Ab Exercise Myths
September 14 2008
Ab Myth 1: Do not use weights for ab exercises.
I see this myth all the time in the gym, but see no logic whatsoever. If you use weights for biceps, chest and every other muscle, why not use weights for abs? Your abdominal muscle is no different than the rest of the muscles in the human body.
If you can already see your abs, using weights can only make them look a lot better. If it is under a thick layer of fat, your focus should be on your diet and cardio than ab exercises in the first place.
The only ones who should stay away from weights for abs are those have a lot of fat around their abs; doing abs with weights can make their stomach look bigger as the muscle grows underneath. This is probabaly the number one ab exercise myth.
Ab Myth 2: High reps will tone your abs.
Spot reduction is the most well known myth in fitness. Ironically, you see people in every gym across the world trying to “spot reduce”. You cannot lose fat from a specific area on your body by exercising that specific area, period.
Women have more fat on the back of their triceps & hip; men have more fat on their low abs and low back. It is simply because that’s how we are wired genetically and is not because you do less exercise for these specific body parts. So it doesn’t really matter whether you do low, medium or high reps for your abs, or for that matter any other muscle.
When you start losing weight (eating less and doing cardio), the body gradually loses fat from those stubborn areas, including your abs.
Ab Myth 3: Doing abs on a stability ball will improve balance.
The use free weights by athletes, functional training and movement training are based on one theory called the theory of Specificity - It says strength, balance, & coordination is very specific to the movement.
Simply put, if you want to get better at running, you run; if you want to get better at running on a treadmill, you run on a treadmill not outside. The more close the exercise to the movement or skill which you are trying to improve, the better. So if you lay on a ball and do crunches, you will only become more balanced lying on a ball and doing crunches. The balance you gained lying on the ball won’t carry over to other activities, like running or walking.
Ab Myth 4: Hanging leg raises work your lower abs.
Anatomically speaking, there is no lower or upper abs. The rectus abdominis is one single muscle. They are called upper and lower abs because they are innervated by different nerves and hence could be emphasized differently. And even if they could be emphasized, leg raises do not do a good job.
The major function of the rectus abdominis muscle is flexion or rounding of your spine. If you are just raising your legs without rounding your spine, you are mainly using a different muscle group called hip flexors. This is simply because ab muscles are not attached to your legs and hence abs in no way can raise your legs. The burn you feel from leg raises is mainly from the hip flexors which run deep below the lower part of the abdomen.
If you want to emphasize lower abs, make sure your round your spine when you bring your legs up. The same applies for upper abs too.