Myths and Facts
In order to get the best ab workout possible you need to know the facts. I will review some of the most common myths so you'll know exactly what's fact and what's fiction. What you don't know CAN hurt you.
Your goal is a flatter, firmer midsection through safe and effective ab workouts.
If you don't know the difference between fact and fiction, you could be wasting time and not getting the best ab workout possible.
#1 All-Time Myth: Working Your Abs Will Burn Your Ab Fat
This is called "Spot Reducing". It's not true for your abs, nor any other body part. Extensive ab workouts will make your stomach firmer and stronger, but will have no effect on your ab fat specifically.
When you burn fat through exercise your body pulls it from all over your body, not just the specific area you're working. You'll usually lose the most from the areas that have the most to give.
Bottom line: Targeting exercises to one body part won't burn the fat in that area. Only by consuming less calories than you burn will you reduce your body fat percentage....and that reduction will be throughout your entire body.
#2 Myth: Crunches Are The Best Way To Build Your Abs
There are many more effective ways to build your abs other than crunches. The Plank, Side Plank, Ab Wheel, Exercise Ball Roll Out, and Jackknife (see video below) are examples of superior ab exercises to crunches.
All of them involve little or no spine movement (making them safer) and work your deep ab muscles in a way that crunches can't match.
There are also some great ab developing exercises that aren't primarily thought of as ab builders. Some examples are squats, dead lifts, push ups, burpees, pull-ups, and overhead presses. All of these exercises heavily involve the abs (core) to stabilize and support the body while performing the movement.
The overload on your abs results in much stronger muscles than can be achieved with just crunches. The best ab workout certainly comes from variety and a focus on ab exercises other than crunches.
This Video Demonstrates 6 Excellent Ab Exercises Other Than Crunches.
#3 Myth: You Should Work Your Abs Everyday
Would you work your triceps everyday?? Why not?? Because they need time to recover between workouts, just like your abs. Physiologically, your abdominal muscles are just like any other muscles you work in the gym.
If you are training your abs with proper intensity and overload you should allow at least a day in between workouts for recovery. The best ab workout results can be achieved with 3 days per week.
#4 Myth: If 10 Reps are Good, 100 Reps Must Be A Lot Better
When it comes to ab work, quality beats quantity every time. The guy doing 100 crunches at a time is probably rocking, jerking, and going rapid fire....or using some other type of bad form.
Your top priority should be doing the best ab workout routines possible using proper technique.
If you're using proper technique, choosing the correct exercises with appropriate intensity, you don't need to be doing anymore than 12-20 reps (depending on the exercise). In this case, less is more.
#5 Myth: I Can Get A Six Pack if I Just Do Enough Ab Work
It does take a tremendous amount of ab development to reach six pack status. On the other hand, the biggest key to a six pack is a low body fat percentage.
Men must get down to the 10% range (Women 15%) for the abdominal muscles to show. Getting that lean is the biggest obstacle for most people.
You could have very well developed abs, but they won't be visible with a layer of fat over them. If you want a six pack you have to work your abs hard with the best ab workout possible AND get LEAN.
Getting lean means consuming fewer calories than you're burning, doing multi-joint, whole body strength training (push ups-squats-pull ups-lunges-dips, etc.), and doing high intensity interval training.
Medical Clearance: Be sure and consult with your Physician before starting any new exercise routine or program.
If you've had a back injury or back problems in the past, you should have your doctor or physical therapist specifically approve all ab and back exercises you would be doing.
A bad back will definitely prevent you from getting the best ab workout possible.
Warm Up: It's always a good idea to warm up before doing an ab workout. A warm up gets the blood flowing in your muscles, making them better prepared to get the best ab workout possible. Five minutes is all it takes.
Some light aerobic work on a treadmill, bike, or stairmaster is good. If no equipment is available, a few minutes of brisk walking if fine. Other possibilities: light calisthenics and easy stretching.
Avoiding a Pain in the Neck: Neck discomfort is an occasional problem for people performing ab exercises. I've found that in most cases it's attributed to lack of conditioning of the neck muscles. Your head weighs 8-10 pounds, a little less than most bowling balls.
You have to hold that up while performing many ab exercises. Fatigue of those muscles is what can cause some pain, or feeling like your straining. As your neck gets stronger, it will usually not be a problem.
Supporting your head with your hands helps, as long as you're not PULLING your head forward. You should place your fingertips LIGHTLY behind your ears, without interlocking your them. Keep a space between your chin and chest. Imagine you have a tennis ball tucked under your chin to keep the correct distance.
Good Pain vs. Bad Pain: Anybody who has ever worked out before knows the slight burning pain you feel when your muscles are fatiguing at the end of a set. That's "Feeling the Burn", and it will quickly dissipate. That's good pain.
Bad pain is different. Bad pain usually doesn't go away quickly. Bad pain is often a shooting pain, a sharp pain, or a muscle spasm (especially in the back). You may feel it in an area you're not working.
If you have any of these types of pain: STOP. Don't continue until the pain is gone and you can figure out what caused the pain. You may need to consult with a trainer or a doctor. Whatever you do, don't try and push yourself through bad pain. You may injure yourself worse.
Muscle Balance: Think of your torso as a column, with your abs on one side and your back muscles on the other. For the column to be strong you need strength on both sides. Both muscle groups need to be trained to avoid muscle imbalances.
Most everyone does a lot more ab training than back training. Your goal should be to include some back (especially low back) training to go along with the best ab workout routines you'll learn here.
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