We all know at least one person who manages to eat like a tank and rarely lift a weight but somehow still has a ripped six-pack. People like that highlight why it’s so difficult to offer hard-and-fast rules for getting a six-pack (and, you know, they give the rest of us a reason to curse their genetic gifts.)
Truth is, it’s tricky to offer step-by-step instructions for a shredded midsection that will work for everyone. Factors like genetics, gender, and stress can all play a part in weight loss (or weight gain).
But there is one thing that will absolutely make your quest for visible abs more difficult: adhering to myths and hearsay. So whether you’re a workout master or a gym newcomer looking to score some basic tips, make sure you separate fact from fiction when it comes to achieving those washboard abs.
Myth #1: You can out-crunch a bad diet
If you consistently feast on garbage foods, your belly (and arms, and teeth, and legs, and arteries, and skin, etc.) will look like garbage. This much is true: Building abs starts in the kitchen with a clean diet. But even when (not if) your food choices are on point—including cutbacks in sodium intake to reduce bloat and water retention—you’ll also need to limit your portion sizes as well, 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.
Myth #2: Carbohydrates kill abs
Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient that your body uses for fuel. So, no, carbs don’t destroy abs. Fast-digesting carbs like white bread, sports drinks, and sugary cereals, however, can initiate an insulin spike that can hinder fat loss. (Consuming those types of carbs, if at all, is best reserved for post-workout because they’ll aid in recovery.)
Instead, try to get complex 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 situps 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 make your belly fat 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. Better yet: Mix up your rep speeds, since it’ll force your body to keep adjusting to your workload and workout pace.
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. If you’re doing “abs every day,” you’re wasting your time.
Myth #7: Spot reduction works for abs
Doing crunches from here til 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. People who stayed up later tend to eat unhealthy foods during those late-night hours, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Sleep involving 225 adults. Usurprisingly, those unhealthy foods led to weight gain.