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Is Training Abs a Waste of Time? What Is The Best Way to Achieve Defined Abs?

If you’ve been a member at a gym, or multiple gyms, for some time now, you’ve likely seen the abs section crowded to the max with people doing endless crunches. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “Are they doing the exercise because they want defined abs? Or do they think the crunches themselves will burn the fat and reveal a six-pack?” Good questions all around, but we have to get to the major reasons why doing endless crunches and sit-ups aren’t going to get you anywhere fast when looking to achieve a ripped set of abdominals.


Should I stop training abs?

As with most of my answers to questions like this: it really depends on your goal. Personally, I start direct abdominal work once I start getting ready for a competition or photo shoot. If the shoot is 8 weeks away or the competition is 12 weeks away, I start throwing in direct abs exercises at the end of my workout, usually 2-3 times per week. That’s because, regardless of what people say out there, training abs is NOT pointless. Training them in the correct way will leave you with increased core strength, well-defined obliques and serratus, and improved core stability – all translating to increased performance in many other lifts. However, doing crunches over and over may be the “pointless” statement most people talk about; there are much better ways to improve the strength, stability, and look of your abs rather than doing crunches.


Performing crunches won’t get me the six-pack I’m looking for?

By this time in the article, you probably already know this answer. There is absolutely no way that you can spot reduce fat – meaning, you cannot choose where fat will be lost first – that is up to your genetics. You see the spot reducing fad all over those BS creams, topical fat loss gels, and time-release pills. Plenty of scientific data supports this statement: training a specific muscle will not result in fat loss in that specific area. Therefore, simply training your abs every day is not going to result in a flat, revealing set of abdominals. So, if your goal is get lean and see your abs, get rid of the mindset of, “I’ll just train abs every day and soon I’ll be able to see them.” Not going to happen.


What are the best exercises to enhance abdominal/core strength and definition? 

Crunches and sit-ups, although they do make you feel the abs and the burn, are not going to do much to improve performance or strength, simply because they aren’t putting your body in an unstable environment and they aren’t targeting the upper or lower abs either. You need to perform movements that are going to directly correlate to movements you do every day, whether it be for your sport, performance, or overall look. Weighted planks, weighted push-ups, ab-rollouts, and supermans are all phenomenal exercises to increase core strength and directly target the rectus abdominus (six-pack muscles) and obliques. Hanging leg raises, medicine ball torso rotations, hanging windshield wipers, and lying hip thrusters all put a hurting on the overall core and will lead to more overall caloric expenditure then countless crunches; and we all know that caloric expenditure is a major factor that will determine if you’re getting lean or getting fat. And the best abs exercises, by far, are heavy COMPOUND MOVEMENTS. I’m talking about the barbell squat, the dead lift, the standing over-head press, the clean and jerk, the bench press, and the power clean all demand intense engagement of the rectus abdominus. I swear that my abs are the tightest and most sore after a grueling session of heavy squats or dead lifts; and there’s a reason for that.


What is the best way to reveal my six-pack abs?

Combine heavy resistance training, with cardiovascular exercise and a well thought-out, customized nutrition program. A recent study concluded that a group of participants, who performed aerobic exercise combined with a strength-training workout three times per week, lost almost four times as much fat than the other group of participants who performed only aerobic exercise. There was another study done where all participants had a similar reduction in body mass – around 20 pounds. However, the group that performed a strength-training program, along with aerobic exercise, lost 6 more pounds of fat than the other groups who did nothing at all or only performed aerobic exercise. Why? Because the two other groups lost muscle, as well as fat. A great diet and cardio alone will not help you achieve the lean, defined look you are going for; and that is because cardio, without resistance training, will lead to lean tissue loss. By combining strength training with the cardio regimen, you will “tell” your body to retain the muscle mass, while burning off the fat – or even better, you’ll increase muscle mass (if your calories and nutrients are sufficient), while still losing body fat.


Those are just a few of the questions I get on a weekly basis regarding abdominal training and fat loss. I hope the answers I provided here have helped, and if you need any further assistance, or have any other questions, don’t hesitate to email me! [email protected]

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