Take’s Take: The ABS-olute Truth About Abs

I recently had a friend of mine from high school ask me what was the best way to work her abs. Despite what most of those cheesy infomercials and gimmicky abdominal machines claim, there really isn’t a “best way” to work your abs. I am both appalled and amazed by many of these commercials and products, not only because of the ridiculousness of their claims, but also because so many people actually believe them! After offering my high school friend some advice, I felt compelled to bring to light some of the myths about abs and how to effectively develop them.

The biggest and most common myth about abs is the idea of “spot reduction”; doing exercises for a specific area will help reduce body fat in that area. Particularly the midsection, aka gut, aka pooch, aka…well, you get the idea! Although you may be working the abdominal muscles, if you still have a (thick) layer of fat over your abs they’ll never show. To decrease your body fat, you have to consume less calories than you body burns so that you are in a negative caloric balance. For example if your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE (the total number of calories your body burns in a day–you can find calculators online) is 2000 calories, you want to take in 1700-1800 calories a day to be at a -200-300 caloric balance (to drop 1lb of body fat you must burn 3500 calories…not all in one day though!). You can accomplish this by eating healthier to decrease the calories you take in and exercising to increase the calories you burn. That’s right boys and girls, if you want to have a flat stomach and six-pack abs you are going to have to eat better and workout regularly!

They key to developing strong and visible abs is to have a well-rounded workout program that incorporates cardio and full body exercises. Cardio burns calories to help shed body fat and full body movements are heavily dependent on abdominal muscles. Make sure you balance your abdominal work with lower back exercises to ensure that you have a healthy and injury-free core.

The other popular myth about abs I often hear is that doing a high volume of exercises and repetitions is good for strengthening abs. Contrary to popular believe, the core muscles—comprised of the rectus abdominus (abs), obliques (sides) and erector spinae (lower back)—is no different than any other muscle. The more ab exercises and reps you do is not necessarily better. If you are new to fitness, then yes, higher reps and low intensity abs exercises is recommended to build up your initial core strength and endurance. Once you’ve built a durable and conditioned core, focus on higher intensity abs exercises with fewer reps to promote muscle strength and definition.

At the end of the day, having muscle definition and tone is about having good body composition (fat mass vs. lean body mass). Regular exercise and healthier eating is the best—and only—way to get into shape and stay in shape. The less body fat you have the more your abs will show.

Remember, less calories in, more calories out. Less in, more out. Less in, more out. Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off…

 

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