Common Mistakes When Training Abs
In Eric Broser's 30-year career as a trainer and coach he has never come across anyone that was not interested in making improvements to their midsection. We're sure you've experienced and witnessed the same desire from your clients to tighten their tummies- or maybe even have that desire as a fitness pro yourself.
For some that simply means losing belly fat and manifesting a flatter tummy. For others greater core strength is the goal. However, for most gym goers, the ultimate achievement is a rock solid, ripped 6-pack of brick-like abdominals!
Now, while it is true that constructing amazing abs is in no way rocket science, Eric does see people making mistakes in the gym every day that will undoubtedly hold back their progress. Additionally, he mentions that no matter how well-developed your abs ever become, you will never see them in bold relief unless body fat levels are about 9% or less, which means paying careful attention to diet and most likely, integration of aerobic workouts as well.
Ok, so you or your clients want the kind of abs that belong on an ‘action-hero?’ Then follow Eric's professional guidance below and don’t make these mistakes:
Lack of Resistance
Abs are muscles just like your pecs and lats, so why not train them in a similar manner? Doing sets of endless reps of crunches is not going to build impressive abs any more than bodyweight push-ups will develop a Herculean-type chest.
Do not be afraid to perform weighted abdominal exercises that limit you to just 12-15 solid reps if you really want to etch some “deep boxes” in your midsection!
One mistake I constantly see even advanced lifters make is to anchor the feet under pads when doing crunches or various crunch machines. This not only shifts much of the emphasis off the abs and onto the hip flexors but can also result in lower back pain/injury over time.
If there is any muscle group that should be exercised with slow, controlled repetitions it’s the abs.
Pay careful attention to achieving a full range of motion from stretch to contraction, with a tight squeeze at the peak. Fast reps will do little to overload the abs and will more likely just result in injury.
Too Little Intensity
So many trainees are working under the false notion that all it takes to create a truly impressive 6-pack are a few easy sets of crunches and leg lifts at the end of a workout. But like I mentioned earlier, the abs are muscles just like any other, and if you really want to build some bricks into your belly you have to train them with similar intensity as other areas of your physique.
Don’t be afraid to torture your abs as you would your bis or pecs.
Just like you hit the quads or triceps with various movements that work the muscle through various planes of motion, the same needs to be done for your abdominals when one is serious about his/her 6-pack!
When designing an abs workout for myself, or my clients, I feel it is important to begin with a movement that focuses most tension on the lower portion of the midsection. These include all type of leg lifts with bent or straight legs – at various angles. Next up will be an “upper” ab movement, preferably using resistance, where the trunk is “curled” toward the knees.
This means crunches done on the floor, an incline, or with a cable/machine. Finally, a twisting type exercise is then necessary to develop the external obliques and intercostals. Combining these 3 types of abdominal movements will help create a complete midsection from left to right and top to bottom.
No Core Focus
Because many lifters wear a weight belt while training, they fail to consciously keep their abdominal walls tight during seated, standing and bent over compound lifts. Not only can this lead to eventual injuries but will also hold one back from building a maximally developed and strengthened core that the world will envy!