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Common Ab Myths: Debunked

Abdominal CrunchWe diet, we run, and we crunch our way to what we hope will be our pre-mommy tummies. With all the effort we put into cinching up the loose skin and/or trying to shed those last few stubborn pounds that are hanging around our midsections, do you ever stop and wonder if you’re taking the proper steps? Or are you just wasting time searching for that slender waist?

Before you attempt one ab workout too many, check out five common ab myths — and their busters — below:

MYTH #1: You cannot train your lower abs.

False! Although your lower abs are connected to your upper abs (along with the upper abs, the lower abs belong to the rectus abdominis, aka the “six-pack” muscle), you can still train them separately. Exercises such as Low Ab Taps, Low Ab & Transverse Ab Knee Lifts, Low Ab Planks, 90-Degree Ab Drops, and Lower Ab Lifts allow the lower abs to work freely while the upper abs remain stabilized. Try out the five lower ab exercises to work the lower core independently of its upper counterpart.

MYTH #2: I can train my abs every day.

Somewhat true, somewhat false. Whenever you work any muscle, you subject it to microtrauma. Microtrauma is simply the tearing of the muscle fibers, which leads to inflammation and soreness. As such, depending on the intensity of your workout, those particular muscles worked during a strength training session need anywhere from one to three days to recover in-between workouts. Your abs are no exception to this rule. If you train your entire core every day, you run the risk of injury due to overuse.

However, the caveat with those elusive abs is because they reside in different parts in the abdominal cage (the rectus abdominis lies vertically in front; the external and internal obliques line the sides of the rib cage; and the transverse abdominis wraps around the torso from the ribs to the pelvis), you can train specific areas of your core each day. For example, one day you can focus on exercises that work the lower abs, the next day you can target the obliques, and on the following day or two, you can hit up the transverse abdominis (TA).

Because certain exercises that recruit your TA are crucial to the functionality of your core, as well as your posture, you can do these more often. Exercises such as Arm Switches, Bent Knee Fall Outs, Dead Bug Switch, and Quadruped TA Bracing can be done several times a week and even on consecutive days.


MYTH #3: I can spot reduce my waist.

False! Although it would be a highly sought-after skill, unfortunately, spot reduction is a myth. Our bodies are one complete system. We cannot target one area while ignoring the other areas — our bodies need a comprehensive approach including cardio, strength, and flexibility.

As Paul Chek stated in the C.H.E.K. Institute’s publication, the Scientific Core Conditioning Series, “There is no direct metabolic pathway from the muscle cells in your midsection to the fat cells surrounding them. For the abdominal muscles to use stored fat for energy, your body must first send it to the liver. The liver converts this fat into fatty acids and sends it back to the abdominal muscles to be used as fuel. Unfortunately, the stored fat the abdominal muscles use first may not be from the abdominal region. This is because your body uses its fat stores such that the last place you added fat to is the first place you will lose it.”

Research also shows that how and where you lose weight is genetically determined. So, you have to look to your family tree to see how your own body type stacks up. Additionally, your sex determines how and where you lose weight. Due to hormonal differences, women tend to store more fat around the pelvis, buttocks and thighs, where men gain weight around their bellies.

MYTH #4: Abs are made in the kitchen.

This is actually partially true! You can do all of the planks, taps, lifts, and crunches that you want; however, if you aren’t eating nutritionally dense foods, a layer of fat will develop around your mid-section and may conceal those strong ab muscles underneath. Additionally, some foods may cause bloating (cruciferous vegetables, legumes, and dairy are common culprits), which can also make it more difficult to see the results of your hard work.

MYTH #5: Exercise is the most important component!

False! As children, we often rolled our eyes when an adult told us to stand up straight, but there was some truth to their prodding. Think about it: We devote approximately 30 minutes a day to working out, while we spend 12 hours sitting and/or standing. This lengthy time spent in these static positions is important. Sitting with poor posture for prolonged periods of time can wreak havoc on your hips and lower back. But, if you add a little bit of tension in your low abs by contracting them while sitting, it can help to ease the pressure on your back. In order to fully engage your abdominals, and in particular your transverse abdominis, you have to pull your navel in toward your spine without shifting the pelvis. This engages the TA while also working the other muscles that run along your spine.

In a perfectly myth-driven world, we could spot reduce our way back to trimmer times by performing a few Low Ab Lifts combined with a dose of less-than-perfect nutrition. Sorry to burst your bubble!

However, the good news is that we can regain those pre-baby flat bellies with a bit of knowledge, a handful of targeted ab exercises and some tried-and-true consistency.

Looking for a comprehensive core program that balances everything we’ve talked about here? Check out Core Challenge in the Moms Into Fitness Studio.

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