Our friends at Prevention.com are at it again, and as per usual I’m here to rescue you from their usual drivel.
I love their opening line:
Conventional ab exercises get results—but let’s face it, they’re boring as heck.
The funny thing is, conventional ab exercises will NOT remove your belly/muffintop or give you visible abs. So imagine how much more ineffective their “non-boring” methods are going to be! (And hang on a mo: do you work out for entertainment, or to get in shape?! A proper workout should be a draining, intense experience; whether its boring or not shouldn’t be a factor if you’re actually in it to win it i.e. get results).
First up: if you have a belly (as opposed to a flat stomach), you will never be able to get rid of it by just doing ab exercises. In particular its important to note that you cannot target fat stores by exercising the area where the fat is situated. I.e., if you’re happy with your legs and arms, but have a pot belly or muffin top, doing crunches is not going to make the fat on your stomach disappear first.
This is because of two reasons: fat loss (especially fat on the stomach/hips) is primarily about diet, not exercise; and when fat is used up by the body as fuel, the body uses fat from where ever is most readily available – which is primarily down to genetics, not the body part you’re exercising.
In light of this, if you specifically want abs instead of your belly/muffintop, you have to do two things:
1) reduce total body fat percentage to around 17% at the very least for men, or 22% at the very least for women (primarily by a low carb diet; but resistance training – NOT so much cardio – will significantly speed up the process).
2) A moderate amount of high intensity and ab-focussed resistance training. By high intensity, I mean, exercises that make you sweat and hurt, and which are tough to get used to. Not lame half arsed exercises as per the Prevention article.
Note: if you’re serious about losing the body fat required for your abs to be seen, you’ll be doing a decent, high intensity resistance training at least 3 days a week. A proper, high intensity resistance training regime that incorporates free weights will in fact be hitting your abs, whether you realize it or not. Far too many people – including people I know personally – spend a disproportionate amount of time on the abs, when in fact they would be far better off doing dead-lifts, or pull-ups. This is because, as noted above, the area fat is burned up from is not related to what part of the body you are exercising; in addition, ab exercises don’t burn nearly as much energy as say, a set of dead-lifts or pull-ups do, nor will it build as much muscle (and keep in mind the more muscle you have, the easier it is to burn fat).
Note 2: High intensity = pushing past pain thresholds, every set. If you can talk while doing a set, you’re not doing high intensity.