Going the extra mile as we like to, we wanted to add even more value on this topic. I thought of my friend Jon Jon (John) Park, son of the Legend Reg Park. The late Reg Park was one of the greatest bodybuilders in my life-time, and a man whose legacy expanded beyond his strength and shape. He was known for his integrity and qualities of a great man, qualities that could do with a resurgence in this era.
So we took our clients question to John Park, who had the rare honor and experience of growing up learning from the Legend. Reg Park was more of an innovator than many people realize. John Park runs a gym in Los Angeles and we encourage all visitors (and locals) to get along and experience the memories on the wall that carry the Legacy of the Legend.
We are honored to be able to share the wisdom of John and Reg, true friends of KSI:
"Firstly I agree with you that the physiques of the past looked better than they do now. With the rare exception the physiques of today have very little appeal. They look like oversized drug induced cartoon characters with no symmetry at all. In response to your question re narrowing the waist I would have to say that genetics does play a large part however there are certain things that one can do to achieve a tighter midsection, give the illusion of a small waist and prevent it from getting thicker.
The most important exercise one can do is Vacuums which I have been doing daily since I was very young. There are several ways to perform this exercise which is extremely important for strengthening the internal abdominal wall. This exercise activates the internal oblique's which if too developed makes the waist appear a lot thicker. Also no other exercise other than Vacuums works the internal abdominal wall or the TVA (Transverse abdominal muscles) which are not visible and not part of the abdominus rectus structure (six pack). The TVA muscles are triangular in shape and are located on the sides of the lower abdominals and into the pubic area. Why it is important to work these often neglected muscles is because they are attached to a belt like tissue that connects to the lower back so if they are strong, they in turn help with lower back strength.
The easiest way to perform the vacuums is to lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor both hip distance apart. Keep your chin tucked at a ninety degree angle and your eyes looking downwards towards your sternum. Keep your lower back flat into the floor, make sure there is no arch. Place your hands so that your finger tips are touching your TVA muscles. Inhale through the mouth and then immediately exhale through the mouth and then draw your navel in towards your spine. Repeat this three times but on the third one hold your stomach in for a count of three to activate the abdominals. Repeat again for a fourth time but hold the stomach in for as long as possible without breathing.
More important than how long you can hold your stomach in for, is how tight you can hold it in. You should feel some discomfort and tightness in your abdominals especially in the lower portion. This whole procedure would be considered one rep and one should do five reps of this. As you get more proficient with this exercise you should be able to hold the stomach in for longer. I am able to do this for one minute each fourth time on each rep but I mostly do it for thirty seconds as it is more efficient and I am not trying to set records for holding my breath. I find the best time to do the vacuums is first thing in the morning on wakening on an empty stomach. Empty your bladder first and then do the exercise.
Once you are able to master this exercise then you should be able to perform all abdominal exercises and vacuum every rep simply by doing the following, exhaling pulling your stomach in and then performing the rep, whether it be any variable of leg lifts, sit ups or side crunches. Most people in my opinion don't work the abdominals correctly they exhale whilst doing the movement and tend to rush each rep. However if you perform the reps in the manner described above you will slow the tempo down, activate the internal abdominal wall and increase the intensity. If performed in this manner the abdominals will fatigue sooner and you will not have to perform hundreds of reps, perhaps twenty to thirty would be your maximum.
There is a progression to this exercise and that is, whilst you are on the fourth one of each rep, to shift your hips in a controlled manner from side to side by sliding your lower back across the floor from side to side keeping your lower back in contact with the floor. Do not do a see saw type motion whereby you are lifting your hips off the floor. By adding this new dimension you will activate the TVA more as well as the internal oblique's.
Another way of performing the Vacuums is rest on your hands and knees and make sure that all angles, your wrists, armpits, chin, hips and knees are at ninety degree angles and your hands, knees and feet should be shoulder width apart. Start with the lower back arched and the stomach lowered towards the floor. Repeat the same technique as the Vacuums lying on your back but every time you pull your stomach in lift your lower back (arched) towards the ceiling. I find this exercise is also helpful if you have tightness in the sacrum as it helps open it up when lifting your lower back up.
Another way of performing this exercise is to stand bent over with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting on your knees and go through the whole procedure.
Incidentally in preparation for a competition, Frank Zane would stand upright in front of a mirror every day and vacuum for up to an hour in various positions sideways, front and back and he would incorporate this when practicing his posing routine and regulate his breathing whilst doing this. When you are able to master the Vacuum technique, you should be able to do this whilst sitting, standing and even walking which I would call semi Vacuums. You don't necessarily go through the whole procedure of performing the reps.
Another technique that Zane used to incorporate whilst training which I learnt from my dad many years ago, is too inhale whilst doing certain exercises. I know this is contrary to the norm of exhaling on the effort and would not do this when performing squats, dead lifts or chest presses but if you are training purely for aesthetic reasons and not necessarily strength, then this technique is very helpful. When you think about it when you are exercising and you exhale whilst performing the concentric part of the exercise, especially if you are using heavy poundage's, your waist and stomach distend. Doing pull downs in this manner is very effective as you are exhaling on the upward (eccentric) portion of the exercise when your abdominal cavity is lengthened and stretched out and hence there is no distention. I would also strongly urge you not to use any weight whilst doing abdominals for the same reason.
In short the more you contract a muscle specifically the stomach, the tighter it will ultimately become.
Best of luck."