Photos of Tobias Young by Alex Ardenti
• Abs have never been super hard for me to bring out. For me it’s all about my diet. Once that’s on track and I get lean, my abs pop. I also have a long torso, which makes my abs stand out in my physique. If you’re careless with your diet, you’ll definitely have a harder time seeing your abs.
• I prefer to use advanced training techniques for my abs rather than just doing straight sets. I do drop sets and supersets, but when I really want to blast them I’ll implement rest-pause. I’ll do as many reps as I possibly can, then I’ll stop and rest but still maintain tension in the muscle. I’ll take a few deep breaths, then kill another 5–10 reps. I do that once or twice per set and I’m toast. It beats endless sets of crunches.
• On occasion I use added resistance when training abs. I’ll hold a weight straight up over my face when I do crunches, or put one between my feet and do V-ups. But I still maintain my high-rep schematic so that I don’t get blocky or thick in my midsection.
• Each time I train abs I like to hit all the critical areas: the rectus abdominis, the obliques and the stabilizing muscles such as the transverse abdominis and hip flexors. Together, these all make up the core, your body’s powerhouse. When your core is strong, you can lift heavier and longer, which means more overall gains.
• Even though I do only 2–3 moves each time I train abs, I really, really focus on each rep. The more you can concentrate and direct all your energy and intention into your muscles, the better results you’ll have.
TOBIAS’ TRAINING SPLIT
Monday: Back, calves, traps
Tuesday: Chest, abs
Thursday: Shoulders, calves, traps
Friday: Arms, abs
Off-season, Tobias does 20 minutes of cardio six days a week; around contest time that increases to 45 minutes six days a week. Pre-contest, he also adds another abs-training day for a total of three per week.
TOBIAS’ OFF-SEASON ABS ROUTINE
Tobias does 2–3 different moves each time he trains abs. “Each workout I do a move that crunches down, one that pulls up and something for my obliques,” he says. His workouts are never the same, but these four workout groupings represent one way he likes to arrange the moves.
Exercise Sets Reps
Crunch 4 25, 25, 20, 20
Reverse Crunch 4 25, 25, 20, 20
Oblique Crunch 4 35, 35, 30, 30
Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lightly cup the back of your head with your hands, elbows flared.
Contract your abs to lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor as high as you can. Squeeze your abs at the top as you exhale, then lower to the start.
Try putting your hands in different places to change the difficulty. Reaching them toward your knees is easiest, crossing them over your chest is a little harder, putting them behind your head is still harder and reaching straight up overhead is hardest.
Lie faceup with your legs bent and raised so that your knees are over your hips. Extend your arms along your sides.
Contract your lower abs to curl your hips off the floor, bringing your knees in over your chest. Slowly lower to the start, controlling the descent.
I like to put my hands underneath my glutes on this lower-abs move to stabilize and support my lower back and spine.
Lie on your right side with your hips stacked and place your left hand behind your head. Extend your right arm along the floor.
Crunch up in the lateral plane, lifting your torso as high as possible. When you’ve come as high as you can, pause a moment before slowly lowering back to the start.
This is one of my favorite moves for isolating the obliques and the serratus. For an extra challenge, lift your legs in the side plane as you crunch up.
Exercise Sets Reps
Double Crunch 3 30, 30, 25
Plank 3 One Minute
Crossover Crunch 3 20, 20, 20
Lie faceup with your knees bent and lifted over your hips. Place your hands lightly behind your head for support, elbows flared.
Curl your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor, while simultaneously lifting your hips and bringing your knees back toward your chest. Hold the peak contraction for a count, then release.
Remember to open all the way back up before you crunch together again to get a full range of motion and stronger contraction.
Get into a push-up position with your elbows on the floor directly underneath your shoulders. Lift your hips and tighten your abs so that your head, hips and heels are all in line.
Hold and pull your abs into your lower back, breathing deeply. Don’t let your hips sag or rise.
I like to do variations of the standard plank, like putting both feet on a stability ball, putting one foot on the ball and one foot in the air, or putting my arms on the ball. I’ll do a minute of each variation to mix it up.
Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your head for support, elbows flared.
Curl up and simultaneously twist to the side, bringing your elbow toward your opposite-side knee, “wringing” out your waist. Lower to the start and repeat on the opposite side.
Remember that this move is flexion plus rotation and not just moving side to side. Really crunch that muscle to make it work — don’t just flap your elbow across your body.
Exercise Sets Reps
Stability-Ball Crunch 3 30, 30, 30
Broomstick Twist 2 50
Decline-Bench Crunch 4 30, 25, 20, 15
Lie face-up with the stability ball centered under your midback, feet placed wide for balance. Place your hands lightly behind your head for support, elbows flared.
Curl your head, shoulders and upper back off the ball, pushing your glutes into the ball to help lift your shoulder blades as high as you can. Slowly lower to the start, extending your spine along the curve of the ball.
With this move your lower back isn’t stable, which means your core muscles have to work that much harder, and the range of motion is longer than if you were to do it on the floor.
Place a broomstick across your shoulders and stand with your feet wider than hip width apart. Grasp the ends of the broomstick lightly and bend forward slightly to engage your abs.
Twist side to side, using an even cadence.
I like to use a weighted stick or a body bar to add a little more challenge to the move.
Adjust a decline bench to the desired angle, then secure your feet underneath the rollers. Place your hands behind your head for support, elbows flared, and lean back about halfway down, but don’t let your shoulder blades touch down.
Contract your abs without pulling through your thighs to raise your body, curling forward to ensure the upper abs are completely engaged. Lower under control, straightening your back.
Never let your abs go slack during this exercise. To maintain constant tension, stay just below perpendicular at the top and don’t go all the way down to the bench.
Exercise Sets Reps
Hanging Straight Leg Raise 4 To failure (approx. 30)
Hanging Knee Raise 4 To failure (approx. 20)
Hanging Oblique Raise 3 25, 25, 25
The first two moves are done as a drop/superset: Tobias does as many straight-leg raises as he can, then as many knee raises as he can.
HANGING STRAIGHT LEG RAISE
Take a shoulder-width overhand grip on a pull-up bar and allow your body to hang vertically, legs together, holding a very slight bend in your knees and hips.
Keeping your legs straight and together, contract your lower abs to lift them in front of you to hip height or slightly above. If you’re moving under control, you should be able to hold the top position for a count, then slowly lower back to the start.
To keep your hip flexor use to a minimum, curl your pelvis forward as you’re lifting your legs. The higher you bring your legs, the harder the lower abs have to work.
HANGING KNEE RAISE
Take a shoulder-width overhand grip on a pull-up bar and allow your body to hang vertically, legs together, holding a bend in your knees and hips.
Contract your lower abs to bring your knees up to at least hip level without swinging or using momentum. Slowly extend your legs back to the start under complete control.
I like to come just above parallel with my knees and lower almost — but not quite — to the start before raising my legs right back up again to maintain constant tension on my abs.
HANGING KNEE RAISE TO SIDE
Take a shoulder-width overhand grip on a pull-up bar and allow your body to hang vertically, legs together. Turn your feet and hips slightly to one side.
Bend your knees and lift them up to one side, crunching hard through your obliques. Do all your reps on one side before switching to the other.
Think about shortening the distance between your ribs and your hip bones as you lift your knees into your side.