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Oliva looked all the more massive because of his
amazing 28 inch waist tapering up to a 58 inch chest.

            The abs are the one group of muscles which you probably do not want to make massive. Most of today’s top bodybuilders have overdeveloped their abs to the point that, though lean, their waists still look thick and unaesthetic.


            While, strictly speaking, you can, technically, add a few more pounds of mass to your frame through overdeveloped abs, few would actually desire it. The illusion of mass created by a narrow waistline to make the rest of the body appear even more massive in comparison is far more impressive than the true mass of overdeveloped abdominals.


            Sergio Oliva’s classic 58 inch chest on a 5’10” frame is all the more impressive because it more than doubled his 28 inch waist.


            Arnold, also makes his monstrous chest appear all the more colossal because it is offset by a tiny waist, which he has learned to make appear even tinier through the illusion provided by matchless posing skill.


            Behold the most massive bodybuilder of all time, Victor Richards. Though his waist is 36 inches, compared to his 37 inch thighs it is relatively slender, and is nearly doubled by his unprecedented 67 inch chest. This waist can also be vacuumed, and is dwarfed by his other monstrous body parts. 


            Note how the mass of bodybuilders such as Sergio, Arnold, and Lee Haney appears far superior beside today’s Olympias with thicker waistlines which do not accentuate their mass.


            With this in mind the abs should be trained in extremely high repetitions, as the objective is not so much to build abdominal mass, but to build definition and narrow the waistline to make the chest, back, arms and legs appear even larger.


            For best results the abs should be trained starting with lower abs, then obliques, followed by upper abs, then finally the abdominal complex as a whole. The only exception to this is that following this process the lower obliques should continue to be exercised with extremely high reps to reduce their girth further.


                                                            Hanging Leg Raises


            These should be performed as they sound, hanging from a chin-up bar. The legs should not be swung to allow momentum to work for them, but should be raised until parallel to the ground before slowly being lowered. The lower pelvis should also be swiveled out and up as much as possible to maximize the targeting of the lower abs.


            If you cannot do this exercise you should start by doing forced negatives with a partner until you can perform positive reps on your own.


            Upon failure bend the knees and continue to lift your legs until you reach failure again.



                                                            Lying Leg Raises


            For best results perform this exercise on an incline sit-up bench in a reverse position, feet toward the floor, and hands gripping the footpads. In the absence of such equipment this movement may be performed lying flat on the floor.


            Begin with the bench on a slight incline. Raise and lower the legs slowly, not allowing the feet to touch the floor.  The lower pelvis should also be swiveled out and up as much as possible to maximize the targeting of the lower abs.


            Upon failure bend the knees and continue to lift your legs until you reach failure again.


            Lower the bench to the next notch down and repeat the process until you finally reach failure lying on the floor.




                                                            Cross-Knee Sit-Ups


            This exercise targets the obliques, but involves the upper abs to some degree. By doing this movement with the lower abs fatigued you will allow the lower abs to continue to experience some degree of work.


            Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Place the opposite foot across one knee in a figure-four position.


            Raise one side of the torso in a twisting, crunching motion, trying to touch the elbow opposite the knee forming two sides of the figure-four’s triangle. Do as many reps as you possibly can, switching sides upon exhaustion.



                                                            Machine or Rope Crunches


            Weighted crunches primarily target the upper abs. They are performed following the aforementioned exercises so that the pre-fatigued muscles of the lower abs and obliques will continue to receive work from the exercise, optimizing the synergism of your ab routine.


            This is the one ab exercise you should do weighted, because the partial contraction of the abs will not lead to undesirable thickness as using heavy weights with other ab exercises would. 

            Begin with the heaviest possible weight that you can handle for 8-12 reps. Perform a reverse pyramid, immediately dropping the weight to a weight you can handle for 12-15 more. Continue this pyramid down. On your final set you should be doing 25-50 reps, depending on your abdominal conditioning.





            Crunches are among the most popular ab exercises. Perhaps one reason for this popularity is because they are effective for the overall shaping of the abdominal area, working both the upper and lower abs. Performed after cross knee crunches they will continue to indirectly work the obliques as well.


            For best results this exercise should immediately follow machine or rope crunches, with no rest in between.


            Lie on the floor in a supine position. Bend your knees at about a 90 degree angle and raise your thighs until they are perpendicular to the floor.


            If you can perform this exercise with your hands clasped behind your head this will provide the maximum resistance for your upper abs. If you cannot, or if you have already gone in that position to failure and wish to extend the set, you may fold your arms across your chest.


            Slowly raise and lower both your legs and torso. Do as many reps as you can- the more the better.



                                                            Stick or Machine Twists


            This is the exercise probably most responsible for the classic waists with which both Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger showcased their mammoth physiques. As no machines for this exercise were available in their day, they performed this exercise using a stick.


            If using a stick, place a long broom handle or other long stick across the back of your neck and shoulders. Extend your arms out from your body along the stick in a cruciform manner. Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Perform these exercises at various angles- leaning slightly backward, upright, and bent as far down as possible. This will assure cinching of the waistline from all possible angles.


            While upright or leaning slightly backwards, twist slowly at first to avoid injury. You should twist as far as possible, however. As your back and oblique muscles become warmed you may twist more quickly to augment the range of your twist. Ascertain, however, that you still do so in a controlled manner.


            When you perform your twists bent at the waist you should do them in a windmill fashion, trying to touch each end of the stick to the floor on the opposite side of the body, achieving as far a twist as possible each time.


            Arnold and Sergio both used to do these by the hundreds or thousands. If counting that high will bore you, 10-40 minutes should suffice.


            These can be done on a machine, but the disadvantage of that is that the machine will not let you work the muscles from as many angles. Some machines can twist from both directions without needing to change the carriage setting- other machines will only let you twist in one direction, and require the carriage position to be changed to twist the other direction.


            If your machine twists both directions you should do 10-40 minutes, depending on your schedule, conditioning, and need. If the machine needs to be changed you should twist 5-20 minutes each direction.


            If you are on a machine it is also imperative to avoid the temptation to pile on the weight. You should use no more than 30-40 lbs. Any more will only make your obliques thick and blocky, which is probably the last thing you are striving for. The heavier settings on such a machine may be great for people who must throw or fight in their sports (Discuss, boxing, etc.) but are of little use to a bodybuilder seeking to narrow his waistline.