-Training Abs & Calves!-
Earlier today, my good buddy Wayne asked me a question on Facebook. I figured our exchange would make for a most excellent post, so here ya go!
Wayne: Hey Sarah, I remember reading once that there was a school of thought that said both calves and ab muscles are resilient enough to be worked on an almost daily basis. Does this still hold true? http://www.fitprosarah.com, folks!
Sarah: Hola Wayne!!! Thanks for the shout out! 🙂 I’ll share my slant on things in 2 parts.
Here’s my take on calves:
Calves are genetic. It’s really, really, really hard to build ’em b/c yes, they are super-resilient and used to a high volume of work.
What secrets do I have when it comes to calves? A few things.
First off, when I was jumping rope a lot, I got numerous compliments on my calves.
Secondly, back when I was into bodybuilding, I used to train calves twice a week. I think I stuck ’em in after hams and then on another day with shoulders. I used to do stuff like superset standing calf raises with these funky calf raises done in an ass-to-grass squat position, holding onto something for balance. These are KILLER! I also used to love the donkey calf raise machine and feel it’s a good one b/c it creates a great pre-stretch prior to each contraction.
This brings back memories…sigh…okay…now for abs…my slant on the “you can train abs everyday” thing is this:
Abs are just like any muscle group in that they need recovery time between intense workouts. So, if you’re specifically training abs, like doing a gazillion crunches and old-school stuff like that, you don’t want to do them every day. I actually noticed that when I didn’t train abs every day (back in the days when I was super-obsessed), my abs looked better.
So, if you’re into ab training, do em every other day if you wish…BUT…think about this:
Every exercise is an “ab” exercise. Your abs are working super-hard when you do heavy squats, for example. Crunches and crap like that are useless. Yes, i’ll have clients do em every now and then, but typically with some fancy twist to ’em, like with a dumbbell chop or a resistance band pullover.
I have clients do core work every workout, but I see most of my clients 3 days a week, so they have time in between workouts.
I feel that I have an innate sense of knowing when enough is enough, with any exercise and any workout. I’m sure you’re the same way. If you’re in tune with your body, this is easy, and this is the way to go if you want optimal results. Years and years as a gymnast and then as an obsessed workoutaholic made me ignore this “voice.” Wow…I sound philosophical, lol. Anyhow, what i’m getting at is that if you’re doing any exercise, more specifically core work (such as plank variations and such), you can tell when to stop…you can tell how many more reps you should do before it’s overkill…and if you’re good, the next day you’re super-sore and no way in hell ya wanna do any core work that day! 😀
Wayne: I greatly de-intensified my ab training back when I was a gym rat, and I liked the results. Now that I’m no longer spoiled, I was considering if I have to go back to daily core (ab) work for maintenance purposes. I was leaning towards ‘yes’.
I have to get creative with calves since I no longer have the luxury of heavy weights (I really miss the 300 lb calf presses!)
Keep in mind too, I also prescribe to the old school ‘opposing muscles’ theory – i.e. if you work your back, you have to work your abs. Some of those old bodybuilding habits die hard!
Sarah: I feel ya…the “more is better” bodybuilding mentality and other “tenets” are hard to shake! 🙂 We need to get together to swing some kettlebells.
Here’s another nugget to chew on…think about Sandow and the old-school strongmen…they didn’t do a single ab exercise…they just lifted stuff…they lifted odd objects (rocks, thick grip barbells, kettlebells, etc) and most of the time they did unilateral training. Core stabilization at it’s finest!
If you wanted to do a few sets of planks, side planks, bridges, etc each day I don’t see why that would be a bad thing!
Abs are also (and I hate this word, but) DIET. Even though I can’t stand the freak, Jillian Michaels says she doesn’t do any ab training, and I believe her.