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. […] 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 […]

  2. […] is the absolute BEST exercise for getting the abs of your dreams?  Renowned strength coach Mike Boyle recommends table push-aways……Ever heard of them?  Let me explain how to perform them correctly.  When sitting at […]

  3. […] demon­strate some back break­ing exer­cises, I ref­er­enced Mike Boyle recent blog post on “Is doing abs a waste of time”. I sim­ply told him that even if he did 1000 sit ups every­day as long as your diet isn’t […]

  4. […] under the stuff” as a young man I know once said!  🙂 From Coach Boyle’s blog: : “I can’t even tell you how often I hear someone at the end of the workout say something […]

  5. mboyle1959 Says:

    Thanks for reading. Airdynes are a wonderful love-hate relationship.

  6. Craig Burns Says:

    I think Gray Cook is brilliant. I was just referring to his long winded answers on the strength coach podcast. I know you guys are dealing with S&C on a much higher level and it is your livelihood. I think the psychological side is huge. I have been reading in this area for about 20 years. It is a hard thing to quantify. I believe in the stupidity theory as well. For years i have been interested in why people sabotage their own health. This is not done on a conscious level, yet it is done. Why does a guy like Hank Morse (just an example because I know you helped him, and whom I like as a radio personality) put some weight back on after working so hard to lose it. What does the food do for the person. What role is the fat playing in his life? Hank may not know the real answer to this question. He may not want to know. The same can be said for injuries. The injury serves some kind of purpose. The athlete may be doing things improperly. I agree with all your training methods. They are proven. I think the psychology drives the body toward the failure. It certainly isn’t something you, as a coach, can do anything about. It is totally anectdotal, but I have often predicted injuries that occurred. It is kind of “deep” psychological stuff but really makes a lot of sense when you delve into it. It’s hard to break it down in a paragraph. I guess I’m like the hammer. Always looking for a nail. Oh, by the way, the only reason I have an Airdyne is because of you. Then I heard you mention that you did 5 mile rides. I always try to do it in under 12:30. Greatest workout. Thank you Mike!

  7. mboyle1959 Says:

    5 mile in 12:20 is really good but I don’t think most injuries are psychosomatic. I think most injuries are stupidity based. You think most people are soft, I think most are dumb followers. People get hurt because they are uniformed or follow the media. And thank god for guys like Gray Cook. Bright people ask questions and make you think, that is good. Rant over, time for work.

  8. Craig Burns Says:

    How about a 5-mile airdyne ride in 12:20 and some abdominal work. I don’t train people and have been doing everything “wrong” in my training for 25 plus years. You must have a lot of patience to do personal training. Most people are such little babies when it comes to exercise. I think a lot of injuries are psychosomatic. I saw the same injuries to the same neurotic people my whole athletic career. Our culture is Whacked! Too much science. Guys like Gray Cook slightly over-analyze things. Oh well, I’m just an internet content critic. You guys in the S&C field sure do work hard…too hard. I think people take sports way too serious these days. College hockey players don’t look like they are enjoying themselves as much as they used to. Random rant…over. I think I need a nap.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: