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The Top 5 Questions & Answers About Abdominal Exercises...

Aug 6, 2008
These are in my opinion the TOP 5 Questions asked regarding core workouts for strengthening and firming your abdominal muscles.

Question: Can You Exercise the Upper and Lower Abs Separately?

Answer: Although it may feel as though you can "isolate" the upper and lower abs (the rectus abdominis), you actually can't contract one section independent of the other. Research that looked at the muscle activation while performing a basic crunch exercise found that you may feel more contraction in the upper abdomen because the muscle fibers in the upper part of the rectus abdominis shorten more than in the lower part of the muscle, but the entire muscle is, in fact, activated during the movement.

When you perform a reverse crunch (lifting the hips), the opposite happens; you feel more contraction in the lower part of the rectus abdominis even though the muscle fibers in the upper rectus abdominis are also contracting.

Additionally, when you stabilize the hips and only lift the torso during the crunch, there is greater muscle involvement in the upper rectus abdominis as well as the internal obliques. When you perform reverse crunches, there is more activation in the lower part of the rectus abdominis and more involvement of the external obliques.

Question: Can I Lose Belly Fat by Doing Lots of Crunches?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. Simply doing lots of crunches won't reduce belly fat. The belief that you can lose body fat in a specific area by exercising the muscles just beneath that fat is called "spot reduction." Spot reduction is a myth that has been disproved time and time again.

In 1984, researchers at the University of Massachusetts concluded that abdominal exercises do not decrease the amount or size of belly fat. In this study men did the equivalent of 5,000 sit-ups for 27 days. The researchers measured body fat in the abdomen, buttocks and upper back during the study. If spot reduction worked, the men should have lost fat only in the abdominal area because the buttocks and upper back are not worked during sit-ups. However there was no change in the thickness of abdominal fat or waist size. Biopsies showed there was no significant change in the diameter of abdominal fat cells either.

What ab exercises can do is tone and firm the muscles, but to reduce abdominal fat takes more than just ab exercise. You need a balanced fitness routine that includes cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and a sensible diet.

Question: What Is the Best Abdominal Exercise?

Answer: One study that looked at the best and worst ab exercises concluded that:

1) The Bicycle Crunch Exercise was the best for strengthening the rectus abdominis
2) The Captains Chair Exercise is the best for strengthening the internal obliques and the external obliques

However, it's important to keep in mind that there is no single abdominal exercise that challenges all the abdominal muscles in the most effective way, and the best way to work the abs is with a variety of abdominal exercises.

Question: Does the Order of Ab Exercises Matter?

Answer: Although some programs insist that the order of abdominal exercise is the key to getting results, there is no research that backs this up. In fact, research shows that the opposite may be true. The Principal of adaptation explains how our body constantly adapts to new training routines. Over time and with practice we become very efficient and master these techniques. If you continue to do the same exercise, in the same order in a few weeks or months the routine becomes ineffective and we hit a plateau. To break this cycle, modify your routines every 1-3 months. To modify your exercise routine, change one of more of the following:

1) The Specific Exercises Performed
2) The Number of Repetitions or Sets Performed
3) The Order of the Exercises
4) The Number of Exercises Done Each Session
5) The Amount of Weight or Resistance Used
6) The Speed, or Tempo of the Exercises

Question: Can I Use Weights When Exercising the Abs?

Answer: Yes, but before you add resistance with weights you should be able to perform the exercises properly with good technique. The most effective ab exercises start with proper body position, controlled movements and focus on contracting the specific muscles you want to work. Better results come from slow, controlled repetitions. Once you have good form, you can begin adding small hand held weights or a medicine ball to increase the resistance.
About the Author
For a fully comprehensive program on how to lose as much body fat as you want by following a smart, scientifically designed training and nutrition program, check out my system designed for both Men & Women .
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