One of the most misunderstood muscle groups is the abdominal. There is a lot of misinformation and unrealistic expectations out there regarding this muscle group. Despite the hard work that we put into our ab training, we still cling to outdated ideas on the proper way to work our core. Let’s dispel some of these myths so you can start correctly building those fresh set of abs you always wanted…
MYTH #1- “I need to train my abs to flatten my stomach.”
One of the biggest misconceptions is that abdominal training helps to flatten the stomach. Spot reduction is a myth; it is purely impossible to achieve. No amount of sit-ups, crunches or leg lifts will strip away abdominal fat. It just doesn’t work like that. Abdominal exercises only help develop the muscles of the abdomen. If you have a layer of fat covering your midsection then you’ll never see your ab muscles, regardless of how much you train. Even doing a lot of cardio isn’t going to strip away all that extra fat. Burning off that fat begins and ends with dieting. There’s no way around it.
MYTH #2- “Abdominals are endurance muscles so they can be trained more.”
Many believe that the abs are endurance muscles so they can recover very quickly from exercise. The abs really aren’t an endurance muscle after all. The rectus abdomens (i.e. the “six-pack” muscle) actually is composed of roughly equal amounts of fast-twitch (strength-related) and slow-twitch (endurance-related) fibers. This is similar to the muscles of the thighs and arms. If you compare this to a true endurance-related muscle like the soleus (one of the calf muscles), which has about 80 percent slow-twitch fibers, you’ll see that the abs are a muscle of strength as much as endurance. You should train fast-twitch fibers, like the abs, less frequently than slow-twitch fibers, which can be trained almost daily.
Abs are just like any other muscle in the body. They require adequate rest and recovery. You should give yourself 3-4 days between abdominal workouts. Would you train your chest or biceps daily? If the abs are composed of the same types of muscle tissues as your other muscles, why would you train them differently?
MYTH #3- “Abs should only be trained with high reps.”
Once again, the abdominal muscles are just like any other muscle. The abdominals are made up of both slow twitch muscle fibers, which respond best to low weight and high reps, and fast twitch muscle fibers, which respond best to heavy weight and low reps. To maximize results, incorporate both high reps and low reps with your ab exercises.
MYTH #4- “I only train my abs through actual ab exercises.”
If you are involved in a regular strength training program, you should train your abs even less frequently than other muscles. Abs are indirectly involved in nearly every exercise you do. When you do squats, deadlifts, presses, and other compound based exercises, you are using your abs and core to stabilize the body, support the spine, and maintain balance. All your power originates from your core so you need this muscle to propel yourself through the other exercises.
MYTH #5- “A six pack is the holy grail.”
Your genetics play a large role in how your abs look. Everyone has abs that are shaped differently. Some people only have a “four pack” – the third row is under flat sheet of tendinous tissue. You can train your abs perfectly and have a very strict diet regimen but your abs may not always look as good as someone else’s. However, if you train your abs and eat well, you will look ripped, no matter if it’s not a perfect six-pack.