Every generation has a body part that is obsessively focussed upon. In the 70s it was slender, waifish hips and hairy chests. In the 80s, the bodybuilding/workout phenomenon became more personal with the popularity of personal gyms. The current obsession, which started sometime in the late 1990s is abs. Wash board abs. Once mostly in the male domain, ripped abs are now the focus of what are considered beautiful male and female bodies in our popular culture.
But much like a thick, Magnum PI mustache or the greased up and sculpted bodies of Arnie and Sly in their heyday, our ability to attain the perfect abs is a mixture of genetics and gruelling hard work. One of the primary obstacles standing in your way of perfect 50 Cent abs are the myths that fitness magazines sell us in order to sell the dream (and their magazines). If you are unaware of the most common ab myths, then you are most certainly losing your battle to attain the perfect abs.
1. Spot Reducing
One the most debunked, yet enduring myths, of attaining wash board abs is the continued popularity of the “spot reducing” method. If you know anything at all about human physiology, logic will tell you that you cannot concentrate fat reduction in one area of the body. When you lose fat, you lose it in equal amounts all over your body. You lose weight by reducing the amount of calories and fat you are putting into your body and increasing your cardio and strength training output. Simply put, you do not decide where the weight stays and where it goes. That has to do with body composition and the often cruel realities of genetics.
To make this myth specific to abs, it doesn’t matter how effectively you work your abs, working abs is not going to burn the fat lying over your abs. The only thing that will reduce that (if you are genetically inclined to do so) is cardio to burn calories and a full-body strength-training regimen to increase lean muscle tissue, which will raise your metabolism to help you burn fat more efficiently. That is the last word on that. Anyone who tells you that you can burn fat off one area by working it specifically is wrong.
2. Daily, High-Rep Regimens Work
If you can do 200 crunches, then you are doing them wrong. Efficient exercise leads to muscle fatigue. You may be building endurance, but you are not building muscle efficiently. You should be able to do a maximum of 25 crunches before your ab muscles fail, if you are doing them properly. Crunches should be done in a slow, controlled movement wherein you contract your abs so that your ribs are pressing toward your hips. You should only go about 12 inches off the floor, pause and lower yourself down (without letting your head rest on the floor in between crunches). You should, maintain tension in your abs at all times. A sit-up, wherein you lift your body up so your elbows can touch your knees, is not an ab workout. It will, however, strengthen your hip flexors.
If this is too easy, and you do not attain muscle failure, challenge yourself using weights, a graded bench or a exercise ball. Before you do that, however, check your form: push your shoulder blades together, contract your abs first, and the ribs will follow, and make sure you are going as slowly as you can—speed lends to momentum helping you out. All of these added challenges will help work all over core strength and balance.
Like any other muscle, once you work your abs to failure, the muscle tissue needs time to recover. A proper ab workout 3-4 times a day will be indescribably more effective than poor form, high reps every day.
3. Crunches Burn Fat
If you have a big greasy meal and then think that dropping and doing 50 crunches is going to make any difference (other than probably interrupting the digestive process and leading to acid reflux), you are wrong. Again, crunches don’t burn fat, having a low-fat, low calorie diet and doing cardio burn fat. If you have a layer of fat over your abs, you can work those abs until you are blue in the face. You will have strong abs, there is no doubt about it. But no one will be able to see it for the fat.
4. Crunches Are A Complete Ab Workout
Your abdominal muscle is a large muscle that covers your stomach, abdomen and sides. Crunches work a very specific section of your abdominal muscles. In order to sculpt and build the muscles (as well as to build your muscle tone evenly to support your back, core and daily activities—which, incidentally is the right reason to be working your abs), you need to work all parts of your ab muscle, including your lower abdomen and your obliques.
To work your lower abdomen, you can lie on your back and raise your feet so that they are parallel with the ceiling. Pretend you are balancing a platter on your feet to keep them flat. Lift your feet straight up until your hips leave the floor. Lower and repeat. Your obliques are a little more controversial. Many people will tell you that that barbell twists and side bends are great ways to work your obliques. Others will tell you that twists are a sure way to hurt your back and that side bends are little more than a great stretch (nothing gets rid of love handles except weight loss). To work your obliques, do a modified crunch, lifting your shoulder to the opposite knee as you crunch.
The most ridiculous myth that we all carry around in our heads is that we can all have the abs of the stars if we just work hard enough. And this is simply not necessarily true. First, the most important indicator of your ability to sculpt your abs is your genetic body make up. Of course the most cruel because we have no control over it, some people are never, ever safely going to be able to take enough weight off their mid-sections to expose their well-tones abs underneath. Unless lyposuciton is a viable option for you, it is possible that you will have to shift your goals and wait until the next fad you can jump on, like killer arms or exploding calves.
Next, you are never going to get ripped abs if you no not maintain a strict regimen of a healthy, low fat, low calorie diet, along with regular cardio and full-body weight training. True, there is a percentage of people who are going to have natural tendencies to have good abs. They carry their weight elsewhere (and obsess about it just as much). If you were one of them, you would already know that about your body. There is no reason to neglect your abs, but to focus on them is not a good way to build a healthy body that you are comfortable in, and a healthy mind. Set full-body goals, and try to make them health goals. Those are so much more realistic and beneficial than vanity goals.