The Abdominal Grow-Man
How can you build a strong-looking set of abs without compromising your aesthetics?
By Brandon Curry, IFBB Pro
[Q] Brandon, we’ve heard over the years that training your abs and obliques with resistance will only make your waist wider. What’s your take?
[A] When you focus on abdominal training you should focus on control and stability. Moves like the plank are good but on any move you choose you should be able to pause and reverse direction at will. You shouldn’t go to failure on every abdominal exercise because that breaks down too much muscle tissue. It’s one area where traditional bodybuilding advice isn’t recommended. By the last set, if you’re reaching failure, you’re probably done with the exercise. Going to failure using resistance can definitely put you at risk for getting wider. We want to condition the abs as bodybuilders. I like the ab wheel because it provides good stabilization work while challenging your entire abdominal complex.
[Q] What’s the proper way to use resistance when training abs?
[A] Again, I like to focus on endurance when it comes to abs because they’re stabilizers. I wouldn’t really do anything under 20 reps. If you can do a bodyweight move for say 50 reps, then adding some resistance and control to cut that number in half is a smart way to go. But I also don’t consciously think about reps — instead I think about feel. I don’t want to get to that point where my rep speed decreases. At that point, I’m done. I don’t want to break down too much muscle tissue. The speed shouldn’t be hindered over the course of a set. Once that slows down you hit that breakdown point.
[Q] People have told me to use the old broomstick twist to train obliques. Is there any value in that?
[A] There’s value in the broomstick twist, definitely. Even though you’re not training under a load, you’re still training your body to contract the obliques. The idea here is to hold the contraction hard. You should move slowly through a full range of motion to give yourself a “pump” in your obliques. If you’re doing it right, with good focus, you shouldn’t be able to do it all day.
[Q] What are the main things to consider with my overall training and nutrition that can help me develop a Curry-like set of abs?
[A] You have to know what you can and cannot eat. A lot of people run into issues where they’re on a diet and they take carbs out and replace them with healthy fats. But you may have an intolerance or allergy. It’s good to know if you’re gluten sensitive, for example. You also want to eat at a calorie deficiency. Get an idea of how much food you’re taking in each day. If you need to change anything, you can adjust variables here and there. When it comes to nutrition, it’s about knowing where you are and what you can and cannot do. The same rules won’t apply to everyone but in general you should reduce carbs and calories and focus on protein. Cardio will also help with that caloric deficit. With regard to the weights, there’s no one right rep range. But as you decrease rest periods, it ups the intensity, the metabolic benefits are greater and you get better conditioned.
The Prodigy’s Gift
Just in case you needed a reason to hate Brandon Curry…
Q: How often and how hard does Brandon train his abs?
A: “A lot of people don’t believe me but I don’t really train abs much anymore at all. It’s been years since I have. Before a contest, I do a bit of work to make sure I can control them onstage but my ab quality is determined first and foremost by my diet. Genetically, I’ve always had good abs. I trained them hard when I was younger and it still shows today.