_ No other body part gets quite as much attention as the abs. Seems everyone wants that elusive "six pack." But there are plenty of misconceptions floating around about how to get that chiseled midsection. It’s time to set the record straight about the top three myths in abdominal training:
Myth #1: Anyone Can Have Six-Pack Abs.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but genetics have an impact on overall muscle definition – and how close you’ll really get to that coveted six-pack look. According to William Kraemer, PhD, exercise physiologist at the University of Connecticut and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), "Mass in the abdominals is based on the amount of muscle fibers that are there genetically."
Richard Cotton, exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) points out that six-pack abs are a “pre-cellulite” condition that is usually reserved for teens and 20-somethings. As we age, we tend to accumulate more subcutaneous body fat – making that sculpted look harder to attain.
Women, in particular are at a genetic disadvantage. Because their bodies are equipped to bear and nourish children, they naturally store more fat as a primary energy source than men do.
But don’t despair – men and women in their 30s and 40s (even 50s – just look at Madonna) can still flaunt ultra-taut abs. Since you can’t build your abs past their predetermined size, that chiseled look mostly comes from physical conditioning and having little abdominal fat covering the muscles. Which brings us to Myth #2…
Myth #2: Abdominal Exercises Alone Will Get Rid of Ab Flab.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as spot reduction when it comes to getting rid of that unwanted muffin top. While crunches and other exercises will firm and strengthen your abs, they alone won’t remove those love handles.
Your abdominal muscles are made up of three layers. The deepest layer is the transversus abdominis, which supports and stabilizes your body. The next layer is the rectus abdominis, which flexes the spine. The obliques are closest to the surface – you use these to rotate your torso.
Fat tends to accumulate just beneath the surface of the skin. Your muscles are under that fatty tissue. To see those muscles, you’ve got to torch the layer of fat that’s covering them!
To shed that extra fat, combine regular abdominal training with healthy eating habits and cardiovascular conditioning. Whether you choose to run, walk, bike or take a Zumba fitness class, cardio exercise will help you burn calories.
Myth#3: You’ve Gotta Do Hundreds of Crunches to See Results.
Many people mistakenly think they need to do hundreds of crunches and sit ups every day for a toned midsection. Not true. Your abdominals are just like any other muscle group – they respond to resistance. But you don’t have to do hundreds of sit-ups to see results. You can still work those abs effectively with just two or three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.
Just as you most likely wouldn’t do 50 bicep curls at a time, you don’t need to do 50 crunches, either. Just work smarter by slowing down and isolating the muscles you are working. Include a variety of exercises that focuses on each of the abdominal muscles, two to three times per week.
Even more important than getting that sexy six-pack look is having a strong core – it’ll improve your posture, reduce your risk of injury and even decrease low back pain. And that translates to better balance and coordination in your favorite sports, whether you’re on the golfing green, tennis courts or ski slopes.
Ready for some ab-sculpting exercises? Check out these fitness experts’ favorites:
And remember, consistency is key! Along with abdominal exercises, include regular strength and cardio training in your workouts. Combine these with a healthy, low-fat diet, and you’ll see yourself with that toned midsection you've always wanted!
Downs, Martin F. “Flat Abs for Men: Go-to Exercises”. WebMD. n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://men.webmd.com/features/flat-abs-for-men-go-to-exercises>
Samataro, Barbara Russi. “Striving for Six-Pack Abs”. WebMD. n.d. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/striving-for-six-pack-abs>
Sinclair, John, CSCS. “Seeking the Perfect Six-Pack”. My ePHIT.com. 22 May 2006. Web. 2 Feb. 2009. <https://my.ephit.com/en/clubhouse/library/details.asp?article_id=1234&back=true>