It’s gone way beyond absurdity at this point
Many of us understand that the idea of directly training an area of the body in order to burn off the fat in said area doesn’t really work. It’s what we call the myth of “spot reduction”, and nowhere on the body does this myth manifest itself more than when it comes to our stomachs.
Even though many people are starting to understand you can’t just burn fat in specific areas of your body, I think people still have this underlying assumption that they need to train their abs directly to lose the belly fat they want gone.
I get it.
For example, if you want to build bigger biceps, doing things like biceps curls and chin-ups are a great way to do just that over time.
The problem is that body fat gets reduced because of overall activity, the increase and decrease of specific hormone levels, and the basic calories in vs calories out equation.
Muscles on the other hand, grow from direct training stimulus because they essentially get damaged, and then rebuilt bigger and stronger with a greater work capacity because they’ve adapted.
Doing hundreds of crunches and leg raises, and hours upon hours of planks won’t burn off that stubborn belly fat because those exercises just don’t require your body to use much energy, and as a result burn enough calories.
I know, they can be really challenging and feel like they take a lot of energy because you’re working so hard to get them done, but that’s different than really burning a ton of calories during each exercise.
I’m over simplifying a bit here, but if you want to burn the most amount of calories, then you need to incorporate the biggest muscle groups, and as many of them as you can, throughout each exercise over greater periods of time, and with the appropriate intensity level.
This is why compound exercises (an exercise that uses 2 or more joints through its movement, therefore using many muscle groups) are so invaluable to fat loss targeted programs.
They use multiple large muscle groups which require more energy (calories) to create movement, and that in turn allows you to increase the load you’re lifting, and as a result burn a lot of calories.
Now if I just convinced you that direct ab work is useless in your pursuit of fat loss, I’m sorry. The truth is, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
(I bet you’re scratching your head right about now. I know, I just zigged when you thought I was gonna zag)
Here are 3 reasons that giving your abs some direct work is actually crucial to getting you that killer summer body that will have all the Greek gods envious.
- Direct Abdominal Training Will Help Increase Strength Levels and as a Result Cause You to Burn More Calories
Remember how we were just talking about performing those big compound exercises that require lots of energy to be expended and also allow you to lift the most weight?
Well, the weakest link with regards to those big compound movements is almost always your abs.
Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Presses, Lunges, heck even the Bench Press to a certain degree require your abs to work, and work hard.
Will you feel them burning like you would if you’re doing crunches, no, but rest assured they are working hard to keep your spine protected and keep your body in it’s most optimal position to produce tons of force.
So why would I do direct abdominal work if I’m already training them doing the exercises you mentioned above?
I’m glad you asked. You’re doing direct ab work for the same reason you would do triceps extensions to assist your bench press, it’s gonna make you stronger at all of those compound exercises.
If you’re stronger, you’re going to be able to lift more weight, and as a result burn more calories.
- Spot Enhancement
Ok, now I’m really messing with you and going off the deep end huh?
Well, like we talked about earlier in the article, though you can’t spot reduce, you can spot enhance. The abs are a muscle group just like any other, and should be trained as such.
Seriously, who wants to get super lean looking great everywhere, but not have the six pack to show for it?
Ok, that’s an oversimplification as well.
With any muscle group, if you get lean enough, definition of the muscles will be present, but chances are you want them to really look good, and as a result they’re going to require some hypertrophy (muscle growth).
Before you jump into the whole “blocky midsection” fear, understand that would take a long time to get to, and isn’t realistic for most people, despite the tricks your eyes might play on you when looking in the mirror.
So let’s train those suckers and get them looking great for when we are lean enough to show them off.
- Injury Prevention
The sexiest of the three points I make is clearly injury prevention, J/K.
The truth is though, many of us lifters have learned of the importance of direct core work from our own reluctance to do it, and as a result have gotten injured, myself included.
If you’re a keyboard warrior throughout the day, you probably are feeling the effects of not training your abs enough as well.
If our abs are weak, it leaves many areas of our body susceptible to injury, our back and hips most notably.
When you can’t brace your abs correctly during a heavy set of squats or deadlifts for example, other areas of your body are forced to create the necessary stability to aid in the movement.
These muscles that you are now forced to recruit generally suck at creating the necessary stability and as a result you aren’t as strong as you could be, and you leave yourself open to injury.
It’s pretty hard to get the best out of your workout program when you’re banged up. Yeah, you can train around injuries, but that’s certainly not the optimal way to do it.
Bottom line, don’t be turkey! Train your abs and protect yourself from injury.
As you can see, even though directly training your abs won’t burn off that unwanted stubborn belly fat, it still should be a crucial part of any training program. You’ll be a much stronger and healthier you for it, and boy will those abs look great when you get lean enough for them to be visible.
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