Fitness Articles

The Truth about Ab Training

The Secrets to Amazing Abs

247SHARES
You've probably heard most of the hyperbole on abs flattening—from how often you should train to how many reps you have to do. Here, our experts help separate abs facts from fiction.

MYTH Strength-training exercises like crunches will get rid of ab flab.
TRUTH Spot training (or reducing) isn't possible. While crunches are important for firming and strengthening the abdominals, they won't remove fat from that area. In addition to ab exercises, do a total-body strength workout to boost your overall lean muscle mass, and blast fat and calories with a consistent cardio routine (at least 30 minutes, five days a week for weight loss). Don't forget to follow a healthy diet as well, and also realize that genetics plays a part in whether you have a round or flat belly.

MYTH Sit-ups aren't safe or effective for training your abs.
TRUTH "When done in a controlled manner without the use of momentum, a sit-up is simply a trunk curl taken that much further by the use of the hip flexors, and can be a very effective ab-training exercise," says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass. So why the bad rap? "People with low-back pain have tight hip flexors and are advised not to do sit-ups because they work the hip flexors a good deal and might exacerbate the issue," Westcott says. "But really, sit-ups can be done by the majority of the population."

To safely get the most out of a full sit-up, follow instructions for the basic crunch, moving slowly in both directions, lifting up to an almost-seated position. If your neck aches, lightly cup one hand behind it for support.

MYTH If you want to get a firmer, flatter belly, you need to do ab exercises every day.
TRUTH "Although the abs are postural muscles and have a predominance of slow-twitch fibers, which recover quickly from an abundance of work, they are still just like other muscles and need time to rest, recover and rebuild," says certified trainer and fitness author Kurt Brungardt. Train your abs no more than four days a week on nonconsecutive days.

MYTH You should train your abs at the end of your workout.
TRUTH There's some validity to the claim that training your abs last preserves your core strength for the earlier part of your workout: "If you're going to do squats or multi-muscle exercises like push-ups or lunges that require a lot of balance, you might want to do abs last so your core is fresh and strong," Brungardt says. On the other hand, experts generally agree that you should do ab moves when you're most likely to do them. "The danger of always putting abs at the end is that people run out of time and end up never training them," notes Auckland, New Zealand-based certified trainer Kathryn M. Clark.

MYTH Because the abs are endurance muscles, you have to do hundreds of reps to get results.
TRUTH Abs do have greater endurance than most muscle groups—however, "doing an exercise with proper form, using slow, controlled motions, is an excellent way to maximize results," says Stuart Rugg, Ph.D., chair of the department of kinesiology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. If you're using correct form, there should be no reason to exceed two or three sets of 25 reps of any ab exercise you do. "Quality is more important than quantity," Brungardt adds.

See the original article on Shape.com.

More From SHAPE
The Best Abs Exercises for Women

Walk Off Belly Flab

50 Fun Weight-Loss Exercises
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
247SHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

SHAPE magazine SHAPE magazine
is dedicated to helping you live a healthy and happy life. Find more stories like this on diets, fitness, healthy eating and recipes at Shape.com.

Member Comments

  • I have a question concerning this statement: "People with low-back pain have tight hip flexors and are advised not to do sit-ups because they work the hip flexors a good deal and might exacerbate the issue," Westcott says. Three of my vertebrae in my lower back (even with my hip bones) are fused from birth. Does this mean I shouldn't be doing crunches? I have always exercised carefully and modified anything that feels stressful on my joints. (I have arthritis on both knees - {the therapist I was working with said she's only seen knees as bad as mine once and that was on a 75 year old man.}) and my bad back.
    I know I need to talk to a doctor about both issues. At one time I hired a personal trainer and asked her to help me develop some exercises that wouldn't harm me. - 7/19/2011 4:20:45 PM
  • "Research shows that the ideal approach to decreasing visceral fat is to focus on increasing your activity level, decreasing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, consuming complex carbohydrates and lean meats in place of refined carbohydrates, limiting your intake of alcohol, and consuming polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in place of saturated and trans fats."

    Betty Kovacs, MD, RD (via article from Medicine.net)

    Low glycemic index plan is working for me!

    - 7/19/2011 9:20:18 AM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Snorkeling  |  Snowmobiling  |  Surfing

x Lose 10 Pounds by December 2! Get a FREE Personalized Plan