The importance of abdominal training
Many people train their abdominals with the belief that they will get a flat stomach. This is a common misconception that a lot of people have, ranging from complete beginners who are just starting to work out, to some of the veterans in any gym who have been training for ages. The reality is that to get a flat stomach, one needs to reduce their body fat percentage. There are a variety of ways in which one can do this, however, abdominal training is not the ideal way to tackle this. In this article, we will be discussing both the importance of abdominal training, and the various ways in which one can lose fat.
Losing fat in the mid-section
As previously mentioned, it is impossible to spot reduce fat by training, meaning that one cannot lose fat in a particular region of their body. It is possible however, to lose overall fat and there are a variety of ways in which one can do this, ranging from extreme diets to cardiovascular training and also weight training. The bottom of the line is that in order to lose fat, a calorie deficit needs to be created. Meaning that you need to use more calories throughout the day then you are consuming (through food and drinks). When it comes to training, most people will wonder what is the most effective way to lose fat. In my experience so far, what I have found to be the most effective is:
• High intensity interval training (HIIT)
• Circuit training
While cardiovascular exercises are not my personal favourites, there is no denying how effective they are. Having said this, I find that the effectiveness of HIIT is much higher than doing cardiovascular training at a steady state. This because it is of a much higher intensity, and as such it also takes less time to do. A good starting point for HIIT training is to use a cardiovascular machine in a gym and go at a fast pace and high resistance for 1 minute (work period), and then reduce the pace and/or resistance for the next minute (active rest). This type of training also has a metabolic effect in that it boosts the metabolism for a quite a long time after the workout is finished. This means that even after the workout, you are still using calories than you would normally be using if no workout was done.
Another effective way to lose fat is by using circuit training. This usually involves doing a series of exercises in succession with minimal rest. I like to use 4-6 exercises in a row and personally tend to go for compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, push presses, and even bodyweight exercises such as burpees, crunches, etc. After I have done all the exercises (around 15-20 repetitions) without rest, I will normally rest for around a minute or two and repeat this for a number of rounds. This means that essentially, I would be doing HIIT training, however, at the same time I would be working my whole body whilst taking a way the monotony of staying on a cardiovascular machine for 20 minutes or more.
Abdominal training is important when it comes to posture as it helps to stabilise the spine. Having said this, when doing specific exercises that target the abdominals I find that it is not necessary to use a lot of weight or resistance. The abdominals are essentially stabilising muscles, as such, it makes more sense to train for muscular endurance when it comes to abdominal training. Training for hypertrophy has its own benefits, particularly in sports such as bodybuilding. However, in most cases it will only result in the abdominal muscles getting bigger which in most cases will result in your mid-section looking bigger as well (unless you are very lean).
Having said all of the above, my typical abdominal workout usually comprises of a combination of circuit training and muscular endurance training. This helps me in maintaining my cardiovascular fitness to an adequate level and still working my abdominals enough to create a stimulus for development. I tend to do a circuit with the following six exercises using only my bodyweight and I will repeat the circuit for As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) for a total duration of 10-15 minutes:
- V-ups (20 repetitions)
- Leg raises (20 repetitions)
- Russian twist (20 repetitions)
- Crunches (20 repetitions)
- Planck (1minute)
- Side Planck (30 seconds each side)