Who doesn't want to have a toned stomach, especially during beach season? You'd be hard pressed to find a single person who says they don't. At one pont or another, almost everyone has tried to fool others by sucking in their gut and flexing their abs. Many trainers consider it the crown jewel of muscle tone because belly fat can be the hardest and most stubborn to get rid of. We asked fitness expert Steve Lam, owner of Slam Dynamix, some fo the most common myths about gettting that much-desired look. Here's what he had to say:
MYTH: You have to do A LOT of crunches or sit-ups.
FACT: You should train abs the same way you train any muscle group. Resistance and recovery are key. If you are able to get over 20 reps per set for your abdominal exercises, you will need to add some more resistance. Train them once a week or twice, at the maximum, with a good amount of resistance and you should be set. One of the best exercises for abs is the plank. Because the abdominals are part of what’s known as the core, planking builds up your core the fastest.
MYTH: You have to do a variety exercises.
FACT: It’s true that you should vary your exercises, but that’s different from doing a whole slew of exercises in one session. You need to pick one to three exercises that will give you a good challenge. Once those exercises become easy, switch them out with other ones. By keeping your routine fresh, your body will always be changing and never settling.
MYTH: You have to consume a lot of protein and cut out all fat to make abs come out.
FACT: Protein will not make abs come out. You should be consuming enough protein for your overall health. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles to people NOT making gains in abdominal-aesthetics is that they’re not consuming enough fat. The fat we’re talking about here is good fat. You can find good fat in foods such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. Good fat paired with adequate exercise will help your body regulate subcutaneous fat.
MYTH: Only men can get abs. Women who get them have a higher level of testosterone.
FACT: Both men and women have the potential to “show” their abs. Men start to show their abdominals at a body fat measure of around 10% and below. Women start to show their abdominals at a body fat measurement of around 14% and below.
MYTH: To get a slimmer stomach, you need to do a lot of cardio, and that involves a lot of slow jogging.
FACT: A slimmer stomach is the combination of diet, resistance training, and cardio. To get a firm, slim look, you need to perform resistance training, which will not only build up muscle, but burn more fat in the long run. More fat burned means your abs will be revealed quicker.
MYTH: For longer slimmer abs, you should do stretching exercises.
FACT: There is no exercise that shapes any muscle. Muscle-shape is determined by genetics. Stretching exercise should be done regardless of whether you want abs or not. They help with flexibility, which helps in avoiding injuries.
MYTH: Training abs will make you look good, but it won’t help with anything else.
FACT: As stated before, abdominals are part of your core. Looking good is a secondary benefit when you have a great core. A strong core will help you do a variety of exercises with ease and safety because the job of the core is to stabilize the spine. Imagine zero spine stability when doing the squat, deadlift, or even bench press. Those exercises are virtually impossible if your spine is not stabilized. By strengthening your abs, you are guaranteeing safety and efficiency in your exercise motions.
MYTH: The burn you feel is the fat being melted away.
FACT: The burn you’re feeling is the muscle getting fatigued. The soreness you feel the next day is from the micro-tears or micro-trauma of the muscle. As the muscle repairs itself, it adapts and comes back even better so that it can go against the force-demands it was placed under. Your body doesn’t spot-reduce fat. You burn fat overall and you cannot control where you’ll burn it first. You need to eat a healthy diet and consistently exercise. With patience, you will see your abs.
MYTH: You need to turn the fat into abdominal muscles.
FACT: Fat and muscle are two distinct tissues. You can’t turn one into the other. When you do exercise and diet, you are simply burning the fat off of your overall body. The fat is being utilized as energy and, therefore, being used up all over the body. Hence, by eating less calories and demanding more energy (exercising), you burn fat.