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5 Myths That Keep You from Better Abs

By Alexander VanHouten, Master Trainer & Life Time Education Specialist

“When will my abs show?”

Great question. I wish I could predict how well you will follow your program, how well your body will respond, and what lighting will be present in the all-important mirror you’re looking into at the time of your visual assessment. I wish I could, but I can’t.

However, since I get this question often, it clearly points to a very important fact of the fitness world.

Our midsections are a hugely important part of how fit and healthy we believe ourselves to be.

In addition to the aesthetic assurance we draw from the image of a fit midsection, there’s the perceived (and legitimate) health component as well.

Visceral fat, the kind collected around your internal organs, correlates with a whole host of health concerns ranging from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and gastrointestinal issues.[i]

It’s not far-fetched to say that our desire for an athletic, toned, cut, and/or flat stomach is actually healthy. That is to say, your goal of getting “abs” (no matter how superficial it might initially sound) may actually prolong your life by motivating you to reduce midsection adipose tissue.

I can’t tell you when your abs will show, but I can dispel 5 myths that are slowing down your timeline to getting them.

Myth 1: You need to do more cardio.

Change this statement to “you need to do more [intelligent] cardio,” and I wouldn’t have anything to harp on.

Many people believe they need to spend copious amounts of time on the treadmill to nuke the fat that keeps their abs from peeking through. This simply isn’t true for most.

If you combine the most cutting edge interval cardio research with personalized metabolic testing, you’ll find that three cardio sessions/week are sufficient for the majority of people to get amazing results.

It’s not as much about increasing the amount of time you spend doing cardio as it is about improving the use of that time! Also, if you have to spend ten or more hours per week doing cardio in addition to your five hours of weight training just to keep your abs, you’re not likely to keep them for long. Get tested, become more intelligent with your cardio, and those abs will show themselves before you know it!

Myth 2: You cannot “spot reduce.”

Actually, this statement is wholly incorrect—except not in the way you might think….

You cannot “tone” or reduce fat in the abdominal region by doing crunches and planks, but you can target fat reduction in this region by improving your insulin and cortisol function. Midsection fat accumulation has been linked closely to the malregulation of these hormone systems. Helping insulin and cortisol operate better in your body can thereby “target” fat reduction in your tummy and love handles.

Likewise, sleeping better , avoiding added sugars, recovering adequately between workouts, incorporating resistance training, and getting proper support for altered stress-adaptation response will all help get these systems functioning properly[ii]. From there, you will quickly see true midsection “spot reduction” in action!

Myth 3: Crunches are ineffective for developing core muscles.

Speaking of “spot reduction,” let’s talk about crunches.

The truth is, isolation exercises for abdominal muscles target them to grow just like any other muscle group. All variations of crunches have been demonized because in an effort to shape up their midsections, gym goers often isolate abdominals to the detriment of their backs, necks and hip flexors WITHOUT addressing Myth #2.

A safer and healthier approach would have you regularly practice and master TRX, deadlift and kettlebells to develop integrated core function. THEN add abdominal isolation (crunches) 2-3x/week to “pop” those muscles out!

Myth 4: Don’t work your abs every day. They need rest just like every other muscle group.

If the myth read, “Don’t do the same core exercises every workout,” I wouldn’t argue. But the idea that you shouldn’t exercise your “abs” each session in some way is fundamentally false.

Your core is required for every significant movement you do in the gym and outside of it. Life won’t give them a rest—why should you? Just like your calves, which are involved in everything you do upright (e.g. walking, running, standing while you check out the menu in the Life Café, etc….), your core doesn’t need a break to be amazing.

What it needs is variety.

Ensure that you vary the exercises session to session. Dynamic on Monday (squat thrusters and deadlift), isolate on Tuesday (crunches and planks), twist on Wednesday (woodchops), athletic on Thursday (agility and more squats or deadlifts), Pilates on Friday, resistance on Saturday (captain’s chair or hanging leg raises), rest on Sunday. Do this consistently, and your core will be well-developed in no time!

Myth 5: Abs are made in the kitchen.

Sure, nutrition is a hugely important part of decreasing belly fat to the extent that you can see your abdominal muscles.

That said, be really honest with yourself…. If you got rid of all of your belly fat, are there really muscles there to show off?

Core muscles are made through hard work. Can you squat and deadlift properly at athletic-level performance? Can you perform a Turkish get-up? Can you last through a reformer Pilates class? If you cannot answer yes to all 3 of these questions, chances are you could stand to up your workout game for the sake of summertime abs.

And, since I believe abs ultimately start in YOUR MIND, maybe the added focus on your workouts will influence your food choices as well. Cognitive dissonance for the win!

Kick Your Own Abs

I hope you haven’t been a victim of any of these 5 myths, but if you have, take back your midsection fitness!

If you work your core every day, exercise like an athlete, isolate when you’re ready, address cortisol and insulin, and get smart with your cardio, I’ll see you at the pool this summer showing off your aesthetic triumph—and decreased risk of chronic disease.

Oh, and nice abs, BTW.

Do you have additional questions, or would you prefer one-on-one coaching for support? Find a fitness professional next time you’re in the gym, or schedule a personal consultation today. We’re here to help you optimize your fitness and health gains.

If you want to learn more about how we design our programs to support fitness and performance using our Core 3 Training™ methodologies,

Download the Core 3 Training Manual.

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[i] Sell HEckel J. Adipose tissue inflammation: novel insight into the role of macrophages and lymphocytes. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Jul;13(4):366-70. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833aab7f.


The posts on this blog are not intended to suggest or recommend the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease, nor to substitute for medical treatment, nor to be an alternative to medical advice. The use of the suggestions and recommendations on this blog post is at the choice and risk of the reader.
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