There are numerous training and nutrition myths that the general public falls prey to, but bodybuilders and those of us involved in the fitness community are not fooled. We know that you cannot eat any foods that you want and just take that “breakthrough pill” to lose weight. We know that eating cabbage soup for every meal will not give you the body you are looking for.
Lastly, if you have ever stayed up late, no doubt you have seen advertisements for all the latest ab training gizmos. The infomercials claim that with these contraptions all you need is 10 minutes per day and you will have rock hard, shredded abs. Most of us know that these machines will not give us “show ready” abs.
The funny thing is that although most experienced weight trainers and bodybuilders are quick to scoff at these ab machines they still adhere to the principles behind them. These machines always are based upon the idea that abs must be trained everyday with high reps only. This approach to training abs is held by many competitive bodybuilders and figure athletes. Ab training brings about more misconceptions than any other body part. Let’s tackle these myths one at a time shall we?
MYTH #1: “Training abs will allow me to see my abs”
This one is simple. Staying lean through diet and cardio is the ONLY way to get those abs to come out. Performing abdominal exercises will do absolutely nothing to remove that layer of fat that is cover your abs. Many people feel that they can just lose the fat around their midsection and leave the fat in other areas untouched, this is not possible.
I hear too many competitors after shows claim that they need to work on their abs more before the next show. 99% of the time what they actually need is 6 more weeks of dieting. The truth is that even if you did absolutely no work for abs, you could still diet effectively and have a respectable set of abs.
MYTH #2: “Abs should be trained every day”
For some reason people have decided that abdominal muscles are different from every other muscle in the human body. The muscle tissue in the abdominals is the same as the muscle tissue in the rest of your body. All muscles need to have enough time between workouts to allow for recovery. Training your abs everyday will only overtrain your abs and they will not grow and become deeply etched. No one would think of coming to the gym and training legs everyday and it should be no different with abs.
MYTH #3: “Abs should only be trained with high reps”
Once again, the abdominal muscles are just like every other muscle. The abdominals are made up of both slow twitch muscle fibers, which respond best to low weight and high reps, and fast twitch muscle fibers, which respond best to heavy weight and low reps. Although the abs do have a higher ration of slow twitch to fast twitch fibers, this does not mean that lower reps sets should be completely left out.
To maximize results abs should be trained with both high reps and low reps. To get the results from you low rep sets weight will need to be added, which brings us to our next myth.
MYTH #4: “Using weight for ab exercises will make your waist bulky”
This actually ties into the high rep theory of ab training. I often hear people say that you should only do bodyweight exercises for very high reps. When I ask them what their reason is for doing this, the usual response I get is, “It keeps the abs tight.” When I ask them to explain what they mean by tight, they usually can’t give a response.
The only thing that would make the abs not tight would be fat over top of them, and we have already determined that diet is the only way to get rid of abdominal fat. As long as there is no fat around the midsection, no type of ab training will increase or decrease the size of your waist. The width of your waist is genetically predetermined.
Using weight for ab training will cause the abdominal muscles to grow. This is a good thing because a nice set of abs is deeply etched. The larger your abdominal muscles are the deeper the etchings and the more impressive your midsection will look. For those looking to compete, keep in mind that the judges are going to be 30 feet away, from that distance small abs will not show.
Another great thing about increasing the size of your abs is that your abs will look better even compared to someone with the same amount of bodyfat. This is because the fat on your abs will be spread across a larger surface area. For example, let’s say I give you a bucket of sand, which represents how much fat is on your midsection.
I tell you to spread that sand evenly over your kitchen floor, which represents your abs. Now I tell you to take that same bucket of sand and spread it evenly over your entire house. The sand will not cover the ground near as much. It was still the same amount of sand; the only thing that changed was the surface area. This same principle holds true for your abs. Increase the size of your abs and the fat will be spread more thinly across the surface.
MYTH #5: “Abs don’t need to be trained directly because they receive enough stimulation from other exercises”
I know that earlier in this article I said that you could do zero ab training, and as long as you get lean enough, your abs would still look respectable. This is true, but why settle for abs that are just respectable? I have never heard of anyone winning a show because their physique was respectable.
To have a truly amazing midsection you must train all the muscles that make up the abdominals. These include upper and lower abs, obliques, and intercostals. Most lifters are meticulous about hitting every muscle from every conceivable angle but when it comes to abs they will just throw in a few sets of crunches and call it a day.
Nearly every person at every gym you go into will have their own theory about the best way to train abs. Most of these theories that people have are just plain wrong, so be careful who you get your advice from. Whether you are a competitor looking to step on stage or just trying to get in shape for the beach, these common misconceptions about ab training can ruin your progress.
Training your abs intelligently, intensely, and being disciplined with your diet is the only way to get an impressive midsection from top to bottom. Now that you know to stay away from these training flaws you can stop buying gadgets off of those infomercials. This will help make your pockets deep, just like the cuts on your abs.