When I was still a trainer at a big box gym, I would witness all kinds of crazy core training on a daily basis. I would watch members doing hundreds upon hundreds of sit-ups on a weighted crunch machines. I witnessed people bring in the latest late-night infomercial ab-sculptor to help crank up their ab training while in the gym, and I even looked on as members filed into a 30-minute ab class like Moths flocking to a stadium light bulb. All this only to leave with their backs hurting, their stomachs in knots, and a huge waste of time behind them.
Now do not get me wrong, training one’s core is a huge piece of the physical pyramid when thinking about posture, function, and balance. But these people did not give a crap about those things. They want hard, tasty, washboard abs that would make the Ultimate Warrior self-conscious and Jessica Biel jealous.
People do not train their abs to strengthen them (and if you do good for you, but you are in the minority here). They do so to attempt to get their abs to pop out and form that perfect six-pack, and while I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it is not going to happen that way. Sure your trainer may tell you that, and sticking the title “ab shredder” on a DVD or magazine may make you feel like you are a few sessions away from the midsection of an Olympic boxer, but those people are lying to you in hopes that you will continue to dump time and money into their products and practices instead of learning the truth about abdominal training.
You see, the abdominal definition is a product of a body fat percentage low enough to expose the muscles hidden underneath varying layers of abdominal fat. The higher the percentage of body fat a person has, the less visible their abdominals and vice versa. Training one’s abs to the extent that many exercisers do not only fails to help tighten and define their core area, it could lead to injury or overtraining. Thus, further delaying the appearance of the elusive six or eight pack stomach.
Furthermore, the abdominals are a muscle just like your lats, quads, or biceps. Daily training without the proper rest and recovery time will result in a continued breakdown of the muscle tissue leading to atrophy and eventually even a strain or major tear. Your abs weren’t meant to be trained for an hour at a time on a weighted machine, plain and simple.
Visible abdominals are the result of hard, focused, total-body resistance training that includes balance and unstable workloads that tax the core in a functional capacity, teamed with a diet that encourages the burning of body fat for fuel while supporting and encouraging the growth of lean tissue at the same time. If you are looking to get more abdominal definition, make sure your whole program is on point and you are not just crunching the day away!