MYTH #1: Twists pare fat from the sides of your waist.
Go to most gyms and at some point you’ll probably find bodybuilders with a light bar across their shoulders, twisting from side to side. They do this under the mistaken belief that they will whittle away the fat on their waists. Some bodybuilders have been doing this for years, without success. The twisting may, however, cause back problems.
MYTH #2: Lots of ab work will pare fat from the front of your waist.
As with Myth #1, muscle and fat are different types of tissue. It’s physiologically impossible to whittle away fat through working the muscle beneath the fat. Fat reduction in a specific spot of the body, through exercise, is impossible. The only way to spot-reduce fat is through surgical intervention, which has perils and isn’t a long-term cure. The other way to reduce bodyfat is to reduce your food intake and increase your activity level so that you’re in overall caloric deficit; then your body will turn to its fat reserves to provide for the balance of its energy needs.
You could build a great set of abdominal muscles, but whether you could see the lines of your abdominals depends on how much fat covers your waist. Well-developed abdominals can, however, show a six-pack to some extent without a low level of bodyfat, because the abdominals will protrude more. It’s also possible to have visible but weak and undeveloped abdominals, if you don’t exercise but have a low level of bodyfat.
You could do three hours of ab workouts each day, but if your food intake and activity level don’t combine to yield an overall energy deficit, you’ll never reduce the fat around your waist. On the other hand, you could do no abdominal work, but if you’re in sustained caloric deficit you’ll draw on your energy stores and thus reduce your bodyfat. Whether you do abdominal work is irrelevant in determining the amount of fat around your waist. But to build strong, well-developed abdominals, ab work is essential.
MYTH #3: The abs need high reps.
To strengthen and develop the abdominals — which is all that ab work can do — keep the reps moderate and effort levels high, use sufficient resistance to keep the reps down, and keep adding resistance as you develop strength. Treat your abdominals like any other muscle.
A benefit of doing extreme amounts of abdominal work is that it consumes sufficient calories to make a contribution to energy output over the long haul. This, however, is an inefficient way of burning calories. For efficient calorie burning, perform an activity that’s easier, involves more musculature, and can be sustained for long periods, such as walking.
No matter how many calories you burn through activity, if you eat excessively you won’t be in caloric deficit, and unless you’re in caloric deficit you’ll never reduce your bodyfat.
MYTH #4: The abs need daily work.
Although the abdominal muscles may tolerate more frequent work than most other bodyparts, they can be overtrained, too. Excessive training frequency for these muscles is connected to the mistaken belief that a lot of exercise for them will help reduce waist fat levels. Train your abdominals only two, or, at most, three times a week.
MYTH #5: The abs have two separate muscles — upper abs and lower abs.
The six-pack or washboard is the rectus abdominis muscle, and the visible, frontal part of the abdominal wall provided there’s minimal fat covering it. In addition, the abdominal wall includes the external abdominal oblique, and internal abdominal oblique — the sides of the waist — and the transversus abdominis beneath the six-pack.
The rectus abdominis is one long, flat, continuous muscle that runs from the lower ribs to the groin. While it’s not possible to isolate the upper or lower abdominals, the two sections may respond differently to flexion that requires the shoulders to move toward the hips than to flexion that requires the hips to move toward the shoulders.
MYTH #6: Gadgets are needed to train the abs.
Some gadgets, properly used, do target the abdominals. There’s nothing, however, a gadget can help you do that crunches can’t, provided the crunches are done correctly. But many of the gadgets are ineffective and poorly made, and some are dangerous. Don’t be misled by hype. Stick to crunches, which don’t require special equipment, and do them well.
MYTH #7: Electronic muscle stimulation is the easy way to great abs.
Electronic stimulation of muscles is a way to make people think they can exercise effectively without moving. There’s some legitimate use for electro-muscle stimulation in physical therapy, but for healthy trainees it’s a joke compared with proper resistance training. You have to move, sweat, and push yourself, progressively, if you’re going to change the form of your body.
Even if the electronic gadgets stimulated muscle like regular progressive resistance training does, you would still need to lose the fat to see your abdominals. No electronic stimulation will remove the fat that covers muscle.
MYTH #8: Development of the abdominal obliques is undesirable.
The external abdominal oblique, and the internal abdominal oblique are parts of the abdominal wall. Many bodybuilders avoid direct work for their obliques under the misunderstanding that development of their obliques would thicken their waists, and be unaesthetic.
Strong obliques are desirable for torso stability during many bodybuilding exercises, and to increase resistance to injury. Even if well-developed, the obliques add little muscle. Rather than be unaesthetic, this muscle adds an attractive sweep to the waist if it isn’t covered with a thick layer of fat.