The Truth About Abs: Some Common Myths Debunked

When it comes to training techniques, there’s no group of Male and Female Ab Picmuscles on the body that draws more controversy than the abdominals (abs).  I would bet there’s more misguided information out there about abdominal training than any other exercise topic.  Here’s some of the top myths about training abs and what you should know:


Myth #1

Abdominal Exercises Help Melt Stubborn Belly Fat.

Sorry to break the news, but spot reduction doesn’t work (unless you get liposuction!) for abs or any other areas of your body you’re looking to trim fat from.  Performing abdominal exercises will strengthen and Spot Reductiontone your muscles, but will do absolutely nothing to reduce the layer of fat that surrounds them.  The only way to shed fat from your waist area (or any other area) is to reduce your overall body fat by creating a calorie deficit through proper nutrition and a well-balanced home workout plan that includes aerobic exercise.


Myth #2

For Best Results, Train Abdominal Muscles More Frequently Than Other Muscles.

Your abdominal muscles are similar to all the other muscles in your body and don’t need special attention. Like all other muscle groups, you should train your abdominals 2 – 3 times per week (incorporating various exercises), with at least 48 hours rest in between workouts. You don’t need to spend valuable time every day doing countless crunches or following some useless 60 minute abdominal workout DVD.  That time is better spent taking a nice brisk walk or a jog – you’ll see better results at your waistline!


Myth #3

It’s Best to do High Repetitions When Training Your Abdominal Muscles.

Keep in mind that your abdominal muscles are like all other muscles in your body.  If you’re looking to make them stronger and more toned (which I hope you are), you’ll need to challenge them with the proper Abdominal Exerciseresistance.  Depending on your strength training goals, you should use a resistance where you can perform between 8 and 20 repetitions.  Doing higher repetitions (>20) with lighter resistance won’t do much for strengthening and toning muscles, and certainly won’t burn fat.


So why would you want to do 100 (or even 50) repetitions of an abdominal exercise?  You wouldn’t do thatWeighted Abdominal Exercise many bench presses, would you?  Of course not – it’s a waste of time.  To see progress at your waistline, follow the same principles that apply to all other muscles.  If you can easily do more than 20 repetitions (in perfect form) for a particular abdominal exercise, try holding a weight for added resistance.  You can also step things up by including more challenging exercises.             


Myth #4

Doing Side Bends With Weight Will Help Shrink Your “Love Handles.”

Abdominal ExerciseThis gets back to the concept of spot reduction.  You simply can’t melt away body fat by exercising the muscle that lies underneath a layer of fat.  The side bend exercise will help strengthen and tone your side waist muscles – nothing else.  In fact, those muscles may even get bigger if you train them with heavy weight.  You don’t want that, do you?  Remember: You can’t control where your body loses fat from.  However, eating less and moving more will help you lose it all over.


Myth #5  

You Can Work Your Upper and Lower Abdominals Separately.

The fact is, your main group of abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus) is one long muscle and its lower and Abdominal Musclesupper portions can’t contract independent of one another.  Therefore, the whole muscle (upper and lower) is activated during each abdominal exercise you perform.  However, certain exercises are more effective than others at working each of the different portions of the rectus abdominus muscle.  That’s all the more reason to incorporate a variety of abdominal exercises into your home workout plan.


Myth #6

You Need Special Equipment to Train Your Abdominal Muscles Effectively.

Contrary to what all those late night infomercial scammers want you to believe, you do not need any special equipment to train abdominal muscles.  In fact, most abdominal exercises can be done with Abdominal Machinesusing your own body weight.  However, I do recommend that you purchase a stability ball for training abdominals (see post).  It’ll come in very handy, especially when you need more challenging exercises as those muscles become stronger.  You also might want to consider purchasing an exercise mat, but that’s up to you.



I think I’ll end it there at six myths – there are others, but those are the main culprits.  Just remember to treat your abdominal muscles like all other muscles.  You don’t need to work them any more or any less.  And if you’re looking to trim fat from your abdominal area, you’ll need to eat healthier and get the right amount of aerobic exercise – adding hundreds of crunches to your home workout plan won’t get it done.


I hope that helps,


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4 Responses to The Truth About Abs: Some Common Myths Debunked

  1. Christian July 6, 2014 at 10:26 PM #


    As a fellow Personal Trainer of over 10 years I appreciate your article. It is not often that I agree with just about every single point that you made.

    Oftentimes….if a client was to ask the opinion of 10 different personal trainers they would get several “correct” answers. I don’t want to go too far off topic but don’t assume that because the trainer has the “best” body that they have the “best information”….Genetics can make it much easier for some people to get the results you are looking for.

    I think the most refreshing part of your article is where you state train them like every other muscle. You want them to get stronger (to protect from lower back injuries) train them with heavier (relatively) weights in a rep range 8-20 till failure!

    The Greed that has overrun the fitness industry has led to people marketing toward people’s desires to lose their belly fast and with some “new cool trick” or piece of equipment. They are playing on your desires for the QUICK FIX. There is not one. Like anything YOU GET THE BODY YOU EARN THRU nutrition and exercise.

    Abs are made in the kitchen for most of us (the genetically gifted aside). The funny thing about Abs training is that pretty much ANYTHING WILL “Work” if you get the body fat down to a level you can see the tone of the muscle. The Abs are a muscle that is not easily “measured” like a bicep or a triceps or Quadriceps ..i.e. a flat stomach devoid of body fat begins to show the abdominal muscles poking thru….training with heavy weights is the best idea to strengthen them (and protect your lower back) and I train that way and it’s good advice…but the absolute key is just Bringing down the overall level of body fat. Training abs heavier will probably get the abs to be thicker and poke thru abdominal fat layer easier if they are thicker/stronger…but in the end it really is all about lowering your body fat until you see the abs. Genetically some people need to get to a lower % of body fat than others to “see their abs” because genetically they may tend to store more fat in their stomach’s as opposed to other areas.

    Minimizing Simple Carbohydrates that easily convert to sugar which spike insulin and lead to fat storage is key! I have many clients that train their butts off but can’t break thru a certain level of body fat. Often times they think they are eating healthy but they are not…they have a diet full of refined carbohydrates or carbs that easily convert to simple sugars. Minimize All breads (except Ezekial Bread) and avoid WHEAT (read “wheat belly”) Flour and Sugar (outside of quality fruits) and I would avoid Baked potato’s and rice (especially after 5pm) Nutrition is the key and Abs are made in the kitchen…eat proteins’ healthy fat’s veggies and fibrous fruits as the majority of your caloric intake add in some interval cardio and watch the fat disappear and the abs get leaner.

    • Paul Thomas
      Paul Thomas July 8, 2014 at 4:07 PM #

      Hi Christian,

      I’m glad you liked the article. I appreciate your comments – you make many good points. You’re absolutely right – both diet and genetics play such a huge role in terms of developing great abs.

  2. Paul June 30, 2013 at 4:21 PM #

    Hi Kate,
    I’m glad you liked it. I think it’s a sensitive topic for everyone! It still amazes me how long some of these myths have been around and won’t die.

  3. Kate Rainey June 28, 2013 at 7:31 PM #

    Hi Paul — Interesting myths about abs, a sensitive topic for many women over 40. The photos are great!

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