If you want to watch a heated debate, pit two trainers against each other — one who thinks you can train your abs every day and one who doesn't. Some trainers give a hard "nope," while others say it can be done with proper programming and some safety precautions — plus knowing when to lay off.
Clearly, it's a point of controversy among fitness professionals. And while you may think that the only thing that happens when you do an ab workout every day is that your core gets stronger, exercising your core is really a bit more nuanced than that, says Evan Jay, a sports medicine physician assistant-certified at Redefine Healthcare.
If you're really committed to daily ab sessions, below, we break down some of the benefits and risks. It'll help you figure out whether doing an ab workout every day is right for you and how you can do it safely and effectively.
Your Muscular Endurance Might Improve
Your abs include four distinct muscles that make up the front and sides of your torso.
- The transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle. It wraps around your torso and keeps your spine stable.
- The rectus abdominis is the ever-elusive "six pack." This long, segmented muscle extends from your pubic bone to your upper ribs.
- The external obliques run from your hips to your ribs on the sides of your torso.
- The internal obliques rest beneath the external obliques.
- Some people (about 80 percent) have a fifth, small abdominal muscle called the pyramidalis.
When you do ab workouts every day, you can improve your endurance in all of the four abdominal muscles, as frequency and volume are two key factors in developing muscular strength and endurance, according to a May 2018 meta-analysis in Sports Medicine.
Just remember that it's important not to neglect any of the above four muscles out in your ab workouts (see below for more on how), as they all perform specific functions that contribute to strength, stability and protection of your spine and organs, according to an August 2018 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Your Athletic Performance Could Soar
A few populations can potentially benefit from daily ab workouts, or at the very least, can do abs every day without worrying much about injury. Advanced or elite athletes may benefit from doing abs every day (or almost every day) if it gives them an edge over the competition, Jay says.
Even then, Jay says, "a frequency of six days would only be appropriate for a low-intensity, low-resistance type of workout. Any type of resistance or power training would require at least one, if not two, days of rest to assure adequate recovery prior to repeating the workout."
Your Postpartum or Surgical Recovery Might Be Easier
Isa Herrara, a pelvic floor physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach, says another population can benefit from daily ab workouts: those who're recovering from childbirth or any type of surgery.
"Anyone who is fully healed from any type of surgery or recovering from back surgery, Cesarean birth or any back issues could do abs every day to heal their pain, to improve their posture and to improve stamina for athletic activities," Herrara says.
If you fall into one of the above categories, make sure to talk to your primary care physician, physical therapist or obstetrician about what's safe for you.
Your Back Pain Could Ease Up
The science is clear: A strong core reduces back pain and can prevent back injuries. According to a March 2015 review in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, proper core strength training is one of the most effective methods for alleviating chronic back pain.
In fact, core strength training may even be more effective than traditional physical therapy in reducing low back pain, per a July/August 2017 study in the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.
But, that's not all: A November 2013 report in Sports Health concludes that core stabilization exercises such as planks and rotational movements can aid in injury prevention, especially for older adults and people with no fitness experience.
But You May Also Get Hurt
It's definitely possible to get injured if you do ab workouts every day, Jay says. "The risk of doing any workout excessively is overtraining," he says. "This can lead to injury, such as tendinitis or stress reactions," among other things.
And if you have a weak core to begin with, your risk for injury is even higher, says Alesha Courtney, certified personal trainer. "Not only is the core weak, but someone who is a beginner most likely doesn't know the proper form for ab exercises," she says.
However, if you have a strong core, Courtney says, the risk of injury from doing ab workouts every day is probably minimal. But anyone — advanced or not — can sustain overuse injuries, which occur simply from using a muscle too much, according to a December 2018 study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research.
So, Can You Do Ab Workouts Every Day?
More isn't always better. Generally speaking, Jay says, most people shouldn't do ab workouts more than six times a week. Not only do your abs need a break, but so does the rest of your body. Without at least one rest day per week, you aren't giving your body a fighting chance to recover from the workouts you put it through.
And beginners — or even intermediate exercisers — should probably stick to two or three ab workouts a week, Courtney says.
Plus, if you perform compound lifts, rotational movements and overhead exercises, you already get a pretty darn good ab workout every time you train. So, the short answer is yes: You can train abs in some way, shape or form every single day — assuming you're healthy and injury-free.
However, according to most fitness trainers, it's not the best idea to isolate your abs every day. It's best to switch up your routine, performing a variety of core exercises that includes isometric (ex. plank), dynamic (ex. supine leg lifts) and rotational (ex. woodchop) movements. You can also split your routine into upper abs, lower abs, and obliques, Courtney says.
It's also important to perform non-ab ab exercises. Yep, you read that one right — many exercises work your abdominal muscles without isolating them, and that's one of the best ways to train abs, Jay says.
"Exercises such as diagonal ax swings, squat twists, power ball slams and even single-arm lat pull downs with a twist can activate the abdominals, while also encouraging appropriate movement up and down the kinetic chain," Jay says.
But the most important thing is to know when to rest, Courtney says. "You have to listen to your body and, if it feels like too much, pull back. There is no chance for recovery for muscles that are overworked and tired."
No time? No problem! The at-home ab workout below requires zero extra equipment and gets the job done in just 10 minutes.
- Journal of Physical Therapy Science: "Effects of core strength training on core stability"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The real-world benefits of strengthening your core"
- Mayo Clinic: "Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles"
- Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research: "Overuse injuries in sport: a comprehensive overview"
- Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation: "The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of Resistance Training Frequency on Gains in Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Journal of Physical Therapy Science: "Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain"
- Journal of Physical Therapy Science: "Effectiveness of core stabilization exercises and routine exercise therapy in management of pain in chronic non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled clinical trial"
- Sports Health: "Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention"