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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Many people still believe the outdated fi tness myth that if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.


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