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The Three Most Prevalent Abdominal Training Myths

  1. Myth: Training the “core” or the abdominals will help develop an attractive, “6-pack” appearance.  The research is very clear that training the abs, regardless of the choice of exercise, volume of exercise, or frequency of exercise, does not reduce abdominal fat, reduce waist circumference, or improve abdominal appearance. Period. Simply, the “rectus abdominis,” the muscle under our abdominal fat, becomes stronger and potentially slightly larger in response to training; but the fat that covers this muscle remains unchanged.
  2. Myth: Training the abs or “core” is important for athletic performance.  Indeed, it is the most prevalent of training myths, “The ‘core’ is where it all starts for an athlete.”  Authors of a brand new systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal, Sports Medicine examined the role of “core” training on athletic performance and general fitness.  The conclusion?  “Our findings indicate that trunk muscle strength plays only a minor role for physical fitness and athletic performance in trained individuals… Trunk muscle strength was associated with only limited gains in physical fitness and athletic performance measures when compared with no or only regular training.”
  3. Myth: You can selectively train the Upper and Lower Abs.  Based on electromyographic (EMG) activity recorded during the performance of various abdominal exercises (e.g. crunches, reverse curls, leg lifts), it appears to be impossible to differentially recruit the “upper” or “lower” abdominal muscles.  You may feel a particular abdominal exercise more or less in your upper or lower abs; but regardless of where you feel it, the entire abdominal sheath is receiving equal stimulation.

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