Abs: The Truth

The body part of the millennium, that sexy landscape of bumps and grooves which is a key factor to many folks being in the gym. The six pack, the flat stomach, the tight belly, those chiseled abs.

Give me a break, people. Remember when working out was about your health? Remember that? Huh? No? Oh…

This is it. This is the information no one wants to hear or read because it means responsibility and dedication, not magic potions or god-sent gizmos. There is some good news though, which I'll start with.

Truth #1: Abs do not need to be "worked" everyday, or even every other day.

That's the good news. You're wasting precious time doing those various crunchy twisty thingies every single day. Guess what? If you hold that spine the way it should be held, proud and stable, for every exercise you do and learn what your mama told you about sitting up straight, you're gaining a considerable amount of "core strength." But who the heck wants "core strength," whatever that is? We want ABSSS! Poppin' out everywhere like speed bumps to heaven. Then work your abs like you would any other muscle group, very hard and very proper but occasionally, with good recuperation, not that sloppy, formless mess that I see writhing on the floors or twitching in some ab gizmo all the time.

You've got abs. In fact, if you workout well and consistently, you probably have considerable ab strength. You don't see them because they're hiding. They're ducking behind your fat layer and can't be coerced out until the fat goes away. NO AMOUNT OF AB WORK MAKES THAT FAT GO AWAY !!

So doing them every day is just silly and potentially dangerous in the long run. No muscle needs to be beaten up on like that.

Truth #2 If you are doing hundreds of repetitions, you're doin' somethun' wrong.
Back to that formless mess. Aw, just see Truth #8

Truth #3 There is absolutely no need for a machine or device, especially the junk sold through infomercials.

A small group of people are making truckloads of money off the uneducated masses needing a quick fix. Their product will not do any of the wonderful things they say. They are lying, absolutely lying. Don't pay them to lie further. Imagine if you bought some magical machine for every body part. You'd have a big room of junk. A mini gym of dumbness.

Truth #4 Abs are part of a greater core and should be trained within an entire trunk training program.

The only piece of equipment I'd recommend, outside of traditional freeweight equipment, would be a Resist-a-Ball (or Fitball, or gymball or physioball, whatever brand you or your gym owns). Not any special piece of Ab Machinery. In addition to simple, equipment-free exercises, a ball is one way to create trunk strength and stabilization skills, which involves all the muscles that support the trunk and lower spine, including the abs, and which work synergistically with hip, leg and back muscles. With a ball, or with standing cable or dumbbell exercises that require strong abdominal function as either a mover or a stabilizer, you'll have much greater and more effective ways of training them then doing a bunch of crunches or investing in an AbTerminator. When was the last time you crunched in day-to-day life? It's not a motion we utilize daily (if it is, you have a unique occupation), so why train our abs that way when their #1 job is stabilization and balance, often during dynamic situations. Yoga or Tai Chi are other great trunk strengtheners. Yeah, I know these don't burn like several thousand crunches do (which could be how your chiropractor or doctor might put their kids through school, thanks to you) but just because you wanna be ripped doesn't mean you have to be stoopid.

Truth #5 (this is a biggie) There isn't a single ab exercise, device or routine in the world that will reduce the fat directly from the waist line.

In other words, ab exercises won't make your waist smaller! Remember, they might be hiding, but torturing them through some monster ab routine or on an infomercial gizmo does not affect the fat around them at all. Hence such motivation will not reduce the waistline.

Truth #6 Eating better is the number one way to reduce the stubborn fat around the midsection, not cardiovascular exercise, and definitely not abdominal exercise.

Who wants to hear this garbage, just give me a Torso Obliterator, a handful of pills and be done with it.

This is the bad news no one wants to hear. That's right, the absolute best way to affect the fat around the midsection is changing your eating habits. Yes, that takes real work, not just the toil and sweat of a workout. Now don't get me wrong, cardiovascular exercise will help put the body in a calorie deficit and therefore promote fat loss from all over the body, but studies have shown that the stubborn belly jiggle responds best to diet changes. Sorry, but I did say this takes responsibility and dedication.

Truth #7 The ab work generally done towards the end of aerobics classes can be dangerous, if not just a waste of time.

Way too much for too long. I counted over 600 reps during the ab portion of a certain aerobics class. How on earth can you maintain proper form and focus doing a giant slew of twists and reaches and leg raises, all the to the beat of a tape?

Truth #8 Most people perform ab exercises ineffectively, if not dangerously.

Hey, how cool am I? I just did three hundred crunches! Then you, my friend, are doing something wrong. If the rest of your weight workout rep range is about 8 – 15 reps, why should your ab muscles follow different laws? Would you do 300 leg presses or 300 bicep curls? Somewhere, maybe around rep 250, why didn't you think "what the heck kinda waste of time is this?"

Truth #9 You cannot target the "lower abs." Lower abs is a geographic location, not an anatomical description.

Ain't no special muscles down there that are separated from the rest. You may have acquired an unwanted attachment that has become determined to set up camp on you lower midsection, but since we've discussed in great length earlier how you can't choose where that goo should melt from, "targeting" this area won't do a lick of good. If you're working the "upper abs," you're working the "lower abs." You might not feel it as much but it's not a separate muscle group, so it has to work whenever you do any ab exercise. Let's say this again: there is no exercise that specifically isolates the "lower abs," since there is no such thing! That would be like saying you can target your lower biceps. Sorry, can't be done.

Now EMS readings have shown that the inferior attachment (often called the "insertion") of the rectus abdominus, where the lower fibers attach to the pelvis, might kick in a little more during certain portions of certain exercises, but this cannot be consciously controlled (though some belly dancers might want to argue this) nor is it a direct indication that the lower fibers are going to do anything magical in terms of hypertrophy or especially fat loss.

Truth #10 Beware of High Repetition, Unloaded Trunk Twists.

Again, usually performed under the mistaken belief that this "exercise" will somehow reduce those poetically named "love handles." The good ol' broom twists are not very effective, in fact they could do a good degree of damage to the spine. I don't want to get into depth about them, let's just say that this "exercise" doesn't really work the muscles you want to work anyway (at least not in the fast, uncontrolled and unloaded fashion most folks perform it in) and even if they did, they still wouldn't burn the extra pudding around the sides. Plus, bad forces against spine. Spine no like. So stop it!

TRUTH #11 Learn Technique Before Adding Weight..

If you feel the need to increase the intensity of your ab workouts, learn to do the exercises properly, which is an easily skipped step. Your body weight will usually be sufficient for many floor-based exercises, but if it's time to get up off the floor, then start light and master form. Great, so you can bend your spine with added resistance. Can you balance? Are you in control of the movement? This is an area that trainers need to greatly increase their knowledge in, because many gyms across the world have trainers torturing people's abs in silly and dangerous ways.

Written by: Chip Conrad

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