Here are 10 of the most overlooked and misunderstood facts about abdominal training – some of these may fly in the face of what you THINK you know to be facts! Keep an open mind and read the explanations.
You may still not agree but it might just change your ideas on how your abs should be trained.
This is Part 1 – keep your eyes peeled for Part 2, coming soon!
1. Using A Belt Makes Your Abs Stronger, Not Weaker.
This is perhaps on of the most pervasive myths that people hold about abdominal training, and about training in general. Let’s apply some simple common sense to the issue: if you can lift more weight with a belt than without (and virtually all people can), are your abs “asleep” as many people who have you believe? Or, are they working harder than they would be without a belt?
The reason you’re stronger with a belt is that it gives your abs something to contract against. Imagine you want to train your legs and all you have is two primitive options:
1) You can “leg press” a heavy box by pushing against it with your feet while sitting on a slick floor. Or…
2) You “leg press” a heavy box by pushing it with your feet while sitting on the floor with your back against a solid wall.
Which option do you think will result in more tension for your leg muscles? Obviously the second option is far preferable, because by wedging yourself between an immovable object and a heavy moveable object, you can create a high level of tension on the muscle’s you’re trying to train.
Using a belt during heavy squats, deadlifts, or Olympic lifts works the same way- by giving your abs something to push against, they can create greater intra-abdominal pressure, allowing you to 1) lift more and 2) lift more with less chance of spinal injury.
Just having a belt however, doesn’t ensure success- you’ve gotta use it properly. The three key things to remember are:
1) Wear the belt high enough so your abs can exert pressure against it- many people wear a belt too low and rob themselves of the potential benefit
2) Don’t wear the belt too tight- a looser fit allows your abs to get better leverage against the belt. And finally…
3) Get a high quality belt- some nylon/Velcro belts won’t stand up to heavy use. Case in point: I recently purchased such a belt from my local Sports Authority and broke the buckle the first time I used it (must be my weakened abs from excessive belt use). Thinking it was a fluke, I returned the belt for a new one, and once again, broke it the first time I used it.
2. Having A 6-Pack Is About Diet, Not Training
You can train abs, all abs, nothing but abs, all the time, and still not have a six pack UNLESS- and here’s the kicker- unless you’re below 10% bodyfat. And probably you’ll need to be below 8% bodyfat. The truth is you already have abs- you just can’t see them. Since this isn’t a nutrition article, I won’t elaborate on how you should eat, so if you need help in that area, you might consider an expert nutrition consultation.
Now of course, you can drop bodyfat through training as well, but not “ab training per se:” instead, focus your efforts on challenging the largest possible muscle groups. My favorites include heavy weight circuits including a mix of Olympic lifts, power lifts, and strongman lifts.
3. The Main Function Of Your Abs Is Not Force Production
Although the abdominal muscles can and do function to flex and rotate the trunk, I’d argue that their primary function is to prevent unwanted motion. Specifically, strong abs help to protect the spine in two ways:
1) They create intra-abdominal pressure which helps to counteract compressive forces resulting from axial loading (e.g., squats, deadlifts)
2) They help to prevent forces that take the spine out of its preferred neutral position. More on this in the second installment next time….
Stay Tuned For Part 2!