Don’t Waste Time with These Ab Exercises

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Ab exercises

Don’t Waste Time with These Ab Exercises

Ab exercises are great. If your body fat is already low then ab exercises can give that finishing touch to your six pack and make you look fantastic.
There are a plethora of different exercises available to work your lower abdominals, obliques and upper abdominals. However, which ones are the best?
In fact, which ones are safe for you to do? There can be situations when a abdominal exercise can be counterproductive.
For example, if you have lower back pain there are definitely some exercises that you try to stay away from, because they can make lower back worse.
There are also some abdominal exercises that can be bad for posture…..
Going back to what I said at the start of the article, if your body fat is low ab exercises can make a difference…….
However, before I reveal the worst 5 abdominal exercises and why they are bad, lets discuss some facts about abdominal exercises.

Ab exercises don’t burn fat!

Yes, you heard me right. Ab exercises do not burn belly fat. You could do 1000 sit ups every day and the muscle will become rock hard under a layer of soft belly fat.
The reason why you wont burn your belly fat is because the abdominal muscles are too small a muscle group to get the necessary calorie burn to burn body fat.

Compound vs isolated exercises

Think of it like this. If you do an exercise like a bicep curl it may burn 50 calories if you do 12 repetitions in 50-60 seconds.
A bicep curl works mainly the bicep because it is an isolated exercise.
A compound exercise is an exercise that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. So if you can do an exercise that works 5 muscle groups then you’re going to burn close to 5 times the calories compared to an exercise that works one muscle.
This means that if you are doing a compound exercise and are doing 12 reps in 50-60 seconds you are using your time more efficiently for fat burning.

Ab exercises are not functional

As I mentioned before they won’t improve the way your abdominals look unless your body fat is low, but at the same time these abdominal exercises won’t help you with day to day life.
Let me explain this in more detail. Lets think about what the main movement patterns are that we perform for carrying things and picking things up.
There are six primal patterns that are natural to our bodies. They are:

  1. Lunge
  2. Squatting
  3. Carrying
  4. Hinging (like your taking a bow)
  5. Pushing
  6. Pulling

If your exercise program contains these types of movements in the form of a:

  • Front squat (squat)
  • Walking lunge (lunge and carrying)
  • Romanian deadlift (example of a hinge movement)
  • Press up (push)
  • Bent over row (pull)

You will see some improvements in your day to day life. For example, you may need to squat down to pick up your shopping, you may need to carry shopping to the car, you may need to hinge forward to put your shopping down.
You can make a strong argument that because many abdominal exercises are done on the floor that ab exercises will not improve human function.

Ab exercises can cause back pain

The pelvis has numerous muscles that connect into it. One of those muscles are your hip flexors. This muscle can be over used during excessive abdominal exercises.
Due to the fact that the hip flexor connects into your L4 and L5 vertebrae when this muscle is activated it causes a large pulling force on your lumbar spine (lower back).
The activation of the hip flexor muscles cause your hips to be pulled closer to your torso, which in turn can compress you’re the discs of your spine to close together.
Over time this repeated movement can cause changes in your posture and even lead to lower back injuries like a herniation.

My top 5 worst ab exercises:

  • Hanging lifts
  • Incline sit ups
  • Side bends
  • Ab roller ab curl
  • Twisting ab machine

  1. Hanging lift

This exercise mainly works your hip flexor muscles while your abdominals stabilize. The fact that you are hanging also builds grip strength.
Unless you have a particular reason for wanting strong hands you should probably stay away from this exercise.
Lifting your legs against gravity to raise your legs up in the air causes a massive pull from your hips against your lumbar spine.
I am not saying that you will definitely injure yourself, but why take a chance?

  1. Incline sit ups

This exercise is one of the biggest culprits in causing hip flexor domination in your body. Your abdominal muscles will get activated during the exercise, but not as much as your hip flexors.
When you increase the incline during this exercise you increase the pull of the hip flexor on the lower back, which can lead to greater pain.
Please avoid this exercise as there better ones out there that will work your abdominals in a safer and more functional way.

  1. Side bends

Your abdominals help to cause rotation and bend your body to the side, and this exercise works the oblique muscles that cause you to bend in this particular plane of motion.
The problem with this exercise is that it causes your vertebrae to squash together every time you do this exercise, which could lead to back problems.

  1. Ab roller ab curl

I always hated this exercise. What happens for most people the first time they do a normal ab curl is that they may experience neck pain.
Based on the fact that some people get neck pain doing this exercise, someone had the idea to produce an ab roller to take away any neck pain…..
Sounds like a good idea right?……
First of all, the flexors in your neck don’t get any stronger……
Secondly, you end up using your arms and hip flexors more than your stomach.
This exercise is not dangerous……….. It’s just a waste of time!

  1. Twisting ab machine

The first time I saw this machine I thought that it was the greatest bit of equipment ever made. I used it in every workout without fail.
Then I realised that this machine causes your lumbar spine to rotate in a greater range than it supposed to.
Your lumbar spine (lower spine) only has three degrees of movement. Once they are forced to rotate any more than that, the discs start to wear down and will cause chronic back problems in later years.

There are alternatives!

Remember that abs are made in the kitchen and not in the gym. To help you get a flatter and toned stomach I have devised a 12 week program that helps with nutrition, habits and workouts to get you a six pack.
You can try seven days for free by clicking below. Also, if you enjoyed this article and you know anyone that would benefit from by tips feel free to share it with them.


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Gerald has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Nutrition & Health. He is an ASA qualified swimming teacher, and a qualified personal trainer. Gerald has developed his own exclusion diet, which he uses to help his clients lose weight.