Having a six-pack or flat abs seems to be the staple for determining how fit an individual may or may not be. The truth is, there are plenty of athletes who are not a part of the six-pack community. Often times just because someone has observable abs does not mean they are “in shape”. It simply means that a person has a low body fat percentage more than likely due to high metabolism or a low carb diet. Nevertheless, I have not met a single person who did not enjoy having them so for many, the goal is to achieve the ultimate fit and that includes toning their abdomen. Still, people who go to the gym often struggle with how to achieve a tight core and what works for some, may not work for others.
Everyone has abs, they are just more prominent on some due to the lack of fat surrounding the muscles. The first objective is to reduce abdominal fat. The simple formula is to burn more calories than you consume. The abdominals are small muscles so you are not going to get much bang for your buck by working on them every day. As weird as it sounds, if you want to burn abdominal fat, you should start by working on your legs. The legs and glutes are the most powerful muscles in your body and thus set the tone for the number of calories you will burn when working out. There are tons of exercises to do. My particular favorite is Plyometric training, which is basically me hopping around trying to improve my agility, but it works. There are other more popular methods that I have tried that didn’t work. If you’re struggling with your abs, you may have fallen victim to these as well.
Here are 6 problems I have observed people doing when trying to achieve those 6-pack abs:
Only doing crunches/sit-ups
Crunches are great training for your abs to help make them stronger but they will not get you a six-pack. If you want to burn belly fat, you have to do power movements to burn calories. Abs may be the only body part you can work repeatedly and not see results. The muscles are fairly weak. When I was losing weight, I trained abs directly once a week. Most of my moves were cardio based. It helped to burn fat and the ab training kept me from having a flabby midsection.
Not contracting your abs
Contracting your abs means to tighten your core without holding your breath. You will immediately notice the difference in your movements. You should be contracting your abs with everything you do to ensure you have a stable core. It aids in proper form and alignment and reduces your chances of getting injured.
Only doing floor work
Doing abs on the floor like crunches, sit-ups, and planks are extremely boring and monotonous. It’s also limiting. Working out on a body ball or doing standing exercises are a great way to keep your core engaged and provide a greater range of movement. Greater movement helps to work your abs deeper and you’ll be hitting your goals in no time.
Only doing only isolated movements
I can’t reiterate enough how boring working abs is. I am also not one to work muscles individually. Working upper and lower simultaneously is more challenging and provides greater results. Doing combination movements that work more than one muscle group is key. I’ve never done a core workout without involving my legs in at some point. Combine your movements and you’re sure to drip with sweat.
Neglecting your back
The back has always been a favorite area of mine to work. In all of my years of living, I have never seen someone with great abs and a weak back. Don’t forget to work the opposing muscle groups. You’ll know if you haven’t been working your back enough when you start to get back pain. Also, the better your posture, the slimmer you look.
Not taking advantage of weights
Weightlifting is an awesome form of cardio and sure to work the core. If anything, strength training will help to burn calories to get you that toned body you’re looking for.
High-Intensity Interval Training is a sure way to burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time. We’re talking 20 to 30 minutes per day. If you train hard enough, you can finish your workout in 12-15 minutes.
Every trainer can attest to the fact that there is no such thing as spot reduction and when you lose weight you lose it all around. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your ab workouts. Instead, try to set aside time to strengthen them at least 3 times per week. Crunches are great but if you really want to get that heart rate up and take your ab training to the next level, you should look to work those upper and lower abs simultaneously. This means incorporating reverse crunches and all of those Pilates moves you love to hate. The point is, don’t be lazy. Lazy work warrants the same results. It can be hard work if you’re starting from scratch but if training abs were easy, everyone would be doing it and we would have fewer infomercials.