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How To Design An Effective Abs Workout?

To design an effective abdominal workout, you need to separate the hype from the truth.

What follows are the remarkably persistent four myths about abdominal training and their actual reality.


Myth #1: Abdominal Exercises Get Rid Of Your Muffin Top.

Reality: Abs exercises cannot help you “go from flab to abs,” because flab and abs are separate creatures.

Abdominal exercises strengthen your muscles, but these muscles lie underneath the layer of fat on top. Spot-reducing through exercise is a fantasy. The only way to lose your belly fat is firstly by having the right nutritional intake and secondly by exercising accordantly (Compound strength training combined with cardio vascular anaerobic and aerobic training).

Myth #2: Sit-ups And Crunches Are The Best Exercises For Abs.

Reality: No. They are only the most popular.

Yet, they are fine exercises for your abs conditioning, there are surely not the most efficient exercises to train your abs.

Very briefly the abs function is mostly to stabilise the midsection and connect the upper with the lower body. Hence, exercises that require high level of abs activation for body stabilisation, such as the many plank variations, hanging knee raise, v-snap and even heavy squat and standing military press are much better exercises for abs conditioning.


Myth #3: You Have To Do A Lot Of Reps To Work Your Abs.

Reality: Abs are like the other muscles in your body. Hence, to make gains with your abs, you have to follow the same principles that apply everywhere else. That means you have to overload your muscles.

The reason we feel the need to do so many reps is that we're not working them hard enough, (usually because of improper form and/or not engaging / connecting your abs while exercising).

Here you have a few suggestion to overload your abs besides adding more reps: Change exercises, add weight, change exercise tempo, combine exercises (circuit, super set, etc) and most importantly, make sure your form is well kept throughout the entire ROM (range of motion)


Myth 4#: Anyone Who Works Hard Enough And Have The Right Nutrition Can Get A 6-Pack.

Reality: Nop, genetics do play a roll in abs definition.

Abs anatomy: The abdominal muscles include the rectus abdominis (6-pack), the external obliques, the internal obliques and deeper the transverse abdominis.

The rectus abdominis or the so called six-pack attaches from your hip (origin: pubic crest and symphysis pubis) and your rips (insertion: coastal cartilages of ribs 5/7 and xiphoid of sternum). This muscle is the outer layer of your abs muscles and the one you can see providing you have minimal body fat in the midsection.

However, humans store fat in different ways. Some people have the tendency to store more fat in the hips, others in the upper body, other in the midsection, etc. This genetically determined factor, and the fact that you cannot spot-reduce body fat as we mentioned earlier, also rule your ability to obtain midsection / abdominal muscle definition.

So even working out like Rocky and having exceptional nutritional habits will not necessarily give you the highly overrated 6-pack look :)


Tomás Würst, founder and director of Workout Australia and Wellness2Corporate,

PE teacher, fitness specialist and yoga teacher.

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