PROGRAM SECTION

THE EXERCISES

Look over these exercises to become familiar with them. Following the exercise descriptions, we’ll present a series of routines ranging from beginning to very advanced. Again, don’t be surprised if some of the exercises are similar to exercises you’ve done in the past. Remember, it’s the sequence and timing of the exercises that make all the difference.

Hanging Leg Raises

For this particular exercise, you need a horizontal bar of any sort from which to hang; a doorway chinning bar will work.

Take a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip on the bar and, keeping your upper torso as relaxed as possible, raise your legs until your knees almost touch your chest. Your pelvis should rock forward as you raise your legs, this guarantees maximum ab involvement. Hold for a second or so, then lower legs back to the starting position. Repeat.

It’s important to lower your legs just slowly enough so you don’t start swinging; your knees should be slightly bent throughout the exercise.

Hanging Knee-Ups

These are similar to the previous exercise except that in this case you should fully bend your knees as you lift, and actually try to touch them to your chest.

Lying 6-Inch Leg Raises

Lie on your back on a soft mat or carpet, and place your hands under your pelvis, palms down. Raise the legs about 18 inches off the floor, then lower about 12 inches. Repeat-up to 18, down to 12, up to 18, down to 12; etc.

Your hands and arms should function as a cradle to prevent your back from arching. Your lower back should remain flat against the floor throughout the exercise.

It’s possible to do this one almost totally with the psoas muscles, so concentrate to make sure it is your abs that do the work. Think less of raising the legs and more of forcing an “accordion-like” motion out of your stomach muscles-rocking the pelvis forward and back, which, in turn, should move the legs up and down.

When you get it right, the abdominals will take the brunt of the strain.

Note: Inevitably, you will feel this one at least to some extent in your lower back. Don’t worry, that’s normal. But if the exercise actually hurts, then either (1) you are not doing it right (reread the description and try again), or (2) your abs are not yet strong enough to do the exercise correctly. Skip it at first and try again after a couple of weeks.

Advanced Lying 6-Inch Leg Raises

Begin Lying Leg Raises as described previously. At the top of the motion, when your legs are as far off the ground as they get, rock your pelvis off your arms. Hold for a split second, then lower your pelvis and legs and begin your next repetition.

These are more difficult than regular leg raises because then pelvic rock greatly increases the involvement of the abdominals. As soon as you find yourself able to do these, substitute them wherever the routine calls for Lying Leg Raises.

Abdominal Cramps

Lie in standard bent-knee sit-up position and, while exhaling, very slowly raise your shoulders and upper back about 30 degrees off the ground. Hold for a second or so; then slowly return to starting position.

Note: Keep your arms in place (palms against the back of your head, elbows out) but as relaxed as possible throughout the exercise-do not pull against the back of your head. Pulling won’t make the movement any easier and it will
give you one heck of a neckache.

One full rep should take at least two seconds.

Cross-Knee Abdominal Cramps

These are a lot harder than the previous exercise, and you should save them until regular abdominal cramps become too easy.

Lie in the bent-knee sit-up position, and slowly raise your shoulders, upper back, and right hip up off the ground-your right elbow should turn toward (but not touch) your left knee. Hold at peak for at least a second; then slowly return to starting position and repeat with left hip coming off the ground, and left elbow turning toward right knee.

¼ Sit-ups

Start in bent-knee sit-up position, but with legs up off the floor so both your hips and your knees form right angles. Quickly raise upper back and shoulders off the floor (as in Abdominal Cramps); then lower and repeat. You should do these as fast as you can.

An important difference between these and Abdominal Cramps: in this case you should think “up” with the torso, rather than “to the knees”(as you do when doing Cramps). This varies on the abs and assures greater definition.

The last exercise is not part of the regular ab program. It requires equipment found in most gyms, and is included for competitive or very dedicated bodybuilders who wish to further “fine-tune” their abs.

Pull-Down Ab Crunches

Drape a towel, or something similar (like a shirt or short length of rope), around the cable that connects to a lat pull-down bar so you can grab both ends of the towel and pull the bar down.

The starting position: Kneel in front of the machine, holding onto the towel, and bring your hands to the top of your head (this should look a bit like praying). You should be far enough away from the machine so that the cable comes down to you at a slight angle, rather than straight down.

The Exercise: Hunch over until your elbows touch your knees, hold for a second or so, then uncurl back to the starting position. Make sure your hands stay against the top of your head. Repeat.

Note: As you do the exercise, think of hunching over a pole running across your chest just below your sternum. This will maximize and minimize Psoas contribution.

SPINAL ERECTORS: The Balancing Antagonists

Earlier in the course we mentioned that the abdominals work in concert with the Spinal Erector muscles to hold your spine upright. Throughout the body, muscle groups work in pairs to maintain a balance of strength around joints.

For this reason we’re including suggested work for the Spinal Erectors. This exercise is not essential for abdominal development-we present it as part of an integrated approach to conditioning for health. A proper balance of strength
between these two sets of muscles will insure good posture and a balanced distribution of stress in daily activity.

Hyper-Extensions

These are best done on a bench made for the purpose(you can find on in most gyms), but also can be done on a resilient surface like a bed, padded table, arm of a sofa, etc., with someone holding your ankles.

Lie face down, bent at the waist, hanging over the edge of the bench. Lightly rest your hands behind your head and neck, and slowly straighten your body to a horizontal position. Don’t come up any higher than this.

Throughout the motion, keep your head and shoulders arched backwards, as in a swan dive.

Don’t try to lace your fingers behind your neck; if you maintain the proper arch, your fingers may barely touch the sides of your head.

THE ROUTINES

Speed Key
(f)=fast(about 2 reps per second)
(m)=medium(about 1 rep per second)
(s)=slow(about 1 rep per 2 seconds)

Level A
(if you’re new to conditioning exercise, start at this level.)

Exercise Goal/Speed
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………20 reps(m)

no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………25 reps(s)
10 second rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………15 reps(m)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………20 reps(m)

Level 1

Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………25 reps(m)
15 second rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………20 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….25 reps(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………10 reps(f)

Level 2

Hanging Knee-ups…………….10 reps(m)
15 second rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….8 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….25 reps(s)
15 second rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….20 reps(f)

Level 3

Hanging Knee-ups…………….15 reps(m)
15 second rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….10 reps(m)
no rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………15 reps(s)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….20 reps(m)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………10 reps(f)

Level 4

Hanging Knee-ups…………….20 reps(m)
10 second rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….15 reps(m)
no rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………20 reps(m)
10 second rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………15 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….30 reps(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………10 reps(f)

Level 5

Hanging Knee-ups…………….25 reps(m)
10 second rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….20 reps(m)
no rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………20 reps(m)
10 second rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………15 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….35 reps(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………15 reps(f)

Level 6

Hanging Leg Raises…………..5 reps(m)
10 second rest
Hanging Leg Raises…………..5 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….10 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….35 reps(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………15 reps(f)

Level 7
(those in exceptional shape should start at this level)

Hanging Leg Raises…………..10 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….5 reps(m)
15 second rest
Hanging Leg Raises…………..5 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….5 reps(m)
no rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………25 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….35 reps(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………15 reps(f)

Level 8

Hanging Leg Raises…………..10 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….5 reps(m)
10 second rest
Hanging Leg Raises…………..10 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups…………….5 reps(m)
no rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………30 reps(m)
10 second rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………25 reps(m)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps…………….35 reps(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups…………………15 reps(f)
no rest
Knee Rock-backs……………..15 reps(m)

Level 9

Hanging Leg Raises…………..12 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups….as many as possible(m)
10 second rest
Hanging Leg Raises…………..10 reps(m)
no rest
Hanging Knee-ups….as many as possible(m)
no rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………30 reps(m)
10 second rest
Lying 6-inch Leg Raises………20 reps(m)
no rest
Cross Knee
Abdominal Cramps….as many as possible(s)
no rest
Abdominal Cramps….as many as possible(s)
no rest
¼ Sit-ups……….15 reps(f) Good Luck!
no rest
Knee Rock-backs……………..20 reps(m)

THE SCHEDULE – HOW MUCH, HOW OFTEN

If you’re a beginner start at Level A and do the program 3 times per week (for example: Mon/Wed/Fri). You should be able to move up to the next level within a month.

Everyone else(except those in excellent shape)should start at Level 1 and work their way up, striving to get as much out of each level as possible. We can’t stress this enough. There’s no advantage to jumping levels before you
need to-you just make yourself work harder than necessary. It’s a question of balance: You must overload the muscle to get results, but overloading too much too fast just wastes energy and increases the risk of injury. Start with a 3 day-a-week program and work up to 4.

If you plan to add the optional Hyper-Extension Exercise, do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps-either after the Legendary Abs routine or after any other work you do for your back muscles.

Those in exceptional shape should start out at Level 7 or 8, training 4 days a week(Mon-Tues-Thur-Fri). On the first day of each two day pairing, add 2 sets of Pull-Down Ab Crunches at the end of the normal routine:

Monday

Level 7 or 8 Routine
no rest
Pull-Down Ab Crunches(8-12reps)
10 second rest
Pull-Down Ab Crunches(8-12reps)
(Optional Hyper-Extension)

Tuesday

Level 7 or 8 Routine
(Optional Hyper-Extension)

Thursday

Level 7 or 8 Routine
no rest
Pull-Down Ab Crunches(8-12reps)
10 second rest
Pull-Down Ab Crunches(8-12reps)
(Optional Hyper-Extensions)

Friday

Level 7 or 8 Routine
(Optional Hyper-Extensions)

ANSWERS TO SOME OFTEN-ASKED QUESTIONS

I already do some of these exercises. What’s so special about the Legendary Abs program?

There’s no comparison between doing the routines presented here, and doing some of the same exercises haphazardly. That’s the whole point: you obtain a dramatic increase in the efficiency of the abdominal routine-or any routine-if the
interdependency of the muscle groups is taken into consideration. Legendary Abs will accomplish what a random approach never will, and will do it in record time.

I work out quite a bit and spend a good deal of time working to keep my stomach flat. How can a few minutes worth of exercise equal that?

Synergism!

I don’t have any place to do the hanging exercises. What can I do?

Try a doorway-mounter chinning bar. These are available from most sporting goods stores for about $10.00; the best hind has metal brackets that crew into the doorjamb to prevent the bar from coming loose while you’re hanging. Keep your knees bent so your feet don’t drag.

Suppose there’s no place I can set up a chinning bar. Isn’t there some other exercise I can substitute for the Hanging Leg Raises?

Unfortunately, no other exercise provides such ideal bad leverage for the abs while so effectively preventing the back from arching. If you must omit them, you can still get an acceptable-though not optimized-abdominal workout by concentrating on the Advanced Lying Leg Raises. Do these everywhere the program calls for Lying Leg Raises.

What if I don’t have a Lat Pull-Down bar for the Pull-Down Ab Crunches?

Pull Down Ab Crunches, which require the kind of Lat pull-down bar found in most gyms, is an optional exercise, and the program is complete without it. We have included it in the course to help extremely dedicated bodybuilders gain a competitive edge.

Should I do the abdominal exercise before or after aerobic workout?

If you’re doing a long aerobic workout involving calisthenics, do the abdominal course first. Otherwise, use aerobic work like running and swimming, cycling, or jumping rope as a “warm-up” for the ab routines.

Will Legendary Abs help me lose my “love handles”-those extra bulges on the sides of my waist?

Legendary Abs is designed to tone abdomen muscles. Getting rid of love handles, on the other hand, means losing excess fat. These are separate processes, but they can be done simultaneously. For a complete, scientific explanation of body
fat reduction, see Health For Life course-SynerShape.

What about side bends? I’ve always heard those were the best exercise for your sides. In fact, I’ve even started doing them holding weights in my hands.

Stop! The obliques are one of the fastest muscles to develop and one of the slowest to disappear. And doing side bends with weights is the perfect way to develop them. The result is “permanent” love handles! Yes, you need to tone the obliques, but the twisting exercises in the Legendary Abs program will do all the toning necessary.

What about seated twists?

Seated twists fall into a category with other ab/waist/lower back calisthenic exercises-they are neither particularly effective nor particularly harmful.

The biggest problem is not with the exercises themselves, but with the way people use them: They try to make them do double duty-toning the abs/waist/loser back AND getting rid of fat in those areas. Remember, these are two separate problems and require two separate approaches: to lose fat you must combine aerobic exercise (running,swimming,cycling, etc.) with proper nutrition to get your body burning more calories than it takes in.

And to condition abdominal muscle, there is nothing as effective as the Legendary Abs routines!

An Open Letter To An Advanced Bodybuilder

The following response was addressed to an advanced bodybuilder, and deals with the issue of doing high numbers of reps. Although this specific question is not one beginning bodybuilders should be concerned with, the letter as a
whole sheds valuable light on many of the concepts discussed in this course…

Dear Mr.—–

Given the high number of cramps you have been doing, it’s possible you may need to increase beyond the number of reps specified for Level nine. I will make specific recommendations in a moment, but first, some general comments:

Experience has demonstrated that nine times out of ten, when an advanced bodybuilder is having trouble with a particular body part, it’s because he/she has an incorrect or incomplete concept of how that body part should be trained. This incorrectness can be very broad(for instance, the outright fallacy that straight-legged sit-ups are a good ab exercise) or very subtle(a misguided kinesiology sense, or inaccurate perception of how a muscle should feel when being trained).

One good example of patently false “common knowledge” is the idea that building forearms and calves takes an excessive number of reps “because those muscles are so much denser than the other muscles in the body, and because you use
those muscles so much.”

Bunk!

It’s true that calves are under tension much of the day from walking. It’s true the forearms are used constantly because we use our hands constantly. But what this builds is their endurance-their ability to get rid of the waste products that result from muscular energy production.

Their strength threshold is only slightly affected by this increased endurance. If you use a weight that allows a muscular overload on the seventh or eighth rep it’s perfectly possible to achieve growth doing reasonable length sets.

The important element in all training is finding a synergistic sequence/combination of exercises-to get you around the inevitable problem of strong supporting muscles relieving the load on the muscle you’re trying to work. When this concept is fully implemented, any body part can be trained more completely (more fibers involved) and more quickly than it can through traditional techniques.

Mike Mentzer was on the right track with his intense forced reps/negative reps program. However, this was a case of taking a single concept-working a muscle for a short period, but so intensely that even the “deep” fibers are enervated and building a program on that concept alone.

Synergism dictates that all available scientific information be amassed, and all conclusions drawn from that information be used to provide a basis for each individual’s “ideal” program. It is possible to eliminate potentially harmful exercises from our workouts. It is possible to determine a most effective order for the most effective exercises for a particular body part. It is possible to go beyond saying “This exercise is good for this body part. So’s this one. I guess I’ll do 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps of each and call that my program.” Don’t get me wrong-hit or miss scheduling does yield results…

…slowly.

So what’s the point? Well, mostly that when thinking about increasing rep numbers, it’s important to consider the way the elements of the program work together. Hanging and lying leg raises are first in the program because they work the lower abs and have the potential to burn you out fast since they afford the abs the worst possible leverage. Consequently, that later exercises shouldn’t require high rep numbers to do their job.

If you feel to do 200 or so cramps, it’s probably because you are not doing enough leg raises, or because you’re not doing them properly. I assume you know all about concentrating on the muscle you’re trying to work, but humor me and take another look at a picture of the wrong way to do hanging leg raises. Doing them without the hips rocking forward maximizes psoas involvement and minimizes ab involvement. If you do them like that, you will never get a burn out of the program because the initial fatiguing will not reach the required level.

By the way, doing hanging leg raises wrong is deceptive-you may still feel the exercise in your abs. Not as much as when you do them correctly, but enough to inaccurately convince you they’re working.

If you can easily handle the recommended numbers of reps for both kinds of leg raises, try increasing to 25 or 30 hanging leg raises and 10 knee-ups, and then 50 or so reps per set of lying 6-inch leg raises (more if necessary). Just be sure to maintain the proportions of one exercise to another as presented in the routines. You could also try using ankle weights if increasing reps doesn’t do it for you.

As far as the number of cramps and crunches goes – if, after increasing the number of leg raises, you still need to do 200 or more to get a burn, it’s OK to do that many. Keep the exercise order the same, though.

In the eight years I have been working with bodybuilders and different versions of this program, there has never been a case where, given the sorts of questions you are asking, the answer did not lie at least in part in improving mental focus during the exercises. It’s easy to disappear into a mental void while cranking out high numbers of reps of ab exercises. This just doesn’t work. Every rep must be the most important ever!

Good Luck, and Happy Training,

Jerry Robinson
Research Director, Health For Life

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