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Conflicting info about training abs: do I need to train them directly?

Muscular body

I received a great core-related question over on my Facebook page. I wanted to share my answer because in it, there are some excellent, must-read resources for you to check out!

Here's the question:

"Hi, I love reading all the articles you post! Thanks for sharing! I am wondering what your take is on training abs? I’ve read that if you’re weight training you don’t need to do abs because you use them in creating stability when lifting. I also have read that abs are made in the kitchen and do see truth to that. But what about training abs - yes or no? And if so what do you recommend? Would love to read an article if you have one to share. Thanks!"

And my answer:

Great question. There's so much conflicting information out there, it's tough to know what's what.

When it comes to abs, they need to be trained directly. They're certainly used in compound weight lifting movements, but they already need to be strong do be effective there. Abs can also be trained often; I have a personal goal to train my abs every single day of 2018. So far, so good!

Here are some articles to check out:

(Both these articles are written by Meghan Callaway)

From the latter article:

"Training the core in three distinct categories of movement, anti-extension, anti-rotation and anti-lateral flexion can produce the results you are seeking, both in the aesthetics department and translating into your big lifts and athletic performance."

A strong core is also extremely important in maintaining low back health (something I'm personally very interested in as I have scoliosis and chronic back issues). Dr. Stu McGill is a world authority on spinal health, and has 3 non-negotiable exercises we all should be doing every day. And they're all core moves!

As for aesthetics, I'd say a more accurate slogan would be "Abs are made in the gym, and revealed in the kitchen". For abs to be visible, one needs to have a low level of body fat. Many athletes (and people in general) have seriously strong abs, but they don't have that "ripped" look because there's a layer of fat covering them. Body fat levels are mostly dictated by nutrition. Training factors into the equation too, of course, but nutrition has a bigger impact.

Important note: maintaining low levels of body fat isn't healthy - or enjoyable - for everyone.

Here's a fantastic infographic on "the cost of getting lean", and what sorts of lifestyle habits are required to maintain different types of physiques.


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