Why ab workouts are a waste of time
YOU have been trying forever to get that elusive six-pack: the holy grail of fitness goals. None of the gizmos and doodads advertised online or on TV have worked, so you figure it’s time to sign up for that 30-minute abs class at the gym.
Heck, what could be better for getting washboard abs than doing 9 million crunches, reverse crunches, twisting crunches, crunches with someone holding your feet, crunches with someone sitting on your chest, crunches with a cinderblock on your forehead, right? Wrong. “Everyone already has a six-pack. It’s just hidden under layers of body fat,” said personal trainer Lecia Whitlock, an instructor at the National Personal Training Institute. “The key to getting a lean midsection is to reduce your overall percentage of body fat. And crunches just aren’t a very effective way to do that.”
Losing body fat — whether it’s in your arms, legs, hips or abs — is done by creating a daily caloric deficit so your body has to tap into stored energy, or body fat, to feed your muscles and keep you going.
To do this, you’ll want to launch a three-pronged attack.
Building lean muscle through resistance training will force your body to burn more calories daily. Muscle is living tissue. The more of it you have and the more of it you use on regularly, the more calories your body requires to function properly.
Adding multiple bouts of intense cardiovascular work — 30-minute sessions three to four times per week — is a quick way to burn big chunks of calories in a short time.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your diet isn’t loaded with a lot of extra, empty calories. For the most part, the more calories that you take in, the more you’ll have to burn to lose weight.
“Most people underestimate how much they eat and overestimate how much they’ve exercised, and that’s a lethal combination for someone trying to lose weight,” said Whitlock.
What’s nice is that the work you’ll be doing in the gym — whether it’s strength training or cardio — can be just as much of a workout for your midsection as any “abs blaster” class at your gym. And choosing movements that engage the abs and other core muscles will actually help you in your quest for a trimmer waistline.
Try doing your chest presses while lying on a stability ball instead of on a bench. Replace the leg presses you do using a machine with just about any type of lunge.
“As your core becomes stronger, it allows you to build your other muscles more effectively,” Whitlock explained. “And by building those other muscles, you’ll be increasing your metabolism, which is one of the keys to lowering your overall body fat.”
Conveniently, when it comes to cardio, the exercises that challenge your midsection are also the ones that have the highest rates of calorie burn.
Think about a kickboxing or Latin dance class. Even choosing standing exercises like the elliptical or treadmill over seated exercises like the stationary bike will cause you to burn more calories per minute and force your midsection to work harder.
“When most people think about their core, they only think about their abs,” said Whitlock. “In reality, the core is made up of all the muscles that control, move and stabilize the hips and lower torso.”
So by incorporating a variety of different movements into your workout, you’ll also make sure you’re strengthening your entire core.
Weakness or muscular imbalances in the core can lead to everything from lower back pain to issues with your knees and posture. By ditching your abs class in favor of a full-body workout, you’ll not only be heading in a straighter direction toward your six-pack, but you’ll also be working to prevent potential injuries down the road.
Workout habits you should drop Are you spending hours working out every week, and not getting the results you want?
Chances are you might have a bad habit or two when it comes to exercising.
Never fear, there’s a quick fix for even the most ingrained workout no-nos. Check out these seven workout habits you should drop: Not only will ditching these help you lose the pounds, they will help you become a more efficient exerciser. Working out for long periods of
time at a moderate pace When it comes to working out, slow and steady does not win the race. Maximize your time, people!
Instead of working out for an hour at an easy-to-moderate intensity level, step it up a notch. Challenge yourself to 30 minutes of nonstop, intense exercise.
You can take 15- to 30-second breaks, but move quickly from one workout to the next. Give it 100 percent for 30 minutes, instead of 75 percent for an hour.
Lollygagging You know that girl at the gym who’s always fixing her hair in the mirror? Don’t be her. Come to the gym with a time frame and a plan.
This means no wandering around, no texting your boyfriend in between reps. Come with a set workout to complete, limiting your water breaks to specific points in your circuit for a designated amount of seconds.
If this means writing down your regimen, great. Tattoo it to your arm. Whatever. Make the most of your time. Get in, get out. No one likes a gym rat.
Too much cardio and too little
strength training But cardio burns more calories, right? Not so fast, lady.
Sure, an hour on the treadmill gives you that instant satisfaction of burning 400 calories. Or so that little blinking screen says. A quick strength training or cross training session, however, will get your heart rate up, burn calories, and develop your lean muscle mass.
Building muscle means that those muscles are able to work throughout the day burning more calories when you aren’t working out.
Hydrating with sports drinks
Sports drinks may give you a boost, but are full of sugar and calories. During any given daily workout, hydrating with plain ol’ water should do the trick just fine.
If you feel tired during your workout, try fueling before. Eating a healthy snack 45 minutes before your workout can give you more energy, and allow you to skip the Gatorade. Try some almond butter on toast.
Doing the same exercises over
and over again When you do the same workout routine over and over, your body gets used to it and it becomes easier.
The Stairmaster might have been challenging at one point, but pretty soon your muscles become familiar with that motion. Your body only uses half the energy to complete this task that at one point had you huffing and puffing your way to the locker room.
Mix it up. By changing your workouts daily you will trick your body into working harder and burning more calories. It will also save you from boredom.
Going it alone Working out alone can be great. It gives you time to clear your mind, listen to music, and feel the burn.
However, sometimes it takes a workout buddy to hold you accountable. Working out with a partner not only makes it more likely that you’ll work out, it makes most people try harder than they would on their own. Your partner can cheer you on to finish that last half mile or to finish those last four deadlifts.
And let’s not forget the power of good old-fashioned competition. If your friend is doing 50 lunges, don’t you suddenly feel inspired to do 51? — CNN
Building muscle, adding cardio and watching your diet better than crunches, experts say.