Abs, Abs, and more Abs!

By Eric Martinez

January. 15. 2011-

Abdominals, one of the most frustrating, but best featured muscles of the human body. We all want those rock hard defined abs come summer, we want to show off all the hard work we’ve done during the off season to confidently take our shirts off. Why are abs so hard to get? Why can’t we all just have a six pack and never have to worry about maintaining them? There have been many studies conducted on the abdominal muscles and everyone has there own take on how to get them and maintain them. I am going to tell you what I think about abs and you don’t have to take my advice, I am just expressing my opinion, so here we go.

Many people still believe the outdated fitness myth that if they do crunches with high-repetition and low-resistance every day, they can reduce abdominal fat. The erroneous belief behind fat reduction is that if you train a muscle that is covered by body fat, the fat will go away, turn into muscle, and get “toned.” Contrary to popular belief, there is no way to reduce only abdominal fat with abdominal training exercises.

The other myth is that abdominals should be trained differently than other muscles in the body and do not apply to the same scientific principles. Many believe that abdominal muscles should be trained everyday with high repetition sets and no resistance. One main reason why people, especially women, do not use resistance when training their abdominals is because they do not want to get too muscular. They want to “tone” their muscles not build muscle. Yet, there is no such thing as toning a muscle; I believe the term toning is used mainly to market exercise equipment, videos, and magazines. Muscles can either “hypertrophy”, meaning grow or “atrophy”, meaning shrink. This applies to all muscles, including abs, I cannot stress that enough. It is very difficult to hypertrophy the abdominal muscles because the structure of the abdominal muscles being such a thin layer of muscle tissue and it’s very hard to induce muscle with such a thin layer of muscle tissue. In all honesty, the ways abs look is almost purely due to body fat levels and genetics.

Therefore, strength training 2 – 3 times a week, with moderate to heavy resistance, moderate repetitions, rest in between and a variety of exercises to target different areas applies to the abdominals as well as all other muscle groups. For example, cable crunches on a resistance ball, cable rope crunches, hanging abdominal raises with dumbbells between the legs, cable rotations, and seated abdominal crunches are the types of exercises that will yield the desired results. You cannot just work the “upper” and “lower abs”. The entire muscle contracts so the entire “rectus abdominus” is worked when you flex the trunk because it is such a long muscle. Time under tension is key for hypertrophy, your ab muscles should be under tension for at least 30-40 seconds. If you do a proper crunch with proper time under tension and biomechanics, than there’s no way you can do 20 crunches in 20 seconds, it’s pretty brutal.  I recommend doing abs Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. It’s very important to give them a day of rest, at times they can be very sore, and you don’t want to strain or tear an abdominal muscle by over doing it. As long as you treat your abs like your other muscles and stick to dieting and cardio you should see results. If results do not show up, don’t get discouraged, a lot of the time abs are very genetic based. It’s either easy for you to get them shredded or it’s not, plain and simple, not everyone has gifted genetics when it comes to the abdominal structure. By working hard and not giving up on this particular muscle, once you are content with your abs you will be proud of your accomplishment.

Video: Train Loco Ab Circuit

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