How Often Should I Train My Abs?
It's a common question: "How often should I train abs a week?" You see, this is a very divisive muscle group.
It splits people to two groups. Many believe you don't have to train your abs at all, saying that even a six-year-old kid has six-pack abs without any training, so you just have to stick to your diet, and you'll have a muscular middle section.
The other group of people will tell you that training abs is the only way to make it shredded, so they work out their abs every single workout, almost every single day like crazy.
Neither of these groups is correct.
First of all, there's no such thing as spot reduction, you can't pick a bodypart and burn the fat off it. You have to be in a caloric deficit to lose fat, and your body will decide where the fat comes off first. Working out does not burn a lot of calories, so if you want lean abs, you have to eat well.
On the other hand, not everyone has six-pack abs. This is a matter of genetics, and everybody has different genetics. So if you're not that lucky, you can still turn your shitty genetics into impressive six-pack abs by working on your abdominal muscles. Yes, sometimes diligence often beats talent.
Last, but not least, you don't only train abs because you want to look good, but to develop a healthy and well-functioning body as well, as the abdominal muscles have important roles. Among others, a strong, well-developed core is needed for the health of your spine, and it also affects posture.
By the way, it's a mistake to call it just abs, as it consists of many smaller muscle groups, like:
- rectus abdominis muscle, which flexes the lumbar spine when you do crunches, it helps in creating intra-abdominal pressure, which is important when exercising or lifting heavy weights
- external obliques, which has rotating functions
- intercostal muscles
And you have to train each muscle group in a different way.
Because we use rectus abdominis in our everyday life all the time, and it consists of type I muscle fibers, you can train it as often as you want, every single day, if that's your thing.
But you have to be careful. For instance, if you have a squat or deadlift day, don't torture your abs in the gym too much, as you will need them for their stabilizing role. This means that you do work out your abs indirectly, without your notice, as you work out your triceps when doing bench press. Although this stimulation in and of itself is not enough, you have to take it into consideration.
If you're a beginner, don't train your abs every workout. Like always, muscle soreness is the key to finding out whether your muscles had enough time to recover or not. It's forbidden to train a muscle which is sore, that means:
- if you don't have muscle soreness in your abs, you can train it
- if you still have muscle soreness in your abs, you cannot train it
It's this simple, don't overcomplicate it.
If you are tough enough to work out your abs 7 times a week without soreness, then go ahead, it won't do any harm to you – unless you skip training the antagonist muscles of your abs, namely the lower back.
With external obliques, it's a whole different story. Since you don't use them as often as the rectus abdominis, they need more time to recover, so it's not recommended to train them every day, nor every workout.
By the way: you do not need to train your abs with extra weights in order to make them impressive. Your own bodyweight and the gravity is more than enough. Weighted situps may look very cool and hardcore, but they can ruin your hips very easily, so don't do it.
Although the abs is a muscle, so you have to increase its size by working out, but due to its muscle fiber type, lifting heavier weights is not necessary for its development – the same goes for calves, as you may have heard.
You don't necessarily have to do abs every workout, or every day. Your abs will improve if you only train it once a week, one training is better than no training at all. You can do your ab training at your home, on an off-day as well since you don't need any equipment for it.
Frequency, small weight, high rep range, quality muscle contraction. These are the keywords for a great abs workout.
What do we mean by quality muscle contraction? Well, we mean you mustn't twitch and jerk during the whole ab workout like a maniac. You must be slow and controlled. You must feel your abs contract and relax. If you do leg raises, concentrate on your abs, not your thighs, and do not use momentum.
If you want to make your abs look good, don't forget to do vacuums, which is the most underrated and at the same time, one of the most effective exercises for your abs.
And last, but not least, always train abs with this technique, otherwise it could be even counter-effective visually.
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