Taking nutrition completely out of the equation, training abs is about “feeling” the muscles being trained. You could have your diet nailed and already be practicing a list of your favorite training exercises, but if you’re simply going through the motions and making small mistakes, your results with dwindle. We’ve asked personal trainer Alfonso Moretti, owner of Angry Trainer Fitness.com, what subtle mistakes ab training fanatics are doing wrong and how to fix them.
1. Locking Your Feet In
You’d like to think that locking your feet in during a sit-up or an ab exercise machine will allow you to focus and concentrate on the abdominal area but, that’s not necessarily true. “When you lock your feet during sit-ups or in an abs exercise machine, you end up pulling your knees forward with your hip flexors instead of predominantly using the abdominals,” Moretti says.
Try thinking about it from a different perspective. Moretti suggests, “Lay backwards on a slant bench or decline bench, hold your upper body in position while you perform a reverse sit-up or crunch.” This style of performing the exercise will place more emphasis on the abdominal region versus the hip flexors.
2. Too Much Twisting
Many people, in their quest for a stronger and more defined core, tend to spend too much time on rotation exercises as replacements for traditional ab training. Movements that incorporate rotation are beneficial for a strong core, but you can’t forget about incorporating both.
Moretti’s advice to ensure you’re not missing opportunities to batter your abs effectively is to train the midsection in a circuit. “Perform flexion exercises like Swiss ball crunches, core moves like resistance band rotations and finish with alternating dynamic moves like T-planks,” he says. Try three sets of 20 reps of each exercise with no rest.
3. Limiting Your Challenges
“To maximize gains in the abs, you have to progress, but most people who wing it go nowhere, ” Moretti says. Instead of heading to the gym and doing the same number of reps, sets and exercises, you should be shooting for new records or attempting more dynamic movements.
When you notice you’re not reaching new benchmarks for yourself, it’s time to reassess and modify the routine. “Graduate to more challenging and dynamic movements like wall planks, Swiss ball pikes and TRX pendulums,” Moretti suggests.
4. You’re Isolating Yourself
Finally, completely forget diet and any other ab-specific exercise you’ve heard about, if you’re strictly concentrating only on those “ab moves” – you’re missing out on big opportunities to grow.
Front squat, deadlift and overhead press more. These compound, complex moves engage every inch of your core.