Why you are doing your ab workout all wrong. A number of years ago, when I still owned my Pilates studio, I had the chance to work with some really fantastic clients of all walks of life. One moment really stands out in my mind and it keeps coming back, time and time again whenever I train someone or whenever I take a dance class. It revolves around how our muscles work and how we use them. I’ve always found this very fascinating because for me, it’s all about getting the most out of your workouts every single time.
The moment in question was when I was training Penelope Cruz (yup the very one). We were doing crunches and I gave her what I thought was a very obvious correction. She looked at me and said (I’ll never forget these words) “that’s the first time anyone has taught me how to do crunches properly”. Wow, really? I was shocked. Several years later I was watching a dancer friend of mine doing them and I saw her making the same mistakes.
WHY YOU ARE DOING YOUR AB WORKOUT ALL WRONG
Whenever I’m at the gym, I regularly see people doing ab workouts and I can’t watch because they are working out pretty much everything except the muscles they want to be focusing on.
You Are Doing Way Too Many Of Them. I hear this all the time, “I do like 50 to 100 crunches a day”. What? That’s way too many. Would you do that many biceps curls? Probably not, so why do you want or need to do that many crunches? 1. It’s not like you are going to suddenly see definition if you do more crunches (or any abdominal workout). For that you need to focus on also losing body fat. 2. Your abs are connected to your entire body, so to really make them stronger you need to focus on strengthening your entire body and ensuring that all your muscles work properly together. The keyword in that last sentence is together because if you are doing the same move over and over again, you’ll just create imbalances in your body and you’ll actually physically set yourself back. If you aren’t done after finishing 3 sets of 8-12 reps then you are doing something wrong.
You Have Bad Form. Just like with any exercise, your form matters when doing any sort of abdominal work. The next time you go to workout your abs, ask yourself these simple questions:
- When it comes to any kind of crunch or sit up, ask yourself if you are gripping your hip flexors and quads and if your glutes are clenched. If you said yes to any of these then chances are your abs are slacking off.
- Are you hiking your shoulders up and pulling on your neck? Then your abdominal muscles aren’t working like they should be.
- Are you primarily feeling your lower back muscles in a plank position? Try holding your abs so that they have to participate in the exercise.
- Are you breathing? Right now you might be rolling your eyes because of course you are breathing, but hang on, not so fast. Are you breathing the right way? Take a moment and place your hand on your belly. When you inhale, are you pushing it out? If yes then your abdominal muscles are releasing. They key to proper breathing when performing abdominal workouts is to keep your belly still while breathing into you rib cage and back. The breathing is just a deep but different and what you will find in your local Pilates class.
For more details on form watch this (the principles that I talk about apply any abdominal exercise you do):
You Overwork Or Under-Work Them. Your abdominals are muscles, just like all the other muscles in our bodies. Sure there are very strong aesthetic qualities associated with them but doing ab workouts everyday, day after day, is only going to lead to injury and muscle imbalances. Then again, doing a handful of crunches after your workout probably isn’t enough either.
You Do The Wrong Moves. If all you do is crunch after crunch after crunch then chances are that you aren’t seeing any significant results. Your body is 3 dimensional and moves in all directions and you need to target them in order to get a good workout. If done correctly, crunches aren’t bad but also consider doing leg lifts, bicycle crunches, planks, functional movements where you are forced to replicate the moves you do every day, just with more intensity.
Also, don’t be afraid to add some weights when working your core muscles, even something so small as holding a water bottle can make a big difference. If you are looking for a fun and tiring workout, why not try my ab challenge? You can find the videos here: