The Truth About Abdominal Training and Body Fat

Tom Kelso

Contributor - Strength and Conditioning

St. Louis, Illinois, United States

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?



RELATED: Abdominal Workouts Not Effective For Losing Abdominal Fat



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:



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.


ab exercises, abdominals, vmf, bodyfat, fitness myths, rotation, trunk flexion


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):


The Truth About Abdominal Training and Body Fat - Fitness, fitness myths, abdominals, ab exercises, bodyfat, rotation, vmf, trunk flexion, truth


A Rational Abdominal Training Routine

NOTE: All sets performed to volitional muscular fatigue.


Workout 1:

Trunk rotation - 2 x 15-20 reps

Trunk flexion - 1 x 8-12 reps



Workout 2:

Trunk flexion - 2 x 15-20 reps

Trunk lateral flexion - 2 x 8-12 reps


Workout 3:

Trunk rotation - 1 x 25-35 reps

Trunk lateral flexion x 1 x 25 -3 reps


ab exercises, abdominals, vmf, bodyfat, fitness myths, rotation, trunk flexion

An example of truck lateral flexion.

Workout 4:

Trunk lateral flexion - 1 x 10-15 reps

Trunk rotation - 2 x 20-30 reps


Workout 5:

Trunk rotation - 1 x 25 - 35 reps

Trunk flexion - 2 x 10-15 reps


Workout 6:

Trunk rotation - 2 x 10-15 reps

Trunk flexion - 1 x 25 - 35 reps


RELATED: The Best Abdominal Exercises for the Strength Athlete 


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.

See more about: , , , , , , ,
Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Get updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.