Full Body Abs Exercises and Craig Ballantyne Interview
It’s a beautiful day here in the heartland. The weather is warm. I just got done with an awesome workout. I’m going to head to the pool later on and I also just got done cleaning up my training studio floor from all the cereal crumbs my daughter had graciously spread around.
Don’t you love life?
Anyway, I’ve got a special treat for you today.
I interviewed a new friend of mine, who’s also a fat loss expert, Craig Ballantyne. Craig is the author of the best-selling fat loss program Turbulence Training and Turbulence Training For Abs and I first met him at a seminar (which he was hosting) and he has since become a friend who is always quick to share fat loss tips and debunk myths.
We share many of the same philosophies when it comes to fat loss and it’s always refreshing to hear someone else’s take on fat loss workouts, why crunches aren’t the answer to losing stomach fat and why cardio is very over-rated.
Ed: You were on the forefront of fitness experts telling everyone that cardio, as a means to lose fat, is very over-rated and that there are other, better ways. Why is that?More…
CB: Back in 1998-99, I was but a lowly grad student, studying the effects of androstenedione (the supplement taken by the mighty baseball player, Mark McGwire during his record-breaking home run quest in ’98).
In my study (which was published in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology for any science nerds like myself out there), we had guys use the supplement and go through a couple of weight training sessions. By February of ’99 I was stuck in the lab, analyzing the blood samples using some fancy radio-active isotopes.
And when I say stuck in the lab, I mean STUCK. I’d get there at 7am, and record my last data point at 11pm. Sixteen hours of mad science. And if I wasn’t there, I was downstairs in the medical library, studying papers on testosterone and training.
Now coming from a very athletic background, this sedentary lifestyle didn’t sit well with me. But there I was, studing for a degree in Exercise Physiology and left with no time for exercise.
Or so I thought.
Fortunately, I actually had a 50 minute window once per day of "down-time" while the lab’s gamma-counter analyzed blood samples.
That left me 50 minutes to get to the gym (5 minutes across campus) and get a workout in the remaining 40 or so minutes. I knew that if I applied my studies to the workout, I could get maximum results in minimum time.
As a former athlete, I knew that I had to find a way to stay fit and to avoid the fat gain that comes with working long hours in a sedentary environment. And I also had to stay true to the high-school bodybuilder I once was, so there was no way I was willing to sacrifice my muscle to one of those long-cardio, low protein fat-loss plans that were popular at the time.
Instead, I had to draw on my academic studies and my experiences working with athletes as the school’s Strength & Conditioning Coach.
I knew that sprint intervals were associated with more fat loss than slow cardio, and I knew that you could also increase aerobic fitness by doing sprints (but you can’t increase sprint performance by doing aerobic training).
So clearly, intervals were (and ARE!) superior to long slow cardio.
I had seen first hand the incredible results of sprint intervals in the summer and fall, as the athletes made huge fitness improvements and shed winter fat in a short time using my interval programs. I knew that intervals had to be the next step in the evolution of cardio.
The biggest benefit of intervals? A lot of results in a short amount of time. I knew that I only had 40 minutes to train, and therefore I could only spend 15-20 minutes doing intervals.
Ed: Interval training sounds intimidating to a lot of people, can you clear up some of the misconceptions?
CB: Everyone can do intervals. Even beginners.
For beginners who usually exercise for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph on the treadmill, their interval workout would be to go for 1 minute at 3.8mph and then recover for 2 minutes at 3.0 mph. That’s it. Repeat 6 times.
Interval training doesn’t have to be sprinting for your life. It just needs to start off harder than normal…and progress from there.
Ed: What about strength training for fat loss?
CB: Now onto the strength training portion of the workouts. I knew that a high-volume bodybuilding program wasn’t going to cut it – I just didn’t have time. But in the past year I had read so many lifting studies, that I knew exactly what exercises I needed to do to maximize my lifting time in the gym.
Those exercises were standing, multi-muscle, movements such as squats, presses, rows, and plenty of other standing single-leg exercises. I knew that those exercises would bring me far more results than those people sitting on machines would ever achieve.
And I also knew that I had to lift heavier than the average Joe or Jane Gym-goer lifts. I just knew that doing lighter weights and high-reps wasn’t going to cut it.
And a research study from 2001 later showed that I was right – when women did 8 reps per set, they had a significantly greater increase in post-workout metabolism than if they did 15 reps per set.
So I had my plan. Bust my tail over to the gym, through the cold, dreary Canadian winter afternoon, and do a quick but thorough warmup (specific to my lifts – none of that 5 minutes on the treadmill waste of time).
Once I got through the warm-up, I did as many sets as I could in the remainder of the 20 minutes for strength training.
At that point, I knew that supersets were the only way to go if I wanted to maximize the number of sets I could do…so the non-competing superset of Turbulence Training was put in place.
By non-competing, I mean that the 2 exercises in the superset don’t interfere with one another. So you can use upper and lower body exercises together, or pushing and pulling exercises. Just be careful not to use two grip-intensive exercises together in a superset – otherwise, one exercise will suffer, if not both.
And then I followed up the strength training with intervals, as I knew these had to follow the lifting, otherwise it would not be the correct exercise order. Remember, intervals first leads to premature fatigue. Lift first, cardio later. Forget that old wives tale about doing cardio first to burn more fat. That’s junk.
You know, I remember the exact day and exact workout that this all came together into the Turbulence Training program. It hit me as I was finishing my intervals. I knew I had found something that was like fat loss magic.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to put it in a pill. But I’ve been able to put it down on paper in all of the TT manuals.
Ed: Personally I hate cardio and don’t even do a lot of interval training using cardio machines anymore, so what do you think is the best "replacement" for cardio for someone who wants to lose stomach fat?
CB: Here is my list of preferred ways to do your intervals, ranked in order from best to worst, based on my experiences…
1. Sprinting outdoors (and hills might be the absolute best)
2. Strongman movements (Farmer’s walks, tire flips, car pushing)
3. Bodyweight interval circuits
4. Treadmill running
5. Stationary cycle (upright preferred)
8. Swimming (only works for competent swimmers)
9. Elliptical & Crosstrainer machines
Ed: Your program is very similar to mine in that we don’t use a lot of crunches, sit-ups, or the traditional "abs exe
rcises" to work the abs, so how should people work their abs without doing those exercises?
CB: If you want to have a flat stomach or 6-pack abs, you never have to do another crunch or sit-up ever again.
In fact, the truth about abdominal crunches is that they are useless, ineffective, and even damaging to your spine. The latter fact is covered in
great detail by Dr. Stuart McGill in his book, "Ultimate Low Back Fitness & Performance". His research will shock you (and the scare the bejesus out of you) if you are one of those gym-rats who spends 30 minutes on abdominal crunching type movements.
I found out crunches are useless the hard way, spending ten minutes per day on crunches back in my 3rd year of University, but to no avail. They didn’t do anything for my abs.
That year I stumbled across interval training and total body abdominal exercises. Finally, it was these training secrets that helped me change my torso from regular fit college-aged male into cover-model six-pack abs worthy.
Ed: You’ve just come up with an entire 12-week program revolving around abs, right?
CB: Yes! The CRUNCH-FREE era of six pack ab workouts is here!
The new TT for Abs system includes…
1) 12-Week Turbulence Training Home Abdominal Workout Program
2) The Turbulence Training Abs "300" Workout Bonus (Beginner, Intermediate, & Advanced Levels)
3) The Bodyweight Abs Workout You Can Do Anywhere – Even at a Hotel – Without Any Equipment (Beginner & Advanced Versions)
4) The Bodyweight Abdominal Exercise Index
5) My 5 Motivational Secrets to Keep You From Cheating or Quitting
6) The Advanced Nutrition for Abs Meal Plans from Isabel De Los Rios, Holistic Nutritionist
(And a few other time-sensitive bonuses…visit www.fatlosstogo.com/nomorecrunches.html now to check it out)
Awesome, thanks Craig. By the way, you really should check out Craig’s Abs Program, and if nothing else, just check out his site. That’s a picture of him up there and he’s not a bodybuilder, fitness model, and doesn’t use steroids or any other tricks in order to get his physique. Just the fat loss nutrition I always tell you about and by using his fat loss workouts.
As I mentioned earlier, Craig and I have the same viewpoints when it comes to fat loss and his programs are outstanding.
Have a good day!
P.S. – Don’t forget to check out Craig’s Abs Program by going to www.fatlosstogo.com/NoMoreCrunches.html