10 Abs Workout Mistakes You Have Been Making All This While
There is simply no short cut to obtain a head-turning body. Visiting a gym daily is certainly not a guarantee for a flat stomach or six-pack abs. Exercising the abdominal rectus, or the paired muscle running vertically on either side of your abdomen, is among the toughest training routines. True, ab exercises, as they are popularly called, help burn fat, flatten your belly and strengthen your core. But, as much as you need to know what to do, there is also a clear set of don’ts that is equally important.
It is not easy to train your abdomen muscles. You need low body fat, enough rest and a rigorous training regime. If your regular abs workout is not yielding results, you are probably turning a blind eye to the no-no’s of working your abs.
Here are some of the mistakes that lead to injury, ineffective workout and slow or little results:
1. Over-crunching is not the answer
Sit-ups and crunches are not the only ab exercises. If you think just doing a lot of crunches will give you a toned midsection, you are in for a rude shock. Crunches work only from one angle and are the least effective when done alone, without any complementary exercises. Crunches work only on one muscle and in one angle. As a matter of fact, your abs can be toned even without crunches. Stability ball workouts are a good alternative. For this, sit on a ball, a large one that can support your body, keep your feet flat on the ground and move your feet forward, like walking. Other than breaking the monotonous routine of crunch-sets, stability balls help exercise your thigh muscles and also improve your body posture.
2. Do not ignore the rest of your core
Your core is made up of four muscles in total and the abdominal rectus is just one of them. The others include oblique (which runs diagonally across your middle), traverse abs (which runs horizontally beneath rectus abs) and erector spinae (back muscles along your spine). Exercises like crunches work only your rectus abs. Most people do not do enough work on the other three. It is important to train all the four muscle groups, exercising all four of them in tandem, when you want to train your abs.
3. Avoid too many repetitions
Repeating same sets over and over again are not going to give you fab abs. There is no need to do 50-100 crunches or any exercise for that matter, for a flat stomach. Most people keep repeating actions thinking it will reduce that belly fat faster. But that is simply not possible. In fact, too many repetitions will only exhaust the muscle you are trying to condition and deplete your energy. Treat ab workouts like any other workout – do 1-3 sets with 8-20 repetitions each set. There is also the speed of the repeats that need to be considered. Some say that doing them slowly is effective, while other recommend a faster pace. Even though neither is proved, mixing up speeds is a sensible approach as it helps in surprising the muscles, forcing them to perform better.
4. Do not be lazy with compound exercises
There are two types of exercises: compound (engage more than one muscle group) and isolation (engage only one muscle group) exercises. If you are forgetting or being lazy with the compound exercises like squats, dead-lifts and overhead presses, you are making a mistake. Compound exercises engage every inch of your core. It is important to work your isolated ab exercises along with compound exercises for better core strength.
5. Save it for the end
Abdominal muscles are a part of your core. They help stabilize your body. If you over work your core first, you will have a hard time doing other intensive exercises as the abdominal muscles will already be fatigued by the time you want to start on another group of muscles. So, saving your ab workout for the end is the smart and proper way to go while working out.
6. Avoid daily routines
Your abdominal muscles are like any other muscle group in your body. They need to be rested and given adequate time to recover before the next round of hardcore training. After an intensive workout session, it is not really easy to follow it up with another intensive routine the next day. Even if you can, working on your abs daily is not recommended. Yes, we all want toned and shredded bodies, but there are no shortcuts that will lead you to immediate results.
7. Focus on form
If you are doing an ab exercise and not feeling any tension in your abdominal muscles, it can only mean that you are not doing it right. The key to an effective workout is to concentrate on your form and to deeply engage your abs in every movement. This engagement is commonly described as ‘pulling your navel towards your spine’ or ‘scooping the abs inward.’ This will help in engaging more muscle fibre. When you start doing advanced ab exercises, you will find that it is almost impossible to do it with a sloppy form.
8. Do not just spot train
All of us have toned abs… underneath all that belly fat, of course. People often think that all you need to do is remove belly fat for the perfect abs to show up. In order to do so, they opt for what is called spot training. Spot training is a belief or an idea that weight loss or muscle tone is possible in only one part of your body in isolation, without affecting the rest. Spot training is used to target the belly fat and ensure its disappearance. This is a myth. Toning exercises alone do not remove fat. They should be complemented with a cardio routine and a proper diet, too. Although supplements like green tea have fat burning properties, they alone cannot help in revealing your perfect abs.
9. Vary the routine
Doing the same combination of exercises everyday will get you only so far. When you have the same routine every day, your muscles will get used to it and you will not be challenging them anymore. Also, you may be missing out on training a few other muscles. Change your routine periodically and add a variety of moves for effective results. Do not allow your muscles to take your next move for granted!
10. Do not neglect your lower back
A lot of people neglect or do not do enough of lower back workouts. What you should know is that high stamina of the lower back is significantly responsible for overall endurance and strengthening your core. Exercises like plank and side plank should be given as much importance as other ab exercises.
By the way, do not go off carbohydrates while you are trying hard for a flat abdomen. There is a popular myth that carbohydrates destroy your abs. No, they don’t. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients your body uses as fuel while doing anything. Get your carbs from sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, brown rice, whole grain pastas, beans, oat meals and such while toning your body.
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