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. […] Is Doing Abs a Waste of Time? « Michael Boyle's Blog […]

  2. […] strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle.  You can read that article here.  again, GREAT article… I hope it helps you with your perception […]

  3. mboyle1959 Says:

    Chris- I think you know exactly what I mean and the audience this is intended for. As for spot reduction, there are far more studies that have said it does not workk than does and the number of reps necessary if it was possible would cause lots of problems.

  4. As much as i agree with sit-ups, crunches etc are a total waste of time. I also agree with “You can’t decrease the fat layer on a particular area by working that area” but catagorising that as “Spot reduction has never and will never work” is inaccurate. You CAN spot reduce fat but not by working the muscle, you have to address hormone imbalances. This DOES spot reduce fat.

    I also don’t fully agree with the last 4 sentences. All muscles are stabilisers one way or another, this doesn’t mean we should train them to be static. The core has a massive roll in mobility, not just stability. If it were trained to be static, how would be seperate the ribcage and hip movements which we use with every step we take?

  5. […] Sit-ups, crunches, twists, leg drops, roman chair, bicycle, jack knife, side bend…….any chance you end your workout with 100’s of these, or even worse, do you start your workout with these?  The discussion of ab work comes up everyday at my studio.  My golfers ask all the time to do extra ab work because they want a washboard stomach.  Consequently, I spend a lot of time doing education with them on exactly why doing excessive sit-ups will not get them the six-pack they dream of and in reality, may cause more damage to their golf game in the long run.  Here is a great article from Mike Boyle that explains the truth about abs! […]

  6. Are you saying passing on the six pack will reduce abdominal fat?

  7. I am always trying to explain this to patients, but it can be very challenging to change their preconceived ideas regarding “core” strength. Similar to trying to change their idea regarding static stretching prior to a workout. I have changed some of the verbiage that I use regarding core exercise, and now refer to it is simply core endurance, especially for our patients currently experiencing pain. I find that using this term helps to change a patient’s thought process a little bit, and allows them to focus a little more on the actual goals of the specific exercise, rather than trying to get a “six-pack.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Carlos Hernandez Says:

    Keep them informed, great article !

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