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Signature Abs

How Markus Kaulius slowly built one of the best midsections in the business.
By Mike Carlson
 
Markus Kaulius walks around looking like this, but it wasn’t always this way. Even though the long and lean Kaulius looks like he came out of the womb with photo shoot–ready abs, his midsection is actually a product of long-term planning and a relentless hunger for improvement.
“It is something I had to develop. I was a skinny-fat guy. Even at my skinniest—124 pounds and 6’4 ½” inches tall—I still had a belly. People would pick on me for having a belly,” he says. “Over the last eight to 10 years I have really focused on the core.”
You pick up a lot of wisdom over 10 years, and here we pick Kaulius’ brain on how he developed and maintains an industry-leading abdomen.
Training: With the help of his trainer, Jean-Jacques Barrett, Kaulius has synthesized the program shown here. He hits his abs five days a week for about 15 minutes at a time. He will choose two exercises (from a long and ever-growing list) and perform them in superset fashion.
“I always train abs first. That is one of the keys to my success. I always start with abs,” he says. “You need that quality, being able to squeeze hard enough. At the end of a workout, you just don’t have the energy left in your body.”
Kaulius’ other training also contributes to his ripped abs. Five day a week he does an hour of fasted cardio first thing in the morning. Additionally, his weight-training workouts with Barrett burn a ton of calories and focus heavily on drop-sets, supersets, and overall intensity
Nutrition: “You can’t out-train a bad diet,” Kaulius says. “‘Diet’ is my answer to 90 percent of the questions I receive. When I get asked, ‘Why am I not

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The Mechanical Advantage

This relatively painful intensity technique can lead to rapid gains in size.
By Vince Del Monte
This month I want to talk about a technique I’m currently employing inside my eight-week training cycle that has me doing—wait for it—just one all-out set per workout, per bodypart.
The technique is called “mechanical advantage drop sets” or MADS (which is a great acronym I thought I invented until I did a quick Google search). Before diving into MADS, let’s define drop sets so we’re on the same page. A drop set is when you perform a given exercise to the point of concentric failure, and then change a variable in a way that allows you to extend the set into what I call “The Hurt Box.”
You are likely familiar with drop sets that include decreasing the weight once you hit fatigue so that you can chase some extra reps with a lighter load. This is a good technique in my opinion, but not a great technique. Drop sets are also known as “strip sets,” and it’s likely one of the first mass-gaining techniques you’ve experimented with during your early days of your muscle-building journey. However, as the years go on, the “gains train” starts to slow down and we start looking for more advanced methods to continue our quest for a bigger and stronger body.
That’s where MADS comes in, and in a moment I’ll give you my own MADS upper-body training program so you can put this bad boy to the test. The “mechanical” in MADS refers to a change in body position, which applies to increasing or decreasing leverage. For instance, you’ve likely noticed it’s easier to do a squat with your feet wider versus narrower. It’s easier to perform a bench press on a decline instead of incline. It’s easier to perform a

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Another Brick In The Wall

For a stunning set of abs, you have to add some weight to your workout
By Eric Broser
 
In my 27-year career as a trainer and contest prep coach, I have never come across anyone who wasn’t interested in making significant improvements to their midsection. For some that simply means losing belly fat and achieving a flatter tummy. For others greater core strength is the primary goal. However, for most serious gym rats the ultimate achievement is a rock-hard, shredded six-pack. While many “gurus” out there might claim that great abs are not manifested in the gym, but rather via diet and some cardio, let me assure you that in order to present a truly impressive abdominal wall, each “brick” must be built—both thick and deep. With that in mind, here are three of my favorite exercises meant to do just that.
 
THE MOVEMENTS
Exercise 1: Parallel Bars Straight Leg Raise
Stand in between a set of parallel bars and lift yourself into what would be the starting point for performing dips. While holding your torso locked in this position raise your legs to just above parallel by flexing the hips. Hold at the top for about one second and then slowly lower your legs back down while keeping your abs tight throughout.
Tip: Try your best not to focus on your hip flexors, and think to yourself, “Lift with the abs.”
Exercise 2: Barbell Push Crunch
Sit down on an abdominal incline bench set between 30 and 60 degrees, making sure to secure your feet under the pad before lying back into the starting position. Have someone hand you a moderately weighted barbell, which should be held with an overhand, shoulder-width grip and positioned at arms’ length over the chest. Flex at the waist to raise your torso while keeping your arms locked in position. Do not

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Mad Abs

To get an insane midsection, you’ll have to get a little bit crazy
By Nick Nilsson
 
The abdominal area is the most complex area of the body in terms of movements and function. Beyond aesthetics, the abs are critical for athletic performance, strength, and force transfer from lower body to upper body. This series of exercises targets these critical functions of the abdominal area with complex movements and resistance patterns in a hybrid fashion. These exercises are not about novelty. These combination movements will hit your abs in ways you’ve never even imagined.
These five exercises are going to hammer a wide variety of functions and movements in your entire midsection, from your deepest “strength” muscles to your most superficial “show” muscles. I recommend performing this workout no more than two to three times per week. These exercises are extremely challenging and many use added resistance that will require additional recovery.
Ab Rippers
To perform this exercise, you’ll need a high pulley, a dumbbell, and a bench. You’ll be performing a one-arm pulldown while doing a one-arm dumbbell bench press at the same time.
Start by setting the bench underneath the high pulley so that one end is right below the single-handle attachment. You’re going to be lying with only your upper back on the bench (perpendicular to the pad) during the exercise.
Use a weight on the stack that is approximately the same as the dumbbell you’re going to be pressing. Start fairly light on both at first to get an idea of how to get into position for the exercise and how to perform the movement.
Sit on the bench with your left side to the pulley. Pick up the dumbbell in your right hand, then set it on end on top of your thigh. Grab the pulley handle with your left hand. Move your butt

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Athletic Abs

Your core needs to be strong, functional, and ready for anything.
 By Cooper Graham
 
Sit-ups and sports have traditionally gone together like bodybuilders and biceps curls. Even before physiologists could explain why the muscles of the midsection are so important for generating force, coaches instinctively knew that the core musculature coordinates the movement between the upper and lower body.
Unfortunately, a slavish devotion to the sit-up (or crunch) has prevailed. While that type of spinal flexion is good for developing the rectus abdominis, the core is composed of several other muscles that enable an infinite number of movement patterns such as twisting, bending, leaning, swaying, tilting, and stabilizing. For instance, one of the most important movements generated by the abdominals is rotation. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most overlooked when it comes to training.
“Athletes need to be able to rotate and rotate explosively,” says Brian Richardson, MS, CPL2, NASM-PES, co-owner of Dynamic Fitness in Temecula, California. “The reaction of an athlete is like one-thirtieth of a second. So they need to work that pattern and those muscles to react.”
Richardson claims that improving speed and power in the external obliques, the muscles that drive torso rotation, is the key to improving performance in all manner of motions, whether it’s throwing a punch or swinging a golf club. However, training the external obliques can be slightly tricky. For instance, when standing, the external obliques move the upper body from right to left and are the main drivers when throwing a right cross. However, when you are on your back and your hips are anchored to the floor, they move your right hip farther to the right. For that reason, Richardson recommends performing both standing and supine rotational exercises.
Another facet to consider is rep scheme. Core muscles are made up of fast-twitch and slow-twitch

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