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.
Read more: The Science of Amazing Abs
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.
Read more: How Long Does It Take to Get Six-Pack Abs?
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
Can't get enough info on abs? Here's a list of other helpful articles you'll want to check out!
How to Join the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
1. Sign Up for Daily Emails
There are two main places this challenge is taking place online — your inbox and our Facebook group (more on that in a second). So first, make sure you've entered your email to sign up for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. (Yep, even if you're already signed up for our regular daily newsletter.)
Every day, we'll be sending you your daily workout and a healthy recipe to try, along with fun extras like workout playlists, motivational quotes, self-care tips and other fitness and nutrition information to make 2019 your best (and healthiest) year ever!
2. Print Out Your Calendars
Isn't it so satisfying to check things off of your to-do list? Each day during the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge, you're accountable for two main things: working out and eating healthy.
To help keep you on track for the entire month, we created two calendars — one with each day's workouts listed and another with each week's nutrition goal and healthy recipes. Print them out and check off each workout and day of healthy eating as you complete it.
3. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join our Facebook Group for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. We'll share recipes, tips, motivations, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.
4. Share Your Journey on Social Media
Are you on Instagram or Twitter? So are we! And we'd love to see photos and updates of your progress. When you post to social media, be sure to use the hashtag #GetStrongChallenge. That way, you can also connect with other Get Strong challengers!