Six pack abs are the foundation of 'glamor' muscles. Knocking biceps out of the top spot, a shredded stomach is going to turn more heads on the beach than someone yelling, “Shark!”
Despite being the holy grail of fitness goals for many people, the amount of misinformation that is still circulating is staggering. Let’s take a look at the top 3 biggest myths about building a six pack and what you should be doing instead.
1. Crunches Are King (Right?)
No, crunches are not the 'king' of abdominal exercises. Not even close.
Yes, crunches can certainly be (and should certainly be) a valuable part of your fitness program; however, in terms of total abdominal activation, crunches rank in at about average.
The American Council on Exercise decided to find out just which abdominal exercise comes in at the top spot. According to Mark Anders, the study conducted by ACE had two top contenders for greatest muscle activation. Those two exercises were the Captain’s Chair and the Bicycle. (1)
If you really love crunches (and who doesn’t) then consider upgrading the exercise. By increasing the range of motion during a crunch, you get a greater area of total activation. The easiest way to increase the range of motion? Perform crunches on a BOSU ball.
2. Exercise > Nutrition
How is this still a thing?
Every credible fitness guru since VHS exercise tapes has emphasized the importance of nutrition over exercise. Yes, exercise IS important; however, you can’t out-train a bad diet. More importantly, you cannot have the midsection you want by eating thousands of calories of crappy food.
Not only is it important to eat a well-balanced diet (with a cheat day here and there) but it’s also essential to cut calories when you are ready to start working towards that defined and shredded midsection. Reducing your caloric intake will help to burn that extra body fat, allowing your abdominal muscles to start popping out.
The amount of your caloric deficit is going to vary based on your particular lifestyle. You may only need to cut 200 calories per day if you are an extremely active person. I’d recommend using a caloric calculator or an app like MyFitnessPal to calculate an approximate number.
3. Spot Treating is Possible
Have you ever seen an overweight man with Spartan warrior-like abs?
Didn’t think so.
You cannot spot treat or target ONLY your abdominal muscles. There are two reasons for this:
- Genetic pre-determination
- Over compensation issues
You didn’t tell your body where to place the body fat that is covering those abdominals and you aren’t going to be the one to tell your body where to take it off. This is why having a complete, well-rounded exercise program is so essential for stripping off body fat and building lean muscle tissue.
As for over-compensation issues: The last thing you want is to have one muscle group that is so strong that it starts doing all the work for other muscle groups. Why? In the off chance you have to activate that weak and underappreciated muscle group and you bite off more than you can chew, your risk for injury is going to be sky high.
Don’t take my word for it: A study conducted at the University of Connecticut demonstrated that despite unilateral training, fat loss occurred throughout the body and not in that selected area. Bam. Nail in the coffin. (2)
Finally, let’s point out the obvious: Why would you want to have a shredded six-pack when the rest of your body looks awful? That’s like owning a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray and the only thing you bothered to upgrade on the car were the wheels and rims.
- Anders, M. 2001. New Study Puts Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises. ACE Fitness Matters, 7(3), 9-11.
- Kostek MA, Pescatello LS, Seip RL, Angelopoulos TJ, Clarkson PM, Gordon PM, Moyna NM, Visich PS, Zoeller RF, Thompson PD, Hoffman EP, Price TB. Subcutaneous fat alterations resulting from an upper-body resistance training program. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jul;39(7):1177-85.
ABOUT DAVID SAUTTER
David Sautter is a NASM certified personal trainer, NASM certified fitness nutrition specialist, fitness workshop leader, and health and fitness writer who has been featured in NoTimeWheysted, Kutting Weight, and Workout Labs. With over 12 years of experience, David has been the driving creative force behind numerous fitness-related e-books, training guides, articles, and supplement research. You can discover more of his work at his website: WriteOnSautter.com.