Mike Furci, washboard abs, workout strategy

Washboard Abs… A comprehensive strategy Part II

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Diet, as stated earlier, is the number one way to give you the definition you want in your abs. The information given in part one about macro-nutrition is a brief overview. One can write books on that subject alone. And many have. I wrote this article to help with the application of information. To start I want to show you two days from my nutrition journal.

You'll notice that one day is a higher carbohydrate day and one is a lower carbohydrate day. The main reason for this is to keep my metabolism as high as possible. If you lower the overall amount of food you eat, your metabolism will adjust accordingly by slowing down. Our bodies do this as a defense mechanism against starvation. Our bodies over millions of years of evolution have become very efficient at this and respond to even slight drops in food consumption. This is precisely the reason so many people who are overweight actually don't eat large quantities of food. A drop in metabolism is not the initial cause of their obesity but a result of years of yo-yo dieting and bad eating habits.

Your dieting habits are exactly what we need to change. Changing the types of carbs and manipulating the amounts is the first and most important step. But how do we know what amounts to eat? A good way to start is by figuring what your average daily intake of carbohydrates is. This amount will be your high day. To figure out your low day, multiply your high day amount by (.7). Remember this is only a starting point. The amount of carbs you eat may be adjusted depending on how you feel, how your training is going, and how much weight you're losing on average per week.

Your high and low days should be random. Literally flip a coin to decide whether you eat high or low carbs. This approach will keep your metabolism guessing. The great thing about this way of eating is that you are in complete control. Having high and low days allows you to plan for events such as weddings, birthdays, picnics, etc. For example, if you know you have a wedding reception to go to on Saturday, you can eat low carbs on Thursday and Friday. By preparing for it you can enjoy yourself at the reception knowing it's not going to ruin the hard work you're putting in.

On the nutritional progress reports below you'll also notice that I don't care about the number of calories I consume. First of all what is a calorie? Simply, a calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise one gram of water one degree Celsius at one atmosphere pressure. Now that's some useful information for you. It has been accepted that if you take in more calories than you expend, the end result will be a gain in weight. This is undeniably true.

What isn't true is the theory that many health professionals espouse to, that in order to lose weight you must reduce the number of calories you take in. Some go as far to say that it doesn't matter what you eat. You could eat candy bars all day and as long as you take in fewer calories than you expend, you'll drop weight. Not only are the diets that are based on this theory ineffective with a 95% to 97% failure rate across the board, they're also not based on fact.

The fact is a calorie from one food type does not equal a calorie from another food type. For example, let's say you eat 2000 calories a day and 60% to 70% of those calories came from carbohydrates, which is what the American dietetics Association and other medical-related associations feel is the healthiest way to eat. Remember they are funded by the food industry and are biased. Because they are funded by companies like Kraft who sell "fat free" sugar-laden food, they are not going to bite the hand that feeds them and tell the public that they're better off eating less carbs. Back to our example. Let's also say that you are 20 pounds overweight and can't seem to get it off. This is a very typical scenario I see come to my gym. If you would just reduce the amount of carbs you eat to 35% to 40% and increase the amounts of protein by 35% to 40%, you would start to see a loss is weight without reducing the amount of calories. In approximately half the cases we actually increase the amount of food a person eats to get them to lose body fat.

Just by switching the food types around without lowering the amount of calories, you can lose body fat. This is mainly because different foods are broken down and assimilated differently. A gram of protein affects your body in a completely different way than a gram of carbohydrate. Protein increases your metabolic output by 25% - 35%, whereas carbohydrates only increase it by about 1/6th to 1/5th that amount. It takes much more energy to break down protein than carbs. Be concerned about what you eat, not so much with how much you eat.

Nutritional Progression Report
Date: 02/03/0 Day: Saturday Week#: 4

Protein: 400gms Carbs: 150gms Fat: 50gms Calories: who cares

Protein: 368gms Carbs: 153gms Fat: 59gms Calories: who cares

  Foods Protein Grams Carb Grams Fat Grams Calories
Meal 1 -1 cp cooked oat meal
-4 scoops Met-Rx protein
60 50 5  
Meal 2 Protein Shake:
-4 scoops Met-Rx Protein
-14oz water
-1 tbs olive oil
60 3 15  
Meal 3 Grilled Chicken Salad:
-2 chicken breasts
-Lettuce & tomato salad
-Italian dressing
60 20 5  
Meal 4 -1 cup cottage cheese
-Same protein shake as above
73 10 16  
Meal 5 -9oz tuna
-1 cup of brown rice
-Sliced tomatoes
-1 tbs of olive oil & grated cheese
70 50 16  
Meal 6

-Met-Rx Meal replacement and 1 -scoop of protein

48 20 2  

Comments: Feel good, starting to get leaner.

Nutritional Progression Report
Date: 02/04/01 Day: Sunday Week#: 4

Protein: 400gms Carbs: 300gms Fat: 50gms Calories: who cares

Protein: 373gms Carbs: 308gms Fat: 53gms Calories: who cares

  Foods Protein Grams Carb Grams Fat Grams Calories
Meal 1 -1cp cottage cheese.
-8 egg whites and 2 whole eggs scrambled w/1 slice of cheese
-2 pieces toast
70 32 15  
Meal 2 Protein shake:
-1 Met-Rx packet
-2 scoops protein
62 50 2  
Meal 3 -9oz Tuna
-2 cups rice
-Sliced Tomatoes
-Italian dressing
70 90 10  
Meal 4 Protein shake:
-1 Met-Rx packet
-2 scoops protein
-Peanut butter
66 43 10  
Meal 5 -1cp Oatmeal
-3 scoops protein
-1 tbs olive oil
45 47 16  
Meal 6 -2 chicken breasts
-1 cp rice
-1 can green beans
60 46    

Comments: feeling good. Need to up protein a little

In the first part of this article I discussed how eating carbs affects insulin levels. Carbohydrates are rated by the amount of insulin they produce after being ingested. This system of rating carbs is called the Glycemic Index. The following is a list of foods that are acceptable to eat. This is not a complete list but it’s a very good start. The glycemic index of the carbs listed is low to moderate. Although these carbs are listed as acceptable, eating two or four servings per meal isn’t. Choose your carbs carefully and only have at the most one serving per meal.

Authorized Foods

Proteins Carbohydrates Vegetables
-Orange roughy
-Low-fat cottage cheese
-Chicken breast
-Turkey breast
-Lean ground meat
-Maverick beef
-Top round steak
-Top sirloin steak
-Eggs (Sparingly)
-Egg whites
-Egg substitutes
-Protein powders
-Meal replacement packs
-Oat bran
-Nonfat yogurt
(Artificially sweetened)
-Nonfat yogurt
(fruit sugar sweetened)
-Sweet Potatoes
-Whole grain brown rice
-Whole grain bread
-Whole grain pasta
-Green beans
-Green peppers
-Bell peppers
-Collard greens
-Brussels sprouts
-Dill pickles

The following is a list of foods that, for the most part, are off limits. If you want to get lean to see your abs or if you just want to cut some weight, stay away from these foods. As discussed earlier the typical diet ends in failure 95% of the time. Sure, you can go to a place like Jenny Craig and lose weight on a calorie-restricted diet while still “eating your favorite foods,” but it won’t work for the long hall. One of the main reasons for the failure of these diets is shear hunger. Eating the right foods in the right amounts without starving yourself will help to ensure long-term success.

Banned Foods

All refined sugar. Use artificial sweeteners.
All refined products such as cookies, cakes, pie etc.
Potatoes. Try sweet potatoes
White rice. Use whole grain rice
White bread. Use whole grain w/o added sugar
White pasta. Try whole grain pasta

Also be aware of products like catsup, barbecue sauces and salad dressings. Use them sparingly because they are loaded with one or more types of sugar. Especially watch out for fat free salad dressings. You are much better off using regular dressings. Just make sure you don’t load it on.

Remember FAT FREE does not mean FAT FREE on you.

Nutrition Principles

The following is a list of nutritional principles that will help you on your quest for washboard abs. Remember this needs to be a lifestyle.

  • Plan your meals in advance.
  • Prepare your food in advance. You’re less likely to fall of the wagon if there is quality food already made.
  • Record what you eat in your Nutrition Progression Reports every day.
  • Avoid calorie-dense fast foods.
  • Do not starve yourself. Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.
  • Eat at least four meals per day. Your goal should be to eat six meals per day, one every two-three hours.
  • Make sure to eat a portion of protein with every meal. Eat the protein before you eat your portion of carbs.
  • A portion of protein is four to eight ounces. Or a portion is about the size of the palm of your hand or a clenched fist.
  • Choose carbohydrates that are on the lower end of the glycemic index.
  • Use meal replacement packs whenever possible. This takes the guesswork out of meal planning and ensures optimum levels of nutrients.

The Workout

Now comes the part most of you have been waiting for, abdominal exercises. Although before I go any further I must reemphasize the fact that if you don't eat properly and you have excess fat in your midsection, all the abdominal work in the world will be for nothing.

The main reason I do abdominal work is for functional strength and injury prevention. My workouts consist of a variety of exercises that target the entire core. In short, the core consists of abdominals, obliques, hips and low back.

Use two or three of the following exercises and perform two-three working sets with each. Use a repetition range between eight and 12. If you are a beginner, start with sets of 15 until your strength and form are up to par.

Abs are mainly phasic muscles. Meaning, they are primarily made of fast twitch muscle fibers and respond better with lower repetitions. Sets of 15, 20 or more will lose their effectiveness. If endurance is what you want, do high reps. If a strong washboard set of abs is what you want, do eight-12 reps using the following exercises.

Russian Twists

Make sure you're positioned back far enough to get the full effect. This is an advanced and difficult exercise. Make sure you're performing the exercise correctly before you add weight.

Hanging Leg Raises

This is a great exercise that emphasizes the lower quadrants of the abdominals.

Stiff Arm Stability Ball Crunch

This is one of my favorites. It is by far one of the most effective exercises you can do. When performing this exercise, make sure your starting position is slightly rounded over the ball. Starting in this manner will ensure that you work the abs throughout their full range of motion.

Stability Ball Wood Chops

When performing this exercise make sure to bend at the trunk. Do not use your arms to move the weight. Once you get set in the starting position, your arms angles in relation to your body should remain the same throughout the exercise.

Stability Ball Knee Tucks

This particular exercise is torture. Make sure to not let your back sway when your legs are fully extended. Your core should remain tight.

Stability Ball Roll-outs

If you feel pain or discomfort in your lower back during this exercise, your abs are too weak. Work on getting them stronger for another month, and then try the exercise again. Notice that throughout the exercise the lordotic curve in my lower back always remains in a neutral position.

Stability Ball Reverse Crunch

This exercise is excellent for the lower abs. Notice at the top of the repetition, your lower back should come off the floor. Most people will be too weak to do this properly. Do not swing your legs during this movement.

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