Here’s Part Two of an article from Charles Staley i posted a couple of weeks back:
10 Overlooked And Misunderstood Facts About Ab Training (Part Two)
Last article we discussed a number of common fallacies about ab training, including belt use, diet, and force production.
This week I’ll continue with more little-known facts about your elusive six-pack.
4. Training Your Abs Correctly Helps Your Back. Training Them Incorrectly Hurts Your Back
The average fitness wannabe will gravitate toward doing dozens, maybe hundreds of crunches per day. After all it worked for Brittney, right? There are at least two problems with this not so innocent approach to ab traning:
1) The reason you can’t see your abs is- you’re too fat. Why then, would you focus your training on one small muscle group that will not result in significant caloric expenditure? It’s a waste of time.
2) Actually, it’s worse than a waste of time- it could increase your chance of spinal injury. Here’s how: Over weeks, months, and years of sit-ups and crunches, your rectus abdominus is likely to chronically shorten as an adaptation to said training. Stand up right now and contract your abs, like you’re doing a standing crunch. Notice how it takes the curvature out of your lower back?
That’s what can happen when you do too many crunches and sit-ups. And when you can’t maintain a neutral spine, you’re much more likely to injure yourself the next time you lift something heavy.
A better approach is to focus more on static training for your rectus abdominus, as well as rotational ab drills, which don’t have the same potential to shorten your abs. Here are a few examples from our You Tube Channel (these links will open in new windows).
5. You May Be Training Your Abs More Than You Think
Most people under-estimate how much work their abs receive through their regular training schedule. Squats, cleans, deadlifts, snatches, farmer’s walks, kettelebell work, and even heavy dumbbell upper-body exercises result in very high levels of abdominal activation. And honestly, probably as much as you really need.
6. Your Abs Don’t Need High Reps
If and when you do decide to do direct ab training, just use normal loading scenarios, just like you would with any other exercise. Where did the high-rep myth come from? Hard to say, but I suspect is has something to do with the (also) mistaken notion that you can “melt” fat off of your midsection through lots of reps- I guess people think that since high reps make them sweat, that heat helps to burn their fat off.
This myth may also stem from the idea that the abdominal muscles are composed mostly of slow-twitch fibers, and therefore benefit most from high-repetition training. While this is at least a plausible premise, I’d also suggest that muscles should be trained based on what they need to do, as opposed to what they’re composed of. If you should happen to slip on some ice, your abs need to explosively contract to keep your spine in neutral. If you’re a discus thrower, a golfer, a tennis player, or any other rotational athlete, you need explosive abdominal functionality.
7. There Is No Direct Metabolic Pathway Between Your Abs And The Fat That Covers Them
Or to use more conventional language, there’s no such thing as isolating a muscle or spot reduction. I covered this in an earlier point, but it bears repeating: Your pattern of bodyfat deposition is genetically pre-determined. Guys tend to carry fat on their midsections (android fat deposition) and women tend to carry it on their hips and thighs (gynoid deposition). You’ll always have this pattern, no matter how lean or fat you become. So just train the large muscle groups using “big” exercise and heavy weights, and maybe add some heavy cardio (if you’re in the mood), and you should create the caloric deficit you’ll need to get leaner.
8. The Best Way To Train Abs Is With A Stability Ball
Obviously you already know part of my argument against this idea from my earlier comments, but given the popularity of stability balls lately, I thought I’d add a few remarks on the topic here. First, I actually like the ball for certain exercises, because it 1) increases the range of motion you can employ, and 2) because it’s more comfortable than the floor.
Also, the ball allows for some creative exercises, such as the ball scissors that I provided a video of earlier. With that said however, stability balls are a tool, and like all tools, they provide benefits as well as drawbacks, depending on how you use them. If, for example, you labor under the mistaken impression that you need to do thousands of crunches per week, and that the ball is better because it provides greater range of motion, all you’ll do is end up shortening your trunk flexors and lose your lordodic curvature. SO the ball’s OK, as long as you keep things in context.
9. The Best Ab Exercises Are The Ones You Can Really FEEEELLL…
Uhh, wrong. Muscles respond to the training stress they experience, not how that stress feels. Just like any other muscle. Whether or not you feel a particular exercise is inconsequential. Perhaps one of the most productive ab exercises is heavy squats while wearing a belt, but I doubt that you consciously feel your abs while doing those squats.
10. Your Abs Can Get Too Big If You Train Them Too Much
Unlikely. Actually, let’s just go with nearly impossible. The structure and function of the abdominal musculature makes this scenario highly unlikely. If you happen to subscribe to this myth based on seeing lean bodybuilders with big guts, relax: you’re looking at enlarged livers from GH and other drug use. Unless you use these substances, you won’t suffer the same fate.
About The Author
Charles Staley…world-class strength/performance coach…his colleagues call him an iconoclast, a visionary, a rule-breaker. His clients call him “The Secret Weapon” for his ability to see what other coaches miss. Charles calls himself a “geek” who struggled in Phys Ed throughout school. Whatever you call him, Charles’ methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results.
Click here to visit Charles’ site and grab your 5 FREE videos that will show you how to literally FORCE your body to build muscle, lose fat and gain strength with “Escalating Density Training,” Charles’ revolutionary, time-saving approach to lifting that focuses on performance NOT pain.