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6 Facts You Should Know About Abs Training

Everything you ever wanted to know (and some stuff you didn’t) about your six-pack, beer gut, muffin top, or whatever form your belly is taking these days

No surprise here--the six-pack is a hot topic. It's a phrase searched for more than 1.2 million times a month on Google alone. But there's more to your midsection than its six sexy segments. In fact, that washboard is actually made of one muscle, the rectus abdominis, which gets its "separations" from dense connective tissue called fascia. The muscles on the sides of your torso are also considered part of the abdominals: Your external and internal obliques help you bend your torso from side to side and rotate your upper body left and right. If all of this is news to you, read on for 6 more essential facts about your abs that you probably don't know.

You Don't Need to Train Them Every Day

If you perform ab exercises daily in the pursuit of a perfect belly, you could be overtaxing your muscles. "A lot of people go overboard," says Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, VA. "They'll do abs 7 days a week and won't allow for any rest. That just damages the muscles." He recommends focusing on abs three or four times a week.

Stop with the plank worshiping

Planks are an isometric exercise – they don’t involve any movement. Granted, doing planks activates a hell of a lot of muscle fibers, but they aren’t going to give you a washboard stomach or cause any further etching of your abs. You need the abs to hypertrophy for that to happen, and isometric movements like planks aren’t going to do that.

Expecting to build your core musculature with planks is like holding a heavy canned ham at a 45-degree arm angle for an extended period of time and expecting it to grow your biceps muscle. Nope, you need to do isotonic movements – where a muscle shortens to overcome resistance.

Sure, planks will allow you to maybe withstand a punch from someone who’s sick of your silly planks and they’ll probably facilitate athletic ability, but they won’t build eye-popping abs. Do them as part of your core training, but don’t have any illusions about them.

Focus On Food

No matter how dedicated you are in the gym, if you don’t eat well, you won’t be able to build abs. It’s as simple as this. Therefore, maintain proper calorie intake and enrichen your diet with lots of proteins in the guise of casein, soy protein, legumes, meat, milk, etc.

Proteins need more energy to break down into amino acids. Therefore, body burns more calories to produce energy and hence, promotes weight loss!

Keep Yourself Hydrated

When you are working out, you have to keep your body hydrated. It helps in muscle building and fat burning processes. It also gives the feeling of being full. If you are feeling a little hungry, drink some water. That’s safer than indulging in oily food.

Even if you don’t feel thirsty, gulp a glass of water. By this way, you can also avoid consuming more calories whenever there is confusion for thirst or hunger. Simple!

Cardio won’t give you abs

Most of you do weight workouts that probably burn around 250 calories an hour. If you try to row, row, row your fat away, you’ll probably burn close to 400 calories in an hour. Row for an hour for seven days straight and you’ll burn around 2800 to 3000 total calories.

The trouble is, a pound of fat contains roughly 3500 calories. See what I’m getting at? It’s difficult to burn fat through mere exercise. It might be different if you got on a treadmill, set the incline at 15%, kept it there, and ran uphill at a pace of 4 miles an hour for 60 minutes. That might burn some serious blubber over the course of a few weeks, but it’s certainly not easy to do. Besides, it would likely fatigue you and kill your weight workouts.

Sorry, but to make the abs surface, you’re going to need to diet. Get your body fat to 10% and the shy little things will likely start to surface. Get it down to 7% and they’ll be totally naked and exposed for all the world to admire.

Some Ab Moves Aren't Worth Doing

The same ACE-sponsored study determined the least effective ab-targeted exercises. The exercise tubing pull and the Ab Rocker machine were at the bottom of the list, requiring 8 and 79% less muscle activity, respectively, than the traditional crunch.