Working in a gym, I often see the same 4 abdominal and core training mistakes made over and over again.
Here are some of the biggest examples of such mistakes that I’ve made in the past and I continue to see on a daily basis.
Mistake #1- Not working with nearly enough tension
The primary reason of most abdominal training farces is the simple lack of tension in the muscle. The abs are just like any other muscle group. If you want those suckers to grow and pop you gotta hit ’em hard. Forget doing things to “tone” (man I hate that word) or shape the abs. If you want serious results you need to put in serious training and leave the soft stuff behind.
There are two main strategies killing off the tension in the land of serious ab training:
Tension killer #1- Too many damn exercises
I’ve got a book detailing over 80 different abdominal exercises. I often see people doing their ab routine with over 5 or 6 moves. This is also the reason why you can have an entire workout or class dedicated to just the core.
This way too much. If you want to really work your abs I recommend no more than 2-3 primary abdominal movements max. All you need is some sort of sit up and a leg raise variation. Maybe you can also throw in an isometric like a plank or hold for good measure.
Having too many exercises dilutes the tension in the workout. I say if you do 3-4 sets of hard leg raises and you can still do a few more different exercises then you didn’t pour enough energy into those leg raises.
As an example here’s the entire ab routine I did today:
Hanging leg raises. 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Tension killer #2- Too much volume
Sometimes people will resort to high volume of an exercise like crunches that the tension just isn’t high enough to do much good no matter how many yawn inducing reps you do.
A big reason for the high volume is the fact that many abdominal exercises are body weight based. Unfortunately, there is little knowledge out there on how to progress even sit ups and leg raises to a higher level. As a result, people often stick to the same weak techniques and just keep adding volume in a feeble attempt to make their abs burn.
This is also why many people turn to spine busting machines. They are looking for more resistance and the weight seems to supply it. The down side is that their muscle activation and technique isn’t very good (which is why they think they need the machine in the first place) and they put themselves at risk.
As a general rule remember; a crap-ton of volume can’t make up for even an ounce of neglected tension in any exercise or muscle group. Especially the abs.
Mistake #2- Hands under the butt or using some other hip support
I often see people placing their hands under their tail bone when they do leg raises lying down. I used to do this myself and it’s a big mistake.
The fact is, your abs don’t really have anything to do with your legs but rather they move and stabilize your pelvis. When people place their hands under their tail bone they are providing some support for the hips. It makes the move easier, but it’s robbing your abs of valuable workload.
Like many people, I used to do this because orf pressure in my lower back. What I didn’t know then was that the pressure was there because my abs weren’t strong enough to handle the exercise. If you need your hands under your butt you need an easier exercise.
#3- Trying to “isolate” the abs
There are lots of techniques out there people use in an attempt to get the hip flexors, legs or back out of the picture during ab training. The idea is that if your hips are working then they are assisting the abs and thus the abs are not working as hard.
It makes sense but it’s simply not true. Every muscle can only handle as much tension as the supporting muscles around it. So if you want your abs to fire up as much as possible you want to have everything else like your quads, lats and hip flexors also on full tilt. It’s just like pulling a chain apart. If you slack off the tension in one link, you slack off the tension in all of the other links attached.
#4- Over relying on diet for six pack abs
Yea, yea I know abs are made in the kitchen as the saying goes. (btw is that was the “shred” button on my blender is for?)
It’s true that it’s possible to have ripped abs that no one ever sees because they are under a layer of fat and yes fat is largely influenced by diet (although diet may have it’s limitations.) But a six pack is just like any other form of muscle tone. (AAAAHHH that word!) It’s a relationship between how much fat there is and how much muscle there is.
So even if you’re pretty darn lean you still might have a flat, but smooth belly instead of a stack of belly bricks. So don’t over rely on getting lean as the most important way to get a six pack. Many people find what they really need is some seriously high tension shooting through their abs to finally get things to pop.