Sunday, April 22, 2007

Abs Demystified

Ask Glen!

Todays question comes from my cousin in Maryland

Q. Can I lose weight just in my stomach?

Myths About Your Abs - Spot Training and Ab Physiology

Every day I receive emails from all over the world: emails from teenagers and adults, men and women, boys and girls. These emails express heartbreak, obsession, frustration and anxiety and all over one thing. You might be wondering what could possibly cause such a phenomenon? It's...(gasp)...ABDOMINALS! Yes, it's hard to believe that one little muscle group could cause such a stir, but it's true. Our nation is obsessed with its abs and it's up to us to do something about it!

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Much of the frustration surrounding the abs is due to misinformation and unrealistic expectations. Despite the hard work of trainers everywhere, people still cling to outdated ideas on the proper way to work their abs and get the much-desired 'six-pack.' So, today we're going to examine the many myths surrounding your torso area and debunk them for once and for all.

Ab Myth No. 1: Doing Ab Exercises Gets Rid of Abdominal Fat

Repeat after me: SPOT TRAINING DOES NOT WORK. Say it as many times as you need to. Let it sink in. Believe it. The American Council on Exercise states in their Personal Training Manual:

"The 'spot exercise' fallacy assumes that if you have fat deposits on your abdominals, exercisingthe muscles underlying the fat will make it go away. A client who does 100 sit-ups a day for a flabbystomach will increase muscle endurance for the abdomen,but will not burn off the fat in that area." (ACE Personal Trainer Manual, p. 308)

The only way to burn fat from your tummy is through prolonged exercise and a healthy, low-calorie diet. That means doing regular cardio exercise, strength training and flexibility training. Don't forget to eat your fruits and veggies too!

Ab Myth No. 2: Ab Muscles are Different From Other Muscles of the Body

Do you work your abs differently from other muscles in your body? If so, you may have fallen victim to this ab myth. Your abdominal muscles are just like every other muscle in your body, so you should train them the same way you would train, say, your biceps or your chest.

The basic laws of physiology apply to all of your muscles, including your abs. This means that you have to do exercises in the correct plane of movement to effectively work the muscle. Think about your chest. When you perform exercises for your chest, like a bench press, you lie down on a bench or floor, right? You know that if you tried to do a bench press standing up, you wouldn't be working your chest at'd be working your shoulders. When you're using cables, however, you should be standing up for the exercise to work.

For your abs, the same rules apply. For the resistance to come in the right direction during a crunch, your body needs to be in a horizontal position so gravity can do its thing. Of course, you can still work your abs in the vertical position, such as when doing cable crunches. Just a little biomechanics for you!

Remember that when you lift weights, you should treat your abs just like you treat the other muscles in your body. See Flatten Your Abs for more information.

Ab Myth No. 3: You Have to Do High Repetitions of Ab Exercises to See Progress

Do you ever do zillions of reps to work your abs? Haven't we all? As you've read in the last few pages, your abs are just like every other muscle in your body. That means, you should train your abs the same way as the rest of your muscle groups. Ask yourself this question: would you do 100 bicep curls? Of course not, right? That makes no sense! Same thing applies to your abdominals. To make strength gains with your abs, you have to follow the same principles that apply everywhere else. That means you have to overload your muscles. The reason we feel the need to do so many reps is that we're not working them hard enough, usually because of improper form. If you have to do 50 or more crunches before you feel fatigued, slow down and concentrate on your technique and having good form.

Do a variety of exercises to target your rectus abdominis, obliques and transverse abdominis.

Don't just think of your abs as a way to look great...remember that their purpose is to support your spine and help you have good posture.

If you need more difficult exercises, consider getting a stability ball. Try these exercises:

Ab Myth No. 4: Anyone Can Have a Flat Stomach

When you watch television, it seems like the models, actors and stars have fabulous bodies with lovely flat bellies, doesn't it? And many of them do, but what you may not know is that "...for many people it's not physiologically possible to achieve a flat-stomach." (Simple Fitness Solutions)

Let's face it: the factors that dictate how our bodies look are too many to keep track of. Age, genetics, gender...all of these decide what your body and, therefore, your tummy, look like. Women, in particular, tend to store fat around the lower belly area causing that annoying lower belly pooch. Men tend to store fat around the middle, causing that annoying spare tire effect.

Yes, you can exercise and reduce your body fat, but you can't choose where you lose fat. To get eight-pack abs, you may have to drop your body fat to a level that is either a struggle to maintain or downright unhealthy. Many of us have the goal to get eight-pack abs but most of us will find it difficult to reach that goal.

If this is true for you, trying to reach an impossible goal is only going to make you crazy. Set reachable goals for yourself and make friends with your belly. Remember that we all have flaws and perfection isn't an option unless you head to your nearest surgeon. Instead of doing that, challenge yourself by taking care of your body and accepting it--good, bad and ugly.

Myth No. 5: You Need Special Equipment to Train Abs

The infamous infomercial rears its ugly head. The latest trend is to create bizarre gadgets, call them ab machines and sell them to you for hundreds of dollars, guaranteeing weight loss in a very short amount of time. First, don't believe it! As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Second, you don't need special equipment to work your abs. Carol Krucoff at talked to Richard Cotton of the American Council on Exercise about ab gadgets. He said: "These devices provide no apparent benefit or detriment when compared to a properly performed crunch." In a study commissioned by ACE, researchers found no differences in muscle activity for basic crunches, obliques and reverse curls than for exercises done on top-selling ab machines.

Conclusion: Don't waste your money!

Ab Myth No. 6: You Have to Train Your Abs Every Day

We've all fallen victim to this myth. This actually falls under the myth that our abs are different than the rest of our bodies. The rules of weight training state that you should give your muscles at least a day of rest to recover and this applies to your abdominals as well. Instead of working your abs everyday, do them every other day or even just three times a week. They need a break just like the rest of your body. The trick is to do exercises hard enough to really challenge your abdominals.

Try exercises that target your stabilizer muscles; the muscles you use all day long to hold your body in place. One of these is the plank: get into pushup position and hold it for as long as you can, keeping your belly tight and your body straight. Don't hold your breath! For a more advanced version, try it with the stability ball.

Try this difficult exercise:

Lie on the floor with your legs up (straight or slightly bent) and aim soles of your feet at the ceiling.

Imagine that you're holding something fragile on your feet, like a tray of glasses filled with water. Lift the 'tray' straight up towards the ceiling until your hips are off the floor.

The trick to your abs is to realize that strength training IS important to keep your belly strong, but ab exercises aren't magic. Incorporating ab exercises into a complete routine is the only way to the wonderful world of eight-packs. And, even if you don't make it there, don't worry. The rest of us haven't either!

Please consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program

Wishing You Great Health,

Glen Edward Mitchell

Got a question? Ask Glen!

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Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States
Is the Founder of Fitness Builders 4 Life,the WorkOut GEM,G350,G180, G90, Eat 4 Life, Clean, Lean & Mean & Ask Glen. The mission of the Fitness Builders is to provide the community with health education and to empower people to change unhealthy lifestyles thereby increasing life expectancy. By educating the community on healthier lifestyle practices it is the intent of Fitness Builders to reduce the ravages of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other lifestyle or self inflicted diseases. Glen is also a AMA Certified Nutrition Specialist and a ACE, ACSM, NASM Certified Personal Trainer has 30+ years in Sports, Exercise Science and Nutritional Food Management, Learning and Mentoring Men and Women on a more Mental & Physical Healthy Life Style consisting of a low fat, low salt, Low carbohydrate, high protein, organic nutrition which also includes moderate exercise and mental awareness. Stay Informed, Live long and be Mentally and Physically Healthy! Any questions? Ask Glen!

Any Questions? Ask Glen!