for football, you want to lean out for the summer months, or you’ve never worked out since P.E. class and want to ease into living a healthy lifestyle again, my goal is to provide the resources and information for you to accomplish your goals. Lets get started shall we?