Misconceptions about abs workouts

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How many people have you seen in the gym, tormenting their abs mercilessly day after day? And how many of them had perfectly toned six-packs? I don’t think there were many. Heaven forbid, do you belong to the work-the-abs-every-day team, too?

The mythical abdominals

Sadly, there are more myths about training the abdominals than about all the other parts of the body altogether. We also get questions every day like “How much do I need to exercise for my abs to burn the fat off?” I’ve got bad news for you: no training volume could do that without a proper diet. But let’s just go step by step: let’s see a list of the most common myths about this stubborn muscle group.

“If I exercise a lot for my abs, I will get a six-pack.”

Partly true. You’re gonna have a pretty six-pack. Too bad that nobody will see it. Because, even if your belly is covered with a thick layer of fat, there may be a six-pack deeply underneath the fat. But sadly, abs workout won’t burn the fat off. Please don’t let the burning sensation you feel in your abs during ab workout mislead you: at times like this, the burning sensation is caused by the lactic acid buildup in your muscles, but this doesn’t have much to do with fat burning. It doesn’t matter if you do 4x100 crunches: the chances that you will burn fat with this is the same as if you did 2x30. Moreover, if you can do such a high volume, you are probably doing the exercise deadly wrong. So, you don’t need to waste your time on 5-6-7 ab workouts a week. This won’t get you a six-pack. A right combination of diet and workout may get you a six-pack.

“If I want perfectly toned abs, I need to spend a lot of time training my abs.”

Well, if 10-15 minutes per workout is a lot, then you have to work a lot. Because this is fairly enough to do your abs perfectly, provided that you are doing the exercises right. You can see many doing hundreds of crunches. However, only a few of them do it right. Because, if you are doing the crunches right, you will need much less reps to make your abs “burn”. The abdominals are muscles like any other muscle group on the body. They recover slightly faster, but this doesn’t mean they require drastically different workout, as most people think.

“Crunches are for the upper part of the abs while leg raises are for the lower part.”

Partly true. But, contrary to the common misconception, there is no such a thing as lower abs or upper abs, so you cannot isolate these areas with different exercises. If you are doing crunches right, your abdominals are working as a whole. It’s just a matter of focus. On the other hand, the leg raise is performed wrong more widely than any other exercise: what you can see in 90% of the cases is that the legs are not raised using the abs.

Let’s talk about workout technique

The abs are working when the pelvis is approaching the chest. This means, it is not enough to raise your legs: your trunk should be shrinking, too. In other words: your trunk should bend in a “U” shape. Just raising your legs won’t provide the necessary stimuli for your abs. Yet you can see people doing it everywhere around! Try it, for example, in a rack or on wall bars: do 10-15 reps by raising your legs only. Then, do the same number of reps by abducting your hips from the wall bars or rack, “shrinking” your trunk. It will be a totally different experience, you can take it for granted. Don’t focus on raising your legs, but on bending and shrinking your trunk. And, as a “side effect”, your legs will rise, too! It is a miracle: the whole of your abdominals will be flexed ;)

The abdominal crunch is another exercise that looks simple, still there are a lot of people who do them wrong. Remember: just raising your head from the bench is not enough! Again, you should bend your trunk as in the case of any other abs exercise. You can do this by lifting your shoulder-blades from the bench. The best (and toughest) way is when your shoulder-blades do not touch the bench at all while you are doing the crunches. Doing so, you can keep your abs in a constantly flexed position. This way, the lowest point is when your shoulder-blades are not touching the bench any more and the top position is when you are crunching your abs as much as you can, and your trunk is rising even higher. Believe me: you won’t be able to repeat this several hundreds of times.

“If I do (dumbbell) side bends, my waist will get thinner.”

Huge mistake! First: in this case, too, it will not impact the size of your muffin top at all. Your obliques might get toned under the fat, if you are lucky. If you are not, and you are doing it with a heavy dumbbell, these muscles might even thicken, so the exercise will actually backfire. Frankly, these exercises are not of much use, apart from strengthening the core muscles, but there are far better exercises for this purpose. They are definitely not recommended for those who want a thinner waist.

And, the conclusion is... Do not waste your time in the gym! It is fairly enough to train your abs 2 or 3 times a week, and you don’t need to devote hours to it. You can train your abs fully in 15 minutes each time. Feel free to use intensity boosting techniques like supersets or giant sets. And make sure you are doing the exercises right: quality matters, not quantity!

See a detailed description of the abs exercises here.

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