How Important Are Ab Exercises?

by on December 8th, 2010
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One of the most common things I see when I observe other people working out at the gym is a disproportionate amount of ab exercises to all other exercises. For example, I might see someone do the standard three sets of pushups, three sets of squats, three sets of pull-ups, and so on… but then they’ll end their workout with hundreds and hundreds of crunches; or, they’ll do one exercise for every major muscle group followed by five different ab exercises.

When I see people doing this, I can’t help but wonder: Why are you essentially doing 500 crunches for every 50 pushups, etc? The answer is simple: most people are working out to get great abs. They figure the best way to get great abs is to train them more than the other parts of their body. This approach, however, is flawed. The fact is, you don’t have to train your abs any more, or differently, than any other muscle in your body.

The Role of Abdominal Muscles in the Body

Your abs mainly play the role of a stabilizing muscle; in other words, they assist other muscles in your body. Whether you’re doing pull-ups, pushups, running, jumping, or simply standing still, your abs are helping out, and that means they are being exercised. Ab-specific exercises isolate and target your abs, but when you really think about it, there are few instances where you would actually simulate the movement of, say, a stomach crunch, in a real life situation.

Training the “Core”

These days it’s popular to “train your core.” Placing an emphasis on exercises that strengthen your core is all fine and dandy, but what many people fail to realize is that your abs are not your core; your abs are a part of your core. So, if you’re only doing ab exercises to strengthen your core, you’re actually just strengthening one part of it. Your entire core consists of all your abdominal muscles, your glutes, and all the muscles of your lower back.

Burning Stomach Fat

The idea that you can burn “stomach fat,” especially by doing ab exercises, is one myth that just can’t seem to be laid to rest. Ab exercises make your abs stronger; they do not burn fat, let alone just burn the fat around your stomach. The only way you can lose fat around your stomach is by losing fat all over your entire body. Honestly, if getting rid of the fat covering your stomach is your main goal, you don’t even have to ab exercises. High intensity aerobics along with compound exercises, such as dead lifts, squats, and lunges will help you reach your goal much quicker than any amount of crunches.

The Bottom Line

No matter what type of fitness goal you’re trying to achieve, there is no need to train your abs more frequently, or with more intensity, than any other part of your body. Some of the best bodybuilders in the world only train their abs one or two times per week. Eat healthy, don’t overeat, and follow a well-rounded workout routine; that is the path to success.


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