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For guys over age 40, not to mention their younger counter-parts, the abdominal region is perhaps the simplest part of the body to train. The motions required to work the abs are very well engraved into the memory of the mind/body connection of daily life; working abs is as familiar to the body as raising a fork to the mouth. In other words, we all sit up to get out of bed, or off the couch, or up from the incline chair

The lower abdominal area, which is primarily worked by raising the lower half of the body, may be a little less engrained into the bio-mechanic/neurological connection of the body. Nonetheless, it is a motion that we

need not spend a huge amount of time perfecting. We already use these muscles for stability and in other ways every day. I say this simply because, unlike doing flyes or pullovers (two exercises that take the body months to get the neurological and muscular systems connected to the point of perfection) working abdominal muscles is about as simple as it gets.

Personally, I do about 2-3 sets of leg raises hanging from a pull-up bar once or twice a week to failure. By saying that I go "to failure," as most of you know, I go until I can do no more. I may do a total of six or seven sets of these in a 10-day period, all for the lower portion.

I also do bent-knee crunches, lying on the floor, to failure. And sometimes I do the old rope cable crunches, if for no other reason than the nostalgia of seeing Arnold do them in Pumping Iron. Both of these movements I do for the upper ab region. Other than that, I do very little for my abs insofar as direct exercise goes. I would recommend that you do no more for abs than you would any other muscle group, and as you can see, I do less. When performing these exercises, I squeeze my abs hard on contraction part of the set and blow air out as I squeeze.

The only difficult part about training abs so that they show hasn't got anything at all to do with training; it has to do with diet. The simple fact that the more body fat you hold, the less your abs show, no matter how well developed they are beneath the fat.

The paradox of ab training while trying to gain muscle size, has always been that one needs to gain weight in order to pack on muscle. And by gaining weight, one ultimately gains fat. With men, it tends to go right to where Mother Nature wants to: the stomach, hips, lower back and so on. In other words, you can train your abs every day until the cows come home and not a single thing will change within your view. You build the strongest abs in the world, but as long as there is fat hiding them, no one can see them.

The proper way to gain lean muscle mass without adding too much around the waist isn't spending 30 minutes doing sit-ups or buying one of those strange contraptions you see advertised on TV. Keeping a controlled amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates entering into your body on a regular schedule is key to bringing the abs into view, not doing thousands of crunches or using a device that will end up in the dumpster.

To simplify as best as I can, you basically want one gram of protein per lean pound of bodyweight (this figure varies for many reasons, but one gram is a good place to start). You also want to have approximately .25 times more than that amount of low-glycemic carbohydrates. Lastly, you should add about one tablespoon of oil or fat for every 75 grams of protein.

The subject of how many calories you need each day has been written about extensively, and there is no one answer that is necessarily correct. Whatever the right figure for you works out to be, make sure that number is divided into 4-6 meals in a day.

Once you have this dietary discipline down and you are training the rest of your body properly, you will begin to see your abs show themselves, even if you are only working them occasionally. Remember, throughout the workout, the abs are almost always tightened to keep the body together — that is one of their functions. They are in constant use during all motion.

In short, abdominal training is simple. It is getting the diet and other training down that matters so much, which is why the actual workouts are not as important as many people seem to think. Stick to sensible training and eating, then your abs will come shining through.

- Taken from Exercise For Men Only (Paul Burke's Over-40 Fitness Column)