Want Six Pack Abs? 3 Exercises That Don’t Really Work

crunches

A man performing ab exercises | Source: iStock

Obtaining a six-pack can be a frustrating endeavor. Despite all the crunches, twists, and turns you’ve been doing and the healthy meals you’ve been eating, you’re still not seeing the abs of your dreams. Interestingly, the exercises you are doing could be to blame. Read on for three mistakes that could be sabotaging your six pack. With a few tweaks, you can still have a washboard stomach before summer arrives.

1. You only perform isolation exercises

Bodybuilding stresses this very important point when it comes to abdominal training: If you only perform isolation ab exercises, then you’re making a huge mistake. You need to engage the core, the muscles around your trunk and pelvis, in addition to your abdominal muscles. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen to work together. Doing compound movements that engage all these muscles like deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses engage every inch of your core. This leads to better balance and stability and will contribute to more well-defined abdominal muscles. Although you also need to include aerobic activity into your routine to burn abdominal fat, it’s those core exercises that can really strengthen and tone the underlying muscles.

2. Sticking to only plain crunches

young man doing reverse crunch

Crunches | Source: iStock

Starting in junior high school gym class, you’re told (or shown) just how important crunches are, and still to this day you continue to do them in the hopes of one day finally getting that six-pack. But the truth is, crunches don’t work and what’s more, they put a damaging strain on your back. Here’s what happens: Because crunches involve you lying on your back and repeatedly bending over and extending your spinal discs, it places an “excessive strain on the part of your low back that has the most nerves and is most prone to wear and tear.” Your spinal discs are only able to support a limited number of bending or crunching motions over the course of your lifetime, or risk lower back pain, or worse, a disc herniation or bulge.

Additionally, crunches don’t burn the calories necessary to get rid of any of the abdominal fat that is covering that six-pack. In other words, crunches are a waste of time and could end up hurting your back in the long run. There are better ways to seek that six-pack. Here is one of a few crunch alternatives that will help you to avoid back pain, while burning more calories, courtesy of the Huffington Post, that require you to choose a weight that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions. Here is a great crunch alternative to try:

The Woodchopper 

  • Start in a standing position and hold a dumbbell, medicine ball, or elastic band above your body and to the side of your shoulder.
  • Diagonally rotate with arms extended from above your shoulder, down and across your body to the outside of your hips, as if you were holding an ax to chop a block of wood. Switch sides to complete the rep. Also try the “reverse woodchopper” which is the same motion in the opposite direction.

3. You’re doing steady cardio

running on a treadmill

A man running | Source: iStock

You’ll never reveal that six-pack without some fat burning cardio, and your steady-state cardio workouts are not really cutting it. Instead, incorporating interval training to your routine will help you to burn that excess belly fat faster to help reach your goal. “All you have to do is up the speed of your movement — walking, running, swimming, cycling — or crank up the resistance for 60 or 90 seconds and then slow down or reduce resistance for another 60 to 90 seconds and repeat,” personal trainer Suzanne Bowen tells Prevention. It’s important to continuously challenge your body to avoid plateaus and the easiest way to do that is regularly change your speed, the duration of your cardio workout, and the resistance of your intervals. You’ll be on you way to that six-pack in no time.

Try this interval cardio activity:

10 Minute Cardio Interval Routine

This routine, courtesy of Muscle and Fitness, will take you 10 minutes. Start with a light jog for three minutes and then continue on to complete the 10 minutes worth of work. Choose your level: Beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Continue to challenge yourself, and once you’ve completed the advanced and have gotten good at it, try adding a slight incline for variation or switch your machine from a treadmill to a stationary bike.

Beginner: 20 seconds of work and 40 seconds recovery, 10 times.

Intermediate: 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of recovery, 10 times.

Advanced: 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of recovery, 10 times.

Complete the workout and cool down with three minutes of walking.

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