Let's face it. Ask anybody what body part they would like to improve on, and a vast majority will most likely reply, "my stomach." As a student-athlete, I have noticed that my teammates and classmates commonly associate a visible 6-pack with a strong core, and simply just an overall healthier lifestyle. While this may be the case for some, visible abs do not solely indicate one's physical health. While there is no clear right or wrong way to get abs, there are clearly many ways of getting abs that prove to be more productive than others, and those that prove to be much less effective.
If you're thinking about getting those summer abs, be sure to go into training knowing the TRUTH.
Here are 5 common myths about achieving abs, and what you can do instead to get results.
1. You should train abs every day, 7 days a week.
Just like any other muscle on your body, your abs need to rest. Working out is essentially putting stress on your body, and not allowing your muscles to heal. Why? Truth be told, your muscles don't grow while you're working out, they grow during the healing process. As your abs are working and pushing their limits during the workout, you may feel soreness once you rest. That soreness is simply your muscles trying to heal themselves, and they will gradually show definition over time.
Aim to train your abs for 2 days on and one day off, or you can train every other day with high intensity, weight abdominal exercises.
2. Working your abs will get you a flat stomach.
To put it simply:
If you want to lose fat in one place, you have to lose fat throughout the body. That's the sad reality.
You could be doing 1,000 crunches each day (with rest days of course, as mentioned in the previous paragraph), but that won't contribute to getting a flatter stomach. Additionally, it's important to remember that quality is more important than quantity. Doing the ab exercises incorrectly can lead to muscle imbalances in the hip, back and abs, making the quantity ineffective and ultimately a waste of time.
Engage your entire body in different forms of cardio, HIT, and other aerobic exercises. Intensity levels can range from low to high, but frequency and duration are important to keep in mind. Weights very effective in reducing body fat and burning calories, and adding weights to your ab exercises can also give your abs a sharper and more defined look. Aim to engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity each week, and even walking for an hour after a meal is effective.
3. I have to go on a crash diet to lose ab fat.
Yes, a lean diet is very important for getting rid of the fat around your abs, but suddenly switching to a low-calorie, non-sustainable diet is often times very ineffective because it promotes quick regain; a diet that promises quick weight loss will most likely promise quick weight gain. But most importantly, the diet must be sustainable. If it isn't a diet that you can stick to for a good 2-4 months, about 70% of the time, don't put yourself through that stress.
Gradually add changes to your diet. Each day, cut a few snacks from your diet (that cookie you eat before dinner, the cup of wine you treat yourself with after dinner), which can easily cut around 300-500 calories from your daily deficit. Healthy alternatives will also give you the best nutrient to calorie ratio. It is also important to note that abs are built upon MUSCLE and that protein is what feeds the muscle and starves the fat. Focus on slowly improving your diet and keeping it healthy for a while. You can start by cutting some sugary snacks from your diet and avoiding these 5 often junky foods that are often mistaken to be healthy.
4. I only have to follow one ab workout.
Your body can adapt fairly quickly to that 10-minute ab workout you've been doing for 4 weeks now. If you're doing the same workout for more than 4 weeks, it's probably a good time to mix it up.
Expose your abdominals to different ab workouts, movements, and stretches. This not only works the abs, even more, but it is also much more effective than doing the same workout and expecting results. This also goes for cardio; mix up your cardio! Go on a run for some days, and join a group class for some other days. Be sure to mix up your workouts to improve your body more and more.
5. Anybody can get abs.
For some, genetic characteristics, disorders, or simply body types can prevent them from getting a visual six-pack. Remember: abs are visually apparent. Body fat must be low, and their muscles must be toned, and yes, it is often times true that men have it easier than women. Women naturally carry more body fat, so don't be surprised if men get those visual abs quicker than women, even if they are following the same ab routine and eating identical foods.
Visual abdominal muscles do not indicate how healthy you are. Even if it is genetically impossible for you to get abs, that doesn't mean you can't be an athlete. Following a cleaner diet, getting 60 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, and staying happy all contribute to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, you can even still do the same training for abs and maintain a strong core. Just because you can't see your abs doesn't mean you can't have a strong hell of a core.
Well-defined abdominal muscles, whether achieved through pure dedication and commitment, superior genetics, or a combination of the two, are coveted because they are so elusive. In short, each person is different. Some things are simply attainable for some and impossible for others, but in the end, it's important to remember that each person is built differently, and in some cases, it can just all come down to genetics. But most importantly, having a strict diet, sticking to an effective and sustainable regime, and drinking plenty of water are all vital in getting the defined ab look and leading an overall healthier lifestyle.