The Truth About Abdominal Training and Body Fat
Contributor - Strength and Conditioning
Abdominal training is one of the most misunderstood endeavors of all time. Out of all the muscle groups (sans the buttocks), read any Internet or paper publication and you'll more often see at least one article that addresses ripped or toned abs and how to get them.
Do this exercise or series of exercises and "poof" there’s that elusive six-pack. No one wants an un-sexy fat gut so they jump on the latest workout gadget or routine that purportedly offers the desired look. Month after month, abs-slimming advice is put out there. Why, then, don’t we see more ripped specimens traversing the planet?
Magical Ab Devices and Programs
Let’s take a look at history. A glut of supposedly magical devices and programs has been touted over the years:
- Ab Toner
- Ab Rocker
- Ab Wheel
- Ab Circle Pro
- Ab Coaster
- Ab Rocket
- Ab Doer
- Ab Lounge
- Ab Twister
- Ab Swing
- Ab Wave
- Ab Storm
- Ab Roller
- Ab Glider
- Kruncher Ab Machine
- Belly Burner
- Flex Pro Abdominal Toner
- Bender Ball
- Sauna Pants
- Perfect Sit Up
- Tummy Tuck Belt
- 8-Minute Abs
- 10-Minute Abs
- 12-Minute Abs
- Ab Ad Nauseam
Okay, admit it. Raise your hand if you ever purchased or used one of the above. Come on - be honest.
I am not suggesting all of these products are worthless and don’t target midsection musculature. They may activate the rectus abdominus, obliques, hip flexors, and more, but do we really need to go into the “fat shredding” aspect?
"[I]f you eat like crap and do powder-puff workouts, good luck achieving those washboard abs."
These devices and programs typically come with a nutrition disclaimer and recommendations to incorporate high energy-burning workouts. In other words, if you eat like crap and do powder-puff workouts, good luck achieving those washboard abs.
The Facts About Abdominal Training
- There are so many ways to target the abdominals, including the above list. Knock yourself out.
- You can obtain that six-pack, but if it’s covered with a large layer of subcutaneous fat, then you won’t be able to see it.
- We all should know by now it is impossible to spot reduce fat stores.
- 99% of conventional abdominal workouts are poor choices for burning a bunch of calories.
- Spending thirty minutes (or even fifteen for that matter) performing a half-dozen abdominal exercises for dozens of repetitions is unnecessary. Keep it simple.
RELATED: How to Sprint Your Way to a 6-Pack
How to Train Your Abs
Your abs are no different than your other muscles. Work them hard within reasonable repetition ranges. Use variety, such as repetitions to muscular fatigue at 8-12, 15-20, or 25-40. Mix it up like you'd do with other exercises. Here are my suggestions (click on table to enlarge):
A Rational Abdominal Training Routine
NOTE: All sets performed to volitional muscular fatigue.
Trunk rotation - 2 x 15-20 reps
Trunk flexion - 1 x 8-12 reps
Trunk flexion - 2 x 15-20 reps
Trunk lateral flexion - 2 x 8-12 reps
Trunk rotation - 1 x 25-35 reps
Trunk lateral flexion x 1 x 25 -3 reps
An example of truck lateral flexion.
Trunk lateral flexion - 1 x 10-15 reps
Trunk rotation - 2 x 20-30 reps
Trunk rotation - 1 x 25 - 35 reps
Trunk flexion - 2 x 10-15 reps
Trunk rotation - 2 x 10-15 reps
Trunk flexion - 1 x 25 - 35 reps
Work your abdominals. They are important muscle groups relative to your health and functional ability. But don’t spend an inordinate amount of time addressing them for the sake of reducing body fat.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.