Usually, anyone who goes to the gym wants to get tighter abs, but for some reason they can’t reach that goal. Is there an explanation for that? Of course there is. Anyone can increase their muscles if they do everything it takes (workout, balanced diet, resting and supplementation, if necessary), so lots of these details might be missing. If you have just started and you are sticking to your plan, you need to be patient and persistent because results will end up showing, sooner or later. If you’re reaching a point where you think you’re doing everything right and even so you don’t see any results, that’ probably because you might be making a few common mistakes, but you can correct them at any moment.
These are a few common mistakes for people who work out their abs and that you should avoid:
1. Little or no movement amplitude.
If you’re not giving the movement you perform enough amplitude, then you’re not working out correctly and the results won’t show up – that’s for sure. You need to learn, before anything else, the right position. You can place your hands in several places: behind your back, next to your chest, behind your head. Your arms should be in a position where you’re allowing your elbows to stay opened, because that way you won’t be forcing your spine too much and you will avoid back pain. The feet should be next to the quad, apart from each other and hip-width apart. This position will avoid an overload in the lumbar area of the spine. You should also flex your knees so you can reduce tension in the lumbar zone. When you’re bending your waist, lift your body to the vertical position, contracting the abdomen. Get back to the initial position and repeat the movement as many times as necessary.
2. Work out the abs in the beginning of the workout.
The abs are a part of your central area and are clearly a support zone for the stabilization of almost every movement. If you stimulate them in the beginning of the workout, you can be harming your performance when you’re executing complex exercises, because the tendency is to feel some muscle fatigue in that region. It’s better to do it at the end of the workout.
3. Forgetting about complex exercises.
The abs and the lumbar muscles are responsible for the stabilization of the body and can be activated when you’re performing other exercises, but to do that you need to have a “body conscience” to waken them up. Exercises like squats, deadlift or dips in the parallel with your body weight cause an excellent overload in your abs and lumbar zone if you contract them during their execution.
At the end of the workout, after doing the complex exercises, all you need is 15 minutes to complete your workout with one or two exercises for the 4 areas: superior and inferior abs, obliques and internal abs, with 2-3 or 3-5 sets each, keeping the number of reps between 8-15 or 10-15, depending on your physical condition.
4. Working out every day.
The abs function as any other muscle in your body; they need time to recover. You should exercise them 2 to 3 times a week, with one or two days off so you can recover.
5. Working only an angle.
It is common to see lots of people constantly focusing on the superior part of the abdomen and forgetting about the obliques, inferior and transversal muscles. A well-defined abdomen implies a good work from different angles.
You should work out your abs in more than one angle so you can get an even result.
Try to work your core in a complete way with planks (isometric / stabilization), lateral raises, hyperextensions and sitting torsions (rotation of the spine)
Plank: It’s an excellent isometric exercise to work the abs. It doesn’t require any type of equipment. The main muscles involved are the abdominal rectum and the external obliques. Indirectly, you’ll also be working the muscles of the rectus femoris.
Tip: Every morning, do 5 planks of 30 seconds each, to strengthen your core.
6. Abusing the number of reps.
It is common to see people doing an absurd number of abs, hoping to be keeping up with a workout tough enough to start seeing results. The abs, just like any other muscle, need a progressive overload for hypertrophy, that is, less reps, more load. If you can perform a big number of reps without getting muscle fatigue, then probably you’re not being imposed the right intensity. The increase in the intensity needs to be gradual, so don’t stick to the plan of your friend from the gym who claims he has done 700 abs in one workout. If your set is at an easy number, keep the number of reps, increase the load and perform the exercise slowly, always contracting the area you want to work. This load doesn’t need to be an extra weight, it can be a different surface.
7. Trying to burn calories by working out the abs.
Many bodybuilders believe that it is possible to loose abdominal fat with localized workouts. Even if your abdomen evolves, you can’t just focus on your workout to make it show; you need to combine it with a diet to eliminate body fat that’s on the surface of the skin. Eliminate the trans fats and decrease the ingestion of saturated fats and simple carbs. Focus on lean protein, complex cars and healthy fats. Choose aerobic workouts like running, spinning and swimming, etc. (45-60min). If you want, you can consider the use of a fat burner that will help you speed up the process during the exercise.
8. Bad respiratory coordination.
The abs are influenced by the breathing. To active the transversal muscle of the abdomen, you just need to contract it during the classic abdominal exercise, during the concentric phase (when you raise your torso), because this is the muscle that will participate in the process of breathing out. Remember to breathe in through your nose in the negative phase of the exercise and expel the air through your mouth when you contract the muscle.
Delgado, Abdominales: mitos y errores, 21st of July 2008, translation and adaptation of the original version
Delgado, Fallos a corregir a la hora de hacer abdominales, 11th of November 2009, translation and adaptation of the original version
Gabriela Gottau, Reglas básicas del entrenamiento abdominal, 26th of September 2008, translation and adaptation of the original version
Sandro Lenzi, Principais erros no treinamento abdominal, 19th of November 2013, translation and adaptation of the original version
Slyvon Blanco, 10 Ab Training Mistakes You Need To Stop Making!, 3rd of September 2013, translation and adaptation of the original version