Abs, abs, abs! It seems that every fitness magazine ever has featured cover lines like "Six-Pack Abs in Just One Month" or "The One Exercise That Will Shred Your Abs." And while it might sell magazines, the advice often leaves a lot of the equation out.
Chiseling six-pack abs takes a lot more than just a single exercise or even a single weekly workout. Here are some of the biggest myths about strengthening your core and what you need to know instead.
Myth #1: Your Core = Your Abs
This one is only partially true. Your abdominal muscles are part of your core, yes, but even those are more than just your rectus abdominis (a.k.a. six-pack muscles).
There are your obliques (muscles along your sides), transverse abdominis (between your rectus abdominis and obliques), erector spinae (back muscles) and even pelvic floor muscles. And your core is also supported by your hip flexors and glutes.
Myth #2: Abs Are Made in the Kitchen
While this makes for a nice Pinterest or Instagram post, it also is only partially true. The whole truth? You need a combination of proper nutrition, cardio exercise and strength training for strong abs. Genetics also plays a role in how easily you can drop fat and build muscle in your midsection.
So even if you're eating all the right flat-belly foods, doing interval cardio two to three days a week and strength training with a focus on ab exercises another two to three days a week, you still might not look like Gwen Stefani or The Rock.
Myth #3: You Must Do Core-Specific Exercises
Incorporating bicycle crunches, ab rollouts, weighted side bends and medicine ball woodchops is a great way to strengthen your core, but it's not the only way. Because your core muscles (remember all those ones listed above?) extend all the way through your torso and into your hips, they're involved in pretty much any movement.
That means that exercises that don't focus specifically on your abs or your core — like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and so many other — also target your midsection. Or at least they should if you maintain proper form. Whatever exercise you're doing, focus not only on the parts of your body that are moving, but make sure you give yourself a solid foundation by constantly checking in to make sure your core is tight and engaged.
Myth #4: Crunches Give You Flat Abs
This myth has largely been debunked in recent years, as more and more research has shown that people are doing crunches incorrectly, putting their necks at risk. Plus, it's a pretty simple exercise with an unnatural movement pattern.
But still, it bears repeating that endless crunches alone aren't going to give you chiseled abs. What's more disappointing is that there's not even one magical exercise that can give you six-pack abs (though research from the American Council on Exercise says bicycle crunches give you the most bang for your buck).
Myth #5: Six-Pack Abs Are Just Nice Eye Candy
A strong core isn't just about looking good at the beach (though it can definitely boost your confidence, and there's nothing wrong with that). There are plenty of other benefits to having a strong core, including:
- Helping to prevent injuries
- Assists with everyday movements like twisting and bending
- Maintaining proper posture
- Easing back pain
- Protect your internal organs
- Improved self-confidence
All About Abs, Abs, Abs
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