AmyPate-FeatureAmy Pate has enviable abs and one of the most dogged training ethics we’ve ever seen. She goes head to head with top US physique competitors at the IFBB North American Championships this Friday.

By Tracey Longo – TUA


By Amy Pate / Hardbody Strength & Fitness, LLC

How do you get great abs?  There is no amount of crunches that will get you there if you have too much bodyfat. It’s all about nutrition.  While strength training is an important ingredient, it’s vital you get your diet right or you’ll be fighting a losing battle. People always come up to me in the gym and ask how they can get great abs (or get rid of lunch lady arms or their muffin top). My answer is  pretty much always the same: Training alone will not give you abs or get rid of excess fat.  Yes, you must build muscle, but in order to reveal that muscle, you need a combination of diet and proper training. When you see people work out for years, with or without a trainer, and never look very different, it’s generally because their diet doesn’t help them cut enough fat to reveal their abs [Amy will compete with 7% bodyfat this weekend]. Of course, as a trainer, I also see some things in the gym that WON’T work to build abs or anything else  For instance, it drives me crazy o see trainers still handing chicks the pink Barbie weights, or have them ance around on a BOSU ball thinking that’s going to get results. It won’t!).

Occasionally I’ll talk to people who are “eating clean,” yet still wondering why they aren’t seeing changes in their physiques.  Sometimes it’s lack of awareness about hidden sugars in foods (even supposedly “clean foods”), but often the culprit is not having the right balance of carbs, protein and fats in each meal and timing them appropriately throughout the day.  Through careful control of your body’s insulin response and regulation of blood sugar, you can literally turn your body into a fat burning machine. 

How did I train and eat during my preparation for my physique contest August 30 in Pittsburgh?

My abs routine during this prep consists of just one to two sessions per week, generally two exercises, with four sets of 20-30 reps per exercise. I either do the exercises as straight sets or superset them.  A typical abs workout might be cable crunches (four sets of 25-30 reps) and maybe an ab machine.  I load up the cable machine heavy (around 110-125 pounds) and go for 4 sets to failure.  I mix it up a lot though.  Although I have many go-to ab exercises in my arsenal, my favorites are probably hanging knee ups and reverse crunches on an incline bench, which I enhance by wearing ankle weights or with by holding a weighted ball between my knees.


During this prep I’ve done a lot less ab work than I generally do. I used to work abs three to four times a week, with each workout typically consisting of at least four exercises with four sets and 15-25 reps per exercise. I see no less definition in my abs.  I know bodybuilders that don’t do any direct ab work, and their abs are like brick walls. I guess this is further evidence that abs really are made in the kitchen.

As for my diet, I’m a big fan of carb cycling, and that hasn’t changed during this prep as I got ready to compete at the 2013 IFBB North American Championships. I pretty much cycle my carbs whether I’m competing or not. It keeps me reasonably lean in off-season while allowing me to build or maintain muscle. It also allows me to preserve muscle during the harder caloric deficits of contest prep. During contest prep calories get tight and I need to be strategic. Carbs and fats change quite a bit as well. [Amy uses Jason Theobold of for her contest preparation].

There are a lot of methods of carb cycling.  This prep has been just as effective, despite being a gentler cycle than what I’ve done in the past.   I’ve really liked it. I have to say this has been one of the easier preps I’ve been through and I think I’m looking better and better.  Of course, you have to be very controlled on hitting your caloric and macro goals for each meal in order for it to work, but competition prep always requires diligence and accuracy.

    My diet usually consists of six meals a day. However, I’ve found that a lot of the restrictions people put on themselves during a contest diet aren’t necessary always, at least for me.  It’s really an individual thing—how your body reacts to certain foods.   This prep, in addition to the standard yams, brown rice and oats, I’m eating a few whole grain breads and cereals now (in a very controlled way of course), but nonetheless, it makes a difference psychologically when you’re able to have some foods that feel “normal” to you.  One of my favorite meals during prep has been turkey burgers on whole grain sandwich thins.  Tilapia is something that I’ve blessedly been spared eating this season.  Though I love seafood in general, I’m not a fan of tilapia.  I’ve actually even had shrimp occasionally this prep — not something you’d see on the usual contest diet.

In preparing for North Americans, I’ve also done less cardio than during prior preps.  For most of my prep, I’ve done four 30 minute sessions of moderate steady state cardio using the elliptical, step mill or incline treadmill for walking per week.  Once in a while I go for a run, although I minimize running to keep from wearing down my booty.  I generally do two HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions per week.    It’s only been the last couple weeks that my cardio has increased to 40 minutes daily and I added in an additional HIIT session.

As you can see, getting abs is not about how many gazillions of exercises you do or endless time you spend slogging it out on cardio machines.   Though everyone is different in how much cardio is needed to really shred fat, I’m walking proof that shredded abs largely come down to diet and strength training. /


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