Heavy Resistance For 6-Pack Abs
Oct 14, 2010
While mainstream fitness enthusiasts have progressed in
the gym—incorporating balance and stability exercises to
strengthen their core—most are still hung up on doing
hundreds of sit-ups or crunches everyday to lose belly fat
and get six-pack abs. They often fall victim to two wellmarketed
myths: 1) You can reduce belly fat by training
your abdominals and 2) Abdominals should be trained
diff erently than the other muscles in your body. The truth
is that your abdominals apply to the same scientifi c principles
of every other muscle group in your body.
Many people still believe the outdated fi tness myth that if
they do crunches with high-repetition and low-resistance
every day, they can reduce abdominal fat. The erroneous
belief behind fat reduction is that if you train a muscle
that is covered by body fat, the fat will go away, turn into
muscle, and get “toned.” Contrary to popular belief, there
is no way to reduce only abdominal fat with abdominal
training exercises. If you could, everyone who chewed
bubble gum would have skinny faces.
The other myth is that abdominals should be trained differently
than other muscles in the body and do not apply
to the same scientific principles. Many believe that
abdominal muscles should be trained everyday with high
repetition sets and no resistance. One main reason why
people, especially women, do not use resistance when
training their abdominals is because they do not want to
get too muscular. They want to “tone” their muscles not
build muscle. Yet, there is no such thing as toning a muscle.
It is an erroneously used marketing term that helps
sell magazines and exercise equipment. Muscles can either
hypertrophy (grow) or atrophy (shrink). This applies
to all muscles, including the abdominals.
The purpose behind training the abdominal muscles with
resistance is to stress them to the point where they must
adapt to meet the unaccustomed demands. This is called
the overload principle. The human body is involved in a
constant process of adapting to stresses or lack of stresses
placed upon it. When you stress the body in a manner it is
unaccustomed to (overload), the body will react by causing
physiological changes (adaptation) to be able to handle
that stress in a better way the next time it occurs (1).
These concepts make sense to the average fi tness enthusiast
when it comes to training other muscle groups;
i.e., they would not expect their arms to look any better if
they performed 300 curls with a broomstick seven days a
week. Therefore, strength training 2 – 3 times a week, with
moderate to heavy resistance, moderate repetitions, rest
in between and a variety of exercises to target different
areas applies to the abdominals as well as all other muscle
groups. For example, cable crunches on a resistance
ball, cable rope crunches, hanging abdominal raises with
dumbbell between legs, cable rotations, and seated abdominal
crunches are the types of exercises that will yield
the desired results.
1. McArdle, WD, Katch, FI, and Katch, VL. (2000).
Essentials of exercise physiology (2nd ed.). Baltimore:
Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.