The Truth About Your Ab Workout

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Even though Summer is just about over, there’s never an unacceptable time to talk about abs. Trying to attain those six pack abs will never go out of style regardless of if its’ beach season or if there’s a foot of snow outside. You know you want a six pack but the question to ask is whether or not your ab workout will actually get you there.

Keep in mind we’re talking about cosmetics here. Your midsection, commonly referred to as the core, lends itself to performance. In fact, one weak muscle in your core can affect skill execution in athletic movements (1). In some cases we have to distinguish between a pretty midsection and one that performs well.

Is your ab workout really doing anything?

Image courtesy of patrisyu at

Here’s cold hard fact number one: having visible abs is all about your bodyfat percentage. Here at UEFP we record every client’s bodyfat every two weeks – a reliable measurement to make sure that you’re losing fat and building muscle. And the numbers don’t lie. Males will be lucky to see their abdominals at about 12% bodyfat. 10% is even better, but some lucky individuals can wash their clothes on their stomach at 12%. Females should shoot for getting below 18% in order to make those abs visible. Within reason, the lower the bodyfat the better your chances of seeing that glorious six pack.

So instead of thinking “do I crunch or not” get your bodyfat down with this plan. Keep in mind that there isn’t a huge return of investment on abdominal exercises. Laying down on a Swiss Ball isn’t going to crank up your metabolism. If you don’t believe me, throw on a heart rate monitor and do some leg raises – your heart rate will get higher playing a video game than all that crunching. In fact, a six week study showed that abdominal training (18 workouts total) had no effect on bodyfat whatsoever (2).

Now, does that mean you should never train your abs? Of course not. If you’re not an athlete, and your bodyfat is low, then programming abdominal exercises is acceptable. Here’s a quick checklist:

-Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to do a lot of reps for your abs. Cap them at 15.

-Instead of doing a ton of reps, focus on tempo’s like 3-0-3-1 or 2-0-2-0 for 6-8 reps. Therefore each rep takes 4 to 6 seconds.

-They should be trained at the end of a workout or inbetween long rest periods (in between sets of bench presses for example)


I’m sorry to say, but the way to a six pack is like anything else: it takes hard work and a smart approach. If you’re working to get your bodyfat down then you’re on the right path. Stay on the right path regardless of the season and you’ll enjoy a flat stomach year round.


  1. Clare, F. Kobesova, A. Kolar, P. “Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization and Sports Rehabilitation.” (2013) International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 8(1), 62-73
  2. Vispute, S., Smith, J., LeChiminant, J., Hurley, K. “The Affect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (2011)25;9, 2559-2564



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