About zero percent of people I’ve spoken to who’ve consulted me about personal training say they don’t want abs. Of course everyone wants flat abs–especially a four (for the more modestly wistful ones) or six pack! People are obsessed with crazy diet and exercise trends in desperate attempts to achieve rock-hard abdominals. But why don’t most people see any real results? Are abs really only made in the kitchen? Now before you move your exercise equipment into your kitchen space, read the list below to see the common mistakes many people make in training abs.
- Starting your workout with ab exercises. Your core is what helps stabilise your body and hold you up during exercises, especially for heavy squats and deadlifts. If you start your program for the day with ab exercises, you may wear out your ab muscles and cause them to be ineffective in helping you accomplish other ab-intensive exercises. For example, you do NOT want to do be doing heavy squats with a fatigued core; that’s what protects your spine and helps keep you from injury. Do your ab exercises at the end of your workout session instead.
- Not giving compound exercises enough credit. Doing compound exercises like squats (famous among the ladies), deadlifts, and overhead presses, will require you to activate and engage your entire core, thereby training them in a way that’s more thorough than your usual conventional crunches. Sometimes just mere ab isolation exercises won’t cut it, and might even be wasting your time. Maximise your training sessions by incorporating core engaging workouts throughout your program instead of allotting too much time on focused ab drills. You really only need 15 minutes and about 2 or 3 ab exercises at the end of each training session. Doing an entire hour on abs is a waste of your time.
- Intense daily ab training. Okay so I’ve made this mistake before because a “coach” I once looked up to told me that abs were the only muscle group you could train everyday and not need any recovery days. Wrong. Abs are just like any other muscle groups in your body that also need time to recover. When you train them hard, they may need a day or two to rest. Try a more challenging ab workout (like a pike roll on a fitness ball, or hanging leg raise) that packs a punch so that you don’t end up thinking you’re superman for being able to get up and do 100 crunches every day. Maybe that’s actually a sign that the crunches aren’t doing jack for your abs.
- Looking only at exercise and forgetting that good nutrition and proper diet are the basic foundation for abs. Everyone’s got abdominal muscles! But not everyone has the same amount of body fat that’s covering it. If you want flat abs, lower your body fat percentage by eating right. It all starts in the kitchen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Doing thousands of crunches will not get you the abs you want if you’re not mindful about what you eat.
- Not training your back. Lots of folks forget to consider that training your lower back helps keep your core strong. It’s the back side of your core! Don’t leave it out because you’re too focused on the front and sides. Make sure you get some good lower back training too and you’ll get that tight and strong core in no time.
- Forgetting to work the other angles of your core. You need to make sure you hit the other sides of your core. Think Russian twists, windshield wipers, etc. If you hit those other angles then you’re bound to see more progress on your midsection.
- Depending on commercially-sold devices that promise to give you a solid six pack in just two weeks–or whatever it is they’re promising. Listen, you don’t need any fancy equipment to work your abs. Even a simple monkey bar at a playground is a good spot to do hanging leg raises, hanging knee tucks, or windshield wipers. You can also forget about those slimming teas unless you want to hang out in the bathroom on the porcelain throne to crap your way to a flatter stomach. All you need is a good dietary habit (meaning proper nutrition), regular exercise, and commitment. Fancy gadgets and exotic teas won’t give you the results that only hard work can. Get creative, be resourceful, and most importantly, be smart.
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