Stop Doing Crunches for 6-Pack Abs
By Craig Ballantyne
Among the fitness myths and misinformation comes a lot of surprise training recommendations from the real experts. Without the real experts, we’d all be stuck doing 60-minutes of cardio five times per week rather than faster, more efficient intervals.
And the world of ab training is a jungle of bad information. I spoke with a coach named Mike Geary. He’s a Certified Nutrition Specialist & a Certified Personal Trainer dedicated to showing your better ab and fat loss methods.
Today, Mike has some surprises for you…
CB: Mike, what got you into training and helping others?
I just love helping people with this area of their lives, as not only does it improve their outward appearance and confidence, but more importantly, improves how they feel and their internal health, helping them to live longer and healthier lives. It’s something I’m very passionate about.
CB: Okay, so where does the average man or woman go wrong when it comes to training abs?
Most people are probably going to be surprised with this answer. In their quest for ‘six pack abs’, the biggest mistake I see people making is wasting WAY too much of their time training their abs directly… pumping away with all kinds of different abs-specific exercises. I’m sure you know what I’m referring to. The person is trying so hard to get those abs to show, that they’re spending almost all of their time in the gym with hundreds of reps of various crunches, leg raises, twisting exercises, etc.
CB: Right, so what’s better?
All of that wasted time directly training the abs could have been better spent on a properly designed full body workout programme that would elicit a much better metabolic response and increase the fat-burning hormone levels in their body as well. After all, losing the stomach fat that is covering the abs is the MOST important aspect for most people to finally be able to make their abs visible. Unfortunately, pumping away with hundreds of crunches and leg raises does NOT cause much of a metabolic or fat burning hormonal response. Full body training programmes and proper nutrition to strip off that stubborn belly fat and reveal the six pack that’s hiding underneath!
CB: Do you see any gender differences in mistakes they make? And more importantly, do you see any gender differences in the response to various types of ab training?
To be honest, I don’t really see any need for men or women to train differently. Bottom line… the best exercises are the best exercises regardless of gender. However, in regards to mistakes I see between genders… Yes, I tend to see women more often are deathly afraid to use weight training with anything but really light weights. That is a shame, because THE most effective way to gain control over your body fat for life, is to maximize your lean muscle that your body carries, as well as working that muscle hard through intense resistance exercise regularly.
CB: What about old school sit-ups? Do you use these? Are they good, bad, or does it “depend”?
Sit-ups are a controversial topic. I don’t think they’re good or bad per se, but rather “in between”. I didn’t include them in my programme. I simply don’t feel they are necessary, and I think there are much more effective abs exercises to focus on. Personally, I almost never do sit-ups except occasionally for a little variety every now and then.
CB: Give us a weekly sample ab training program. How many days per week? What are a couple of the best exercises you’d pick? How many sets? Reps? Rest?
Well, first I’d like to point out that the full body movements that make up the majority of my programmes indirectly work the abs and the entire “core” area to a fairly decent extent. However, I do include abs-specific exercises into the routines generally about twice per week. The “abs-specific” portion of the workouts generally only take about 5 minutes at most with very little rest between exercises. Once people are past the beginning phase of gaining some initial ab strength, I try to get them away from the exercises that are too easy, where someone can do 50 or 100 reps, as is frequently common with standard crunches. Instead, I like to focus on higher resistance exercises that actually stimulate the muscle fibers to a much greater degree.
CB: Such as?
One example of a higher resistance abs exercise is hanging leg raises with a proper “pelvic curl up”. It’s funny but usually someone that has been wasting so much time with hundreds of reps of crunches can usually only do a few solid reps when they first attempt some of these higher resistance exercises. We also make sure not to neglect some rotational movements, as well as some work for the deeper muscles like the transversus abdominis.