Abs & Core Bodyweight Exercise Muscle Mass Power Strength

5 old school methods for awesome abs

Written by Chad Howse

The most impressive abs in the world are found on boxers. That’s cause a fighter’s midsection is his armor.

You can’t develop a more resistant chin. And you can’t teach your noggin not to go numb or unconscious when you get hit in the right spot. But what you CAN do is protect your body from crushing under the pressure of a well-placed and perfectly timed body shot.

Have you ever been hit with a body shot?

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I have, and I can tell you it’s not a fun experience. It’s debilitating. It’s almost like temporary paralysis. Your mind can move your body, but your body doesn’t have the capacity to perform the requests that your brain is sending it.

It’s an odd, painful, and humbling feeling.

That’s why boxers train their abs so arduously. It gives their opponent one fewer way to defeat them.

And we can learn something from this that will directly affect your six pack..

By training your abs like a boxer, you too can develop an armor-plated midsection.

How to Build An Armor-Plated Set of Abs

1. Train abs every time you’re in the gym.

Boxers train their abs every time they step into a gym. That doesn’t mean daily, but it’s not too far off. When I was boxing, I was in the boxing gym 4 days a week, the weight room 3-4 days a week, and I did sprints or some other form of training almost daily.

It’s a way of life. A way of life that’ll get you rock hard abs.

A great way to break up your abs training is to work them in “rotating compartments”. Here’s how I did it:

Day 1: Train your upper abs with exercises like decline crunches, cable rope crunches, and conventional crunches.

Day 2: Train your oblique’s with side planks and single-arm farmer’s walk,

Day 3: Train your lower abs with hanging leg raise, hanging knee raises, and lying down leg raise.

Day 4: Make this a full day with roll-outs, planks and toe touches.

2. Punch often.

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Punching is one of the few exercises that involve your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems while also including trunk rotation at very high repetition.

What does this mean for your abs?

Hitting the ol’ heavy bag is one of the best ways to burn belly fat because it focuses on that problem area.

Hit the bag for rounds of 2-3 minutes, working on different combinations while alternating explosive speeds with slower tempos.

You can also go all out for 5 seconds, then slow down and recover for 5 seconds. This is a great way of incorporating HIIT into your heavy bag workout.

Even if you’re just doing straight lefts and rights, you’re going to be rotating your trunk back-and-forth, burning a ton of calories and fat around your mid-section.

Tip: keep your core activated whenever you’re throwing punches.

3. Skip.

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Jumping rope is one of the best, most under-used forms of cardio on the planet. You burn far more calories from skipping than you do from running.

When you jump rope, focus on keeping your core tight and firm. You’ll notice that you’ll start to fatigue in the midsection because of the multiple movements that you’re performing.

The twisting of the rope, the jumping, the different drills you can do, knee raises etc… all equate to a greater rate of fat being burned while skipping than you’d burn from running.

Skipping has been a staple exercise for boxers for over a hundred years because, just like boxing, skipping is a full body exercise. You need blood pumping through your shoulders and arms to turn the rope, as well as your legs. As you progress, add tricks to increase the difficulty of your skipping routine.

4. Keep them muscles flexed — always.

You can’t let your guard down when you’re in the ring — ever. One of the things that a referee says at the beginning of a fight is, “Protect yourself at all times.” And he means it.

Let your guard down for even a second and you could find yourself in a world of pain, or on the canvas looking up. Keeping your abs flexed for the duration of the fight protects your body. And a lot of boxers do this. You can also try it throughout your day.

This is also something that can help with lower back pain. By engaging your core throughout the day, you’ll burn more calories, and you’ll also bring more lactic acid to the area, which raises growth hormone levels and helps you burn more fat.

Give it a shot. Try engaging your core for a few minutes, then a few more. Add ten more minutes everyday until you’re walking around with a fully flexed six-pack.

5. Use weight to train your abs.

I never relied exclusively on repetition or bodyweight exercises when training my abs. I always added a few weighted exercises to help further develop the muscle.

Think about your abs just as you would think of your biceps or lats. Build the muscle, but also strip away the fat. By focusing on building that muscle, the fat will begin to drip away.

Try declined weighted sit-ups, cable crunches, and declined crunches with a 5 lbs plate held behind your head for starters.

Most of us focus only on stripping away the fat, which can get you lean. But if you focus on building the muscle as well, you’ll have a six pack that pops out like you’re viewing it through 3D glasses.

There you have it. Old school boxing methods for “armoring up” your abs, and delivering a firm athletic six pack that’ll be the envy of your friends and families — and the terror of your rivals.

Give these methods a try, and let me know how it went in the comments below.

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About the author

Chad Howse

9 Comments

  • Keeping your abs flexed the whole day? I guess if you’re constantly worried about being punched then OK, but then you should keep your fists tight as well. In fact you should also keep your guard up the whole time. Just “keeping your abs tight” is really bad advice on a functional level, not to mention the stress of continuously living in a state of fear (posture effects your mental state). What if you need to reach up over your head? What if you need to take a full deep breath. What if you need to let your abdomen expand so your organs can move? What if you need to look behind you, some part of your abdomen will have to lengthen.

    Learning timing and when to engage your abdominal muscles is very important but just flexing all the time is useless at best, damaging at worst. You bodyweight coaches should read these things more carefully before posting.

    • Actually, if you consciously engage your abs throughout the day, you will improve your posture. And the way he is saying to do it (gradually increase) your abs will naturally engage themselves without a mental que eventually…

      You don’t have to engage 100%, just draw your belly button to the spine and practice breathing like that (fill the chest then stretch the diaphragm) for a few minutes. It is relaxing and it helps with core control down to the muscles that are under the washboard. 🙂

    • Hey John,

      Thanks for the comment. What we’re talking about here is activating the core, which is great for the back, and can be maintained even if you have to elongate the abdomen – my fault for using the word “flexed”. We’re not hunched over, shortening the muscle.

      As for fists, you only clench a fist upon contact to maintain hand speed. With abs, as a fighter, or simply as a person who wants to be leaner and more fit, practicing core activation can be a great tool, give it a shot sometime.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • John, it doesn’t really say all day. It says a few minutes a day , adding on 10 minutes until (I took it to mean) you are walking around with a 6 pack from all the varying types of work he’s described you ascribe to doing. Take what you want from anything you read.

  • It doesn’t?

    From the post: “Give it a shot. Try engaging your core for a few minutes, then a few more. Add ten more minutes everyday until you’re walking around with a fully flexed six-pack.”

    It says just keep adding 10 minutes a day. Keep that up and you’ll get to a large part and eventually all day. It doesn’t say when is enough, does it?

  • I have been thai kickboxing for 2 years, and when I’m in fight shape, I walk around all day with my abdominals engaged. Not flexed down hard, fully contracted like I would when I am taking a body punch, but definitely strongly engaged. It is absolutely possible, and I found it to be very good support for my back. It keeps my pelvis in a good, slightly tucked position, and helps maintain good posture with my weight on my heels. My abdominals look like they’re flexed all the time, because my body fat is low, even when I’m not actively flexing hard. It seems to me that John interpreted the advice to be: walk around all day with your abdominals contracted hard (is that right? Please correct me if I misinterpreted). I agree, that would be crazy and super uncomfortable and impractical and dysfunctional. But engage your abdominal area all day? Absolutely.

  • Chad, thanks for the clarification. It did indeed sound like you meant staying in a flexed and guarded position all the time. You see guys doing this at the beach, holding their bellies tight, which might look nice to some, but makes for a stiff body.

    The biggest problem I see when people are told to consciously engage any muscle is a lack of awareness for how much and when. How the different muscles in the abdominal region work together is far more complex than the conscious mind can handle. So, focussing on just one part will cause an imbalance elsewhere. This is why I find body weight movement exercises far more helpful than just engaging a certain area. Of course for boxing, it’s much different and necessary. So yes, as you suggested, I experiment with different types of engaging AND relaxing my “abs.” Ultimately though, I want to be able to focus on what I’m doing and not trying to control individul muscles or even groups.

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