Update: This article has been re-published on BodyBuilding.com. Click here to read that version, or just stick around and continue reading the original article here.
“The first rule to get abs is: you do not do situps. The second rule to get abs is: you DO NOT do situps.” – Tyler Durden of Fight Club
OK, Tyler didn’t really say that. But as women everywhere reminded their dates in the post-movie recap, he did have some serious abs. Or maybe it was the guy who played him—you know, ol’ what’s-his-obliques. But whomever they belonged to, they were the kind of muscles that weren’t just made in the kitchen. They were carved by hard training, and revealed by smart diet choices.
But here’s the thing about ab training: what you do is only one half of the equation. What you don’t do is the other—and I’m not just talking about the usual pre-photo shoot fitness model tricks like avoiding sodium, carbs, happiness, or air. I’m referring to the piles of abominable abdominal misinformation lurking out there, both on television and in casual conversation. Perhaps more than any other body part, ab training keeps you constantly on guard against making basic mistakes.
Below are 10 of the biggest ab training mistakes I see people make. I could say I “always” see people make them, because that’s how people talk about abs, but that’s not technically accurate. I mean, everybody has to blink sometimes, and every once in a while I have to go get a drink of water. But aside from that, yeah, it’s pretty much constant.
But if you can minimize—or completely eliminate—these mistakes, you might just see your abs pop out sooner than planned.
- Forgetting that compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses work your abs. If you’re strictly performing isolation ab exercises, you’re making a huge mistake. These compound exercises engage every inch of your core so don’t forget to include them in your training program.
- Doing ab exercises first in your workout. Your abs are part of your core area which helps to stabilize your body. If you fatigue them early in your workout, you will have a hard time doing other exercises like squats. Save them for the end instead.
- Doing countless crunches. Want to know the secret to six-pack abs? Lower your body fat percentage. Not by doing hundreds of reps of ab exercises. You can train them all you want, but if your diet isn’t in check you’ll never see that six-pack.
- Having a full workout just for abs. All you need is 15 minutes. If you’re already doing compound exercises like squats and deadlifts, one or two ab exercises for 2-3 sets each at the end of your workout is sufficient enough.
- Training them everyday. Abs are just like any other muscle in your body. That means they need at least a couple of days to recover, just like all the other muscles groups.
- Only doing crunches.There are hundreds of exercises out there that are much more effective than the traditional crunch. In fact, the traditional crunch is one of the least effective ab exercises you can. Try this one instead.
- Not focusing on form. Again, abs are just like any other muscle in your body. Focus on form and make sure to have your abs engaged in every rep.
- Forgetting that your lower back is part of your core. A lot of people neglect the lower back muscles (erector spinae), so make sure to train them just as you would with every other muscle. If you want to have a strong core, treat your lower back like you would with your abs.
- Only working your core in one angle. Because your obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae are all part of your core, you must train it in more than just one angle. Seated twists (spinal rotation), hyperextensions (spinal extension), side bends (lateral spinal flexion), and planks (isometric/stabilization) are all examples of ways you can target your core instead of just doing the typical crunch (spinal flexion).
- Using ab gizmos you saw in an infomercial. See video below. Seriously?
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