Face it- we all want a flat, beach ready tummy! But for many of us no amount of crunches or sit-ups seems to get the job done. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me the following question:
“I do tons of core work every day and I still have a flabby midsection. What is the deal?”
Well, before I reveal the Next Level Beach Body abs blueprint, let’s first disprove some very important myths about how to get the elusive six-pack abs:
Myth#1- Weight loss is the key to seeing your abs
The key to getting those flat, beach body abs is FAT LOSS, not weight loss. Let me further explain: your body consists of fat mass and lean body mass (water, muscle, bone, organs, etc.). You want to minimize your fat mass and maximize your lean body mass to build a Beach Body metabolism: one that starves fat and builds muscle like a well oiled machine. By improving body composition you will put yourself in the best position to rock that coveted six-pack.
So if you lose 17 lbs on the scale at the expense of losing some lean muscle mass in the process you will end up slowing your metabolism, decreasing performance, and losing that good looking muscle tone. But if you lose 17 lbs on the scale and you manage to keep or gain lean muscle mass you will increase performance, see more visible definition throughout your body, and lose primarily body fat.
Watching the scale like a crazy person does not help! The Scale can show major fluctuations, caused by things like; hydration levels, sodium intake, and for women the menstrual cycle. I believe YOU should NOT keep a scale at your home- it for the most part is negative reinforcement, particularly for women. What happens when you have been busting your butt in your workouts, you get on that scale and it shows no change. Instant defeat! The problem is your body has changed, but the scale might not show it. Get off the scale and get over the numbers. The true goal is fat loss, not weight loss. Focus on clothing size reduction, digital before and after pictures, and of course the mirror for the most accurate progress tracking.
Myth#2- The more abdominal work you do the more stomach fat you will lose!
Spot reduction doesn’t work! It is the biggest fitness myth on the planet, and it is the thing most programs, fitness gadgets, and trainers use to market! You can’t just work the muscles of a certain area of your body and expect to have the fat in that region go away. Think about it: almost everyone does crunches but proportionately very few people perform total body workouts. So, with all of these crunches, we’d expect to see nothing but people with flat tummies and fat depots everywhere else on their body (arms, legs, etc.). But think of how many people you know and see on a regular basis whom have more than a few inches to lose in their midsection. See what I mean- spot reduction doesn’t work!
See, your body loses fat in a genetically pre-determined way when there is the appropriate caloric deficit AND hormonal environment created by proper eating and training. So your best bet is to focus on burning as many calories during your workouts as possible by engaging your whole body each and every training session (not just your abs). Compound, multi-joint movements like squats, push-ups, lunges, etc. (or better yet, total body exercises like squat to presses) burn a lot more calories than isolation movements like crunches and sit-ups. So be sure to focus on these movements first and then if you have time, you can do some extra core work to make yourself feel better!
Myth#3- Crunches and Sit-ups are the best, most effective exercises for your abs.
The scientific term for your six-pack muscles are your rectus abdominis. For years now, we have been conditioned to think that the best way to work your rectus abdominis is by doing endless crunches and sit-ups since these trunk flexion exercises make the muscles you want to see in the mirror “burn.” However, the true function of the rectus abdominis is to prevent hyperextension, not to flex forward over and over again. Anytime you brace your abs (think slight crunch before you get punched in the gut) and pull your navel into your spine you effectively stabilize your spine into a safe, neutral position. And the moment you relax your abs and lose that braced abs position, your back will begin to hyperextend putting you at greater risk for injury.
So, we focus on stabilization exercises in all three planes of movement (saggital- front to back, frontal- side to side, and transverse- rotational) by using pillar exercise variations (also know as planks). Besides training the true “anti-extension” function of your superficial ab muscles, these bridging/stabilization exercises also activate the key transverse abdominus muscles, or your deep abdominal stabilizers, that wrap around your spine and support your internal organs. Strengthening these inner ab muscles is the key to optimal posture and performance in addition to injury prevention, yet another benefit to performing pillars over primitive crunches and sit-ups that often cause unwanted neck and back pain.
Myth#4- Do lots of long-duration (steady state) cardio to burn the fat covering your abs
Both scientific research and real world case studies show that aerobic training for fat loss alone doesn’t work. Total body strength training is the true foundation of any solid fat loss plan. In addition, interval training, where you alternate between bouts of maximum effort and active recovery, is scientifically proven to burn nine times more fat than ordinary exercise. Please note that you can perform both strength interval training and cardio interval training to combine the best of both worlds. Be on the look out for Part II of this post!
Yours In Fitness,