I can’t tell you how many people voice frustration, stomp their feet, express heartbreak, and even obsession regarding the core of their body. People who are interested and regular in their exercise are no exception. The pursuit of the famed “six pack” is elusive, at best. And there are many myths that surround the subject. Let’s try to dispel just a few of them.
Myth #1: Abdominal exercises get rid of abdominal fat.
NO. Spot reduction is NOT part of the bargain. For your abdominal muscles (or any muscles for that matter) to show, you need to lose fat. Fat loss is a systemic process. Taking a good hard look at your diet will go a long way toward helping to carve out those chiseled six pack abs. Your body loses fat by using it for fuel, so exercise is definitely part of the bargain as well. But abs are truly made in the kitchen, with your food choices.
Myth #2: Abdominal muscles are different somehow from other muscles in your body.
Nope. They respond best by being fatigued, having time to rebuild, and then being fatigued anew. So, on the days you focus on your abs, work harder. Do your best and don’t work halfway. But then make sure you keep a lighter rendition in your pocket for the next day, mostly to warm those muscles up, and stretch them, just like you do for every other muscle in your body. Cardio on your off days is a great option, with some light stretching, or a restorative class like yoga. Or, if you like to lift every day, try focusing heavier on certain muscle groups, alternating them to allow for the rest period of 24-48 hours. Chest, back and core, followed by a leg day, followed by arms and shoulders with core, would be an example of a way to mix it up but still lift daily.
Myth #3: You need to do a million reps to see results.
Huh? Not really. You need to overload the muscles to the point of fatigue, to see results. So, that means you can work smarter and not harder. Choose your exercises wisely, and perform them with the best form you can muster. Planks are a great option. You can even try some weighted exercises, and that’s not even including a basic crunch, so there are lots of options available to you. Just ask any trainer to give you a few examples.
Myth #4: Everyone can get a six pack.
Yikes! There are some cases where that may be an unreasonable goal, and I’m truly sorry. Let me go through a few examples, and I’ll illustrate why that might be the case. Some folks store a lot of their body fat in their middle. That means you might have to bring your body fat to an unreasonable and unsafe level to obtain the six pack appearance. Or, you might be a woman that has had a Cesarean Section, where the muscles were actually cut. Some of that tone may not ever come back. Another issue is called Diastasis Recti, and it’s a separation down the center of the Rectus Abdominus wall, usually due to pregnancy. So, exercise will only do so much to tighten, but that separation can be permanent. In some cases, surgery is necessary to stitch that back up. Buck up, though! Improvements in tone can still be made with a good diet, and a few basic exercises.
Understanding the possibilities and the limitations can help you to reach a reasonable goal for your abdominals. Stay with the effort, and stay strong!
Written by Melissa Abramovich, ACE CPT, NASM CGT, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist at Elite Sports Club-River Glen
Melissa Abramovich went into Personal Training and Group Exercise instruction after successfully losing 140 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Her desire to help others drove her forward into a career helping others to make healthier choices. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and now also a Medical Exercise Specialist (AAHFRP), helping clients with a myriad of health issues at Elite Sports Clubs. She holds a Bachelor’s degree, and many group exercise related certifications as well.
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.