Is Doing Abs a Waste of Time?


I can’t even tell you how often I hear someone at the end of the workout say something like “I need to do more abs, I want to get a six-pack.” The truth is that passing on a six-pack is a better way to get a six-pack than six hundred sit-ups. The key to abdominal definition is the visibility of the abdominal musculature, not the strength of the muscles. You can do one million sit-ups, crunches or whatever exercise you want and it will have no effect on abdominal definition. When people ask me the best exercise for abs I tell them table push-aways. It usually takes a few minutes for them to get it. It’s not a joke, it’s the truth. If you want better abs, eat less and train more but, don’t just train your abs.

The idea of working abs to get abs is one of the oldest misconceptions in training. This goes back to the old idea of spot reduction. Spot reduction has never and will never work. The research has been done over and over and the answer is always the same. You can’t decrease the fat layer on a particular area by working that area. That means that the guys doing sit-ups to lose abdominal fat and the lady sitting on the adductor ( inner thigh) machine are both wasting their time. Good total body work is, was, and always will be the key to fat loss.

Want better abdominal definition? Finish every workout with some hard interval training instead of extra sit-ups or crunches. Interval training or what is currently called High Intensity Interval Training (abbreviated HIIT) is the real key to fat loss and the resulting definition. Interval training burns more calories than steady state aerobic training and because it is s sprint program you get a sprinters body.

Abdominal training may potentially reduce the diameter of the waistline but, will do very little to reduce bodyfat. The truth is there are lots of good reasons to do abdominal work or core training as we now like to call it. A strong core ( strong abs) is one of the keys in the prevention of  back pain. A strong core will help you look better and improve performance in a host of sports but, sit-ups or any other abdominal exercise will not reduce bodyfat.  The fact of the matter is that crunches will lead to back pain long before they lead to visual abs.

Another good tip. Don’t do crunches. A good abdominal or core program is a lot more than crunches. Most of your core work should be isometric exercises like front planks and side planks or carries like Suitcase carries. . One of the major functions of the core musculature is the prevention of motion. What does that mean? It means that the abdominals are great stabilizers. Work on the stability function, not on flexion and extension.

 

24 Responses to “Is Doing Abs a Waste of Time?”

  1. I love it Mike. I was once in your class in 1996. To this day I mot done crunches or crazy ab exercises. Just a nutrition plan and high intensity training. Six pack smoking

  2. […] be ineffective over and over again, according to renowned strength and conditioning gurus such as Mike Boyle.  You can’t lose fat this way; in fact the best way to lose fat is to follow a proper diet […]

  3. […] primary goal of the abs is to prevent motion. They are stabilzers. I would suggest you look at Porterfield and DeRosa’s Mechanical Low Back Pain or Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. You might also want to look at Stuart McGill’s Low back Disorders.

    Thank you for the suggestion’s. They are all great resources. I think it’s safe to say we have different view points. Yes the abs are stabilizers and the side plank is great for working the obliques. I am not so quick to throw away crunches. I think all great core routines include crunches.

    If you have any suggestions on books that cover core training that you find useful please let me know.

  4. mboyle1959 Says:

    Chad the primary goal of the abs is to prevent motion. They are stabilzers. I would suggest you look at Porterfield and DeRosa’s Mechanical Low Back Pain or Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. You might also want to look at Stuart McGill’s Low back Disorders.

  5. […] Don’t do crunches. A good abdominal or core program is a lot more than crunches. Most of your core work should be isometric exercises like front planks and side planks […]

    Crunches are one of the best exercises to get well defined ab’s. The core is more than just abs, its the abs, lower back, hips. If you want a strong core then planks and side planks are great but will do nothing for your abs.

    The primary ab movement is a “crunching” movement. When abdominal muscles contract, they pull the rib cage and the pelvis toward each other. No matter what abdominal exercise you do, if it is really a primary ab movement, this is what happens. “Conventional” abdominal exercises like Sit-Ups and Leg Raises are not primary abdominal exercises but instead work the iliopsoas muscles-the hip flexors. The hip flexors arise from the lower back, go across the top of the pelvis, and attach to the upper thigh. You use your hip flexors when you raise your leg or when you hoop your feet under an object for support and lift your torso up in a Sit-Up.

  6. […] the original post here: Is Doing Abs a Waste of Time? « Michael Boyle's Strengthcoach.com Blog Tags: abs, back, idea, misconceptions, oldest, reduction, research, spot, training, work, […]

  7. […] a REALLY good article by strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle.  You can read that article here. Again, GREAT article… I hope it helps you with your perception of the coveted […]

  8. […] to work them every other day to give them time to recover and repair. But a growing faction advocate avoiding ab work – especially conventional ab exercises – all together, seeing it as pointless. For […]

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