We all know at least one person who eats for three and rarely lifts a weight, but somehow still sports ripped six-pack abs. Along with giving the majority of us a reason to curse like drunken pirates over their genetic gifts, those cases also highlight why it’s so difficult to offer hard-and-fast rules for getting a six-pack.
Things like genetics, gender, and stress can all play a part in weight loss (or weight gain), so offering step-by-step instructions for a shredded midsection can be tricky. However, adhering to myths and hearsay on your quest for visible abs will absolutely hold you back.
So whether you’re a workout Jedi or a padawan looking to score abs 101 tips, allow us to dispel fact from fiction when it comes to achieving those washboard abs.
Myth #1. You Can Out-Crunch A Bad Diet
Consistently feast on garbage foods and your stomach (and arms, and teeth, and legs, and arteries, and skin, etc.) will look like garbage. Building abs starts in the kitchen with a clean diet. But even when your food choices are on point—including cutbacks in sodium intake to reduce bloat and water retention—your portions sizes are vital since it’s still possible to overindulge on healthy foods. This is a universal truth: Consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. Read: No six-pack for you!
Myth #2. Carbohydrates Kill Abs
Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient that your body uses for fuel. So, no, carbs don’t destroy abs. However, fast-digesting carbs like white bread, sports drinks, and potatoes can initiate an insulin spike that can hinder fat loss. (Consuming those types of carbs is best reserved for post-workout because they’ll aid in recovery.) Instead, get your carbs from sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, beans, and oatmeal. When possible, omit lab-created mutant foods with ingredients you need an interpreter to pronounce.
Myth #3. Crunches and Sit-Ups Are Must-Dos
They’re the two most popular abs exercises, but they’re far from your only options. If you don’t want to get horizontal, try these: Russian twists, Scorpion Tails, dip bar knee raises, hanging leg or knee raises, standing rope crunches, and side bends. Vary your exercises and reps, and add resistance and weights to create a stronger midsection and more defined abs.
Myth: #4: Supps Will Cover My Abs Shortfalls
Supplements like caffeine and green tea do have fat-burning properties to them, but they won’t go all Criss Angel on your belly fat and make it vanish. Sadly, for most of us, there are no shortcuts to acquire head-turning abs. We need a rigorous training regimen, low bodyfat, and adequate rest.
Myth #5. Slower Reps Are Better For Abs
According to a Spanish study, faster reps enabled the muscle activity in the recutus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and spinal erectors to increase. However, mixing up your rep speeds is a more effective approach.
Myth #6. You Can Train Abs Daily
Well, you certainly can, but you’d be overworking them. Abs are a muscle, so treat them with the same respect you would after torching your biceps, or deltoids, or quadriceps, or—you get the idea.
Myth #7. Spot Reduction Works For Abs
Doing crunches from here till the Rapture won’t guarantee your abs will show when Judgment Day arrives if there’s a layer of fat covering them. As mentioned, a strict diet paired with steady training is an excellent way to reduce bodyfat. But keep in mind that outside factors also come into play. When you’re stressed, for example, cortisol levels rise. That can impede your ability to lose weight. Also, a recent study that appeared in the Journal of Sleep involving 225 adults found that people who stayed up later were found to eat unhealthy foods during those late-night hours. This, not surprisingly, led to weight gain.