Anyone who has gone to the gym 24/7 to achieve perfectly sculpted abs can tell you just how hard it is to unfold that six-pack. Many have already tried, but not everyone succeeded.
And there are several reasons why your abs are a no-show. You see, some factors come into play when it comes to getting ripped abs:
- Body type
- Daily physical activities
- Health conditions
Almost all these factors are out of your control because you can’t really change what makes up your body. But there’s one thing that you can control: your daily activities.
What you physically do every day can make a difference in your ab-building journey.
However, it doesn’t mean that a few reps in the gym every day will cut it. If you’re one of those who can’t get rid of their belly fat despite the gallons of sweat you break in the gym, you might need to tweak or add some things to your regimen.
In this piece, we’re diving deep into why your ab workouts don’t work and how you can fix them.
6 Reasons Why Your Ab Workouts Don’t Work
1. Too much abdominal fat concealing your abs
Like most professional trainers and bodybuilders would tell you, abs are built in the kitchen, not in the gym.
While it sounds confusing for some people, it makes total sense. Because the most important element of visible Greek god-like abs is low body fat.
It won’t matter how many hours you clock in the gym if you spend just as much time in fast-food restaurants. Eating unhealthy foods will quickly reward you with layers of body fat in your abdominal area, burying your abs into non-existence.
Clean up your diet
When it comes to sculpting those abs, going to the gym is only half the battle. The other half is going to the kitchen and making a smart meal plan for yourself.
According to nutritionists and fitness experts, a healthy and focused diet that has a great balance between carbs, fats, and protein will help you uncover those abs.
That’s why we suggest you start munching on some of these healthy foods:
- Lean protein like chicken and turkey
- Non-starchy veggies like spinach, broccoli, and bell pepper
- Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocado
- Healthy carbs like brown rice
- Fruits like apples and bananas
If you’re just starting and you simply don’t know which foods to cook or how to cook them, you might be better off with a nutritionist to guide you along the way.
You can also try healthy food subscription services that will cook and deliver your nourishment for a certain period. This takes away all the hassle of shopping for ingredients and cooking them so you can focus on the grind!
2. Limiting yourself to one or two ab exercises
For a ripped six-pack, your ab routine has to be diverse. Crunches alone just won’t cut it, no matter how many you can pull off.
Take a note of this: there’s more to abs than the visible six-pack. You have to target all the muscles that make up your entire abdominal muscle system to achieve those shredded abs.
The key is to expand your ab routine with exercises that will work these ab muscles:
Rectus abdominis – these are the two-paired sheets of muscle that make up the “six-pack” which people often think of as the abs
External obliques – these are the external ab muscles that are found on the sides. You’ll notice these muscles on shredded abs, running diagonally and downward from the torso
Internal obliques – these muscles run just underneath the external obliques and are not visible from the outside
Transversus abdominis – this is the muscle that is wrapped around the waist to support the spine
As you would notice, these ab muscles are found all over the stomach area, not just in the mid-section of your tummy. If you stick on just crunches, your abs won’t even see the light of day.
You may retain the routines that you already have, then mix in some other effective ab exercises. Try these workouts that are sure-fire recipes for drool-worthy abs:
- The good ol’ plank
- Hollow holds
- Dumbbell side bend
- Barbell back squat
- Barbell rollouts
Execute a good amount of reps of these exercises and they will certainly engage and stimulate all the right muscles needed for a six-pack.
3. Overtraining your abs
While it’s true that consistency is always the key to achieving your body goals, it doesn’t mean that you have to grind 24/7 for a shredded body.
Don’t pattern your training routines to the regimen of professionals who train their abs daily at the end of their workouts. They’ve been building their bodies for years and what’s best for them, may not be the most ideal for you.
Overtraining your abs can cause muscle soreness, spasms, and cramps. While a little soreness after a workout is just normal, it’s not ideal when it already bothers you.
When you suffer from this level of fatigue, you might just end up throwing in the towel and dropping the training program altogether. Remember that to survive a tedious program, you should enjoy them as well.
You also have to rest your abs if you want your core to be visible and stronger.
Don’t focus on the number of reps too much, instead, make sure that you work all your abdominal muscles properly. Simply put, prioritise quality over quantity.
Ideally, you can include direct abdominal training in your regimen 2-3 times a week. After all, your abs will still be stimulated or engaged in other exercises like squats and deadlifts.
As you notice your abs already bulging and getting stronger, that’s when you can shorten your reps and crush them every other day.
4. Ditching the weights
Have you been crushing hundreds of reps, but your abs are still not showing? You might be forgetting one important element to ab building: weight.
Going crazy with bodyweight exercises like sit-ups, planking, and others, while helpful, can only get you so far.
If you want a well-tone six-pack, you’ll also need to train heavy. And by heavy, we mean incorporating some weights into your routine. Using your bodyweight alone might not be enough to activate the abdominal muscle group.
That’s why weight training your abs like any other muscle group in your body is a must-have in your training regimen.
Below are the types of weights that you must use and what workouts to do with them:
Dumbbells – side bends, woodchops, Russian twist, crunches, single-leg deadlifts, etc.
Kettlebells – kettlebell swings, Turkish get-ups, kettlebell windmills, sit and press, etc.
Medicine balls – slam downs, overhead tosses, pull over crunches, sledgehammer, etc.
Barbells – barbell rollout, barbell overhead, barbell leg raise, etc.
5. Doing cardio the wrong way
Cardio exercises are one of the many ways to engage your core. However, not all cardio routines are best for building your abs.
Some exercises like long runs, walks, and sessions on the elliptical machine are not the cardio you want to waste your time on if you’re pumped to get a six-pack.
These types of cardio are not good at burning body fat. So, if you take this route, it might take longer for your abs to take shape. What’s worse is that it might not even appear at all!
For a shredded midsection, what you’ll need are high-intensity interval training routines (HIIT) to increase your breathing and improve your core endurance.
Below are only some of the best cardio exercises that will help you achieve those bulging abs!
- High knees
- Switch kicks
- Plank Jacks
- Tuck jumps
- Elbow to knees and more
6. Breathing incorrectly while working your abs
If you think you’ve been doing all the right things but you’re still yet to see those rock-hard abs, you might need to tweak one last thing: your breathing.
As simple as it may sound, proper breathing technique is as vital as proper form and proper nutrition when it comes to ab building.
Trust us, huffing and puffing will not give you the abs that you’ve been working for and neither will holding your breath. Slow and controlled breathing is what you’re after.
Proper breathing technique
According to experts, this is how you should breathe during ab workouts:
- Inhale through your mouth or nose but do it when your ab muscles are in relaxed mode.
This will allow you to fuel your body with enough oxygen that will provide energy to your muscles before you perform the routines.
- Exhale through your mouth as you are contracting your ab muscles.
Make sure that the air you exhale is coming from your tummy, not your chest. Do it so that your belly button is drawing in towards your spine as you release the air.
Practice this breathing technique first without the ab routines so that you would get a feel of how it works. Once you’re okay with it, you can now do it while you work out.
You’ll feel awkward for the first few tries, but you’ll get used to it easily if you use this technique regularly.
One last tip: Get a personal trainer!
Aside from the fitness tips and hacks that we’ve laid out above, one of the best and easiest routes you can take is by getting a personal trainer. Especially if you’re just a newbie getting your skin in the game.
A personal trainer will make your gym life so much easier (or harder for good) since you don’t have to make up your own regimen or think of how many reps to do for the day.
Our personal trainers here in RecXpress can help you identify your body goals, develop a training plan tailored for you, and guide you every step of the way until you reach those goals. Most importantly, motivate you to finish what you started.
We offer affordable and no-lock in memberships so you can experience first what RecXpress has to offer before entrusting your fitness journey to us!