The body’s midsection holds a special place in our hearts. Athletes of all disciplines focus on the strength of their core muscles using different techniques. While many of us don’t exercise on a competitive level, we still want to get in shape. Having ripped abs would be a sweet bonus – if you don’t make one of the common abs training mistakes by beginners.
If you are a beginner, there are a few common abs training mistakes by beginners you need to avoid. You don’t want to spend hours doing crunches only to discover that you’re wrecking your six-pack instead of building it.
Why Core Muscles Are Important
First, people need to stop considering the abs as an aesthetic asset only. They are, in fact, part of a bigger muscle group you need to work on as a whole.
Here is why your core muscles are so important.
They Are Your Body’s Support System
Your core muscles are the base that supports your whole body.
They’re made of the transverse abdominis, oblique muscles, the rectus abdominis, pelvic floor muscles, back muscles, and diaphragm. From picking something off the floor to sitting correctly on a bench, if they don’t work, you can’t move. It’s that simple.
They Improve Your Balance and Stability
Almost all our daily physical activities depend on having good balance and posture, and thus a strong core. To have a healthy core, give special attention to exercises that target the muscles of the lower back, hips, abdomen, and pelvis.
They Tone Your Abs
The secret to strong abs is an equally strong core. Core exercises will strengthen the underlying abs muscles and make them more visible.
Keep in mind that not all abs are created equal. Two individuals can have the same workout routines but still end up with drastically different results.
Regardless of your position on the fitness spectrum though, there are some common abs training mistakes by beginners you need to avoid at all costs. Here are 5 of them.
5.) Doing Crunches Wrong
The most basic move in the book for anyone seeking chiseled abs is the crunch. However, these crunches aren’t as effective as they seem to be. Crunches focus primarily on one side of a single muscle group: the rectus abdominis. Is that enough to have abs? Not at all. Does that mean you should ban them from your workout? Not really.
However, you need to know how to do them correctly. Half of the population at the gym goes at it the wrong way, and it’s painful to watch. They yank down on their head and drop their chin to their chest, which causes neck pain and discomfort.
Here is what to do instead:
- Lie down and bend your knees off the floor.
- Plant your feet hip-width distance apart.
- Cross your arms across your chest or lock your fingers behind your head.
- Inhale then exhale as you slowly raise your upper body. Your head, shoulders, and middle of the torso should be off the floor. Make sure your hips are firmly on the floor.
- Bring your upper body close to your knees, make a stop, and slowly get back down.
Don’t over-crunch. There is no need to do hundreds of crunches a day. You can do 1-3 sets of 8-20 reps per exercise, and you’re good to go.
If you are interested in exploring different abs-building exercises, a barre class (a mix of Pilates, yoga, and ballet) could be the perfect fit for you.
4.) Forgetting About Other Parts of the Body
One of the most common abs training mistakes by beginners is thinking that abs are isolated muscles. They are, in fact, part of the well-oiled machine that is the body and should be treated assuch.
A major mistake is firing up your body when doing abs exercises and slacking off when it comes to other workouts. Instead, do your best when performing every move and engage your abs in every rep.
You will often hear gym coaches and YouTube trainers advise you to “engage your core” when doing other seemingly unrelated exercises. Many of them also recommend switching to compound exercises instead of isolation exercises.
Compound exercises make different muscle groups work at once, and isolation exercises work one muscle at a time.
A compound routine can help with:
- Burning more calories
- Gaining more muscle mass
- Intermuscular coordination
- Improving strength and flexibility
Here are four compound exercises that are perfect for anyone seeking washboard abs and how to do them correctly.
- Stand up straight with your feet firmly grounded, slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Straighten your arms in front of you or cross them on your chest.
- Straighten your back, push your shoulders back, and tighten your stomach muscles.
- Bend your knees and lower yourself as far as you can. Don’t lean your upper body more than a few inches forward.
- Get back into place by straightening your legs. Be careful not to lock your knees when reaching a standing position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press on Exercise Ball
- Sit in the middle of your exercise ball with your legs hip-width apart and find your balance. Make sure your back is straight.
- Place a dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms until your elbows are shoulder-high. The dumbbells should be facing forward, and both elbows should be at your sides, forming a 90° angle.
- Keep raising your arms until they are straight over your head.
- Slowly lower your hands back into their 90° position. Don’t go any lower than that.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
The plank position transcends through exercise genres. It’s great for your core, that’s why everyone loves it.
- Think of placing your ears right in line with your shoulders and keeping energy out the top of your head.
- Try stabilizing the shoulders by engaging the lats (the muscle behind your armpits). It is important in this position, especially if you’re down on your forearms.
- Push the floor away with your forearms (or hands). This should lift you out of your shoulders and slide your scapula around your rib cage.
- Engage the lats (the muscles behind your arm pits) and feel your shoulders depress.
- Draw the navel into the spine and tucking the pelvis slightly under. But don’t lift your seat up too high and you’ll lose the abdominal connection.
3.) Keeping Your Routine a Routine
If you have a workout routine, you know how it can help you get in the zone, be consistent in your exercises, and stay motivated.
However, keeping the same routine is one of the most common abs training mistakes by beginners. You won’t be challenging your body anymore and will feel bored at some point.
Instead, turn your routine into a workout plan. Develop one with your gym trainer or look online for one. Here is how a workout plan can help:
- It prevents under- or over-training. This way, you will progressively work your way up from a smooth workout to an intensive one and build your muscles along the way.
- It provides structure. Many of us go to the gym and hop on the first machine we see. This is understandable since we don’t know what we should be doing and for how long. A workout plan will figure that out for you. It will tell what to do, how to do it, and for how long.
- It gives you a goal. Have a checklist of all the exercises to do and follow it through.
A workout plan also allows you to train at the right frequency. Many beginners are super ambitious and tend to overdo it. Don’t train your abs every day. Your muscles need enough time to recover after every training session. If you do an exercise well, there are high chances that you might not be able to move that muscle the next day.
You want to train your abs no more than two to three times per week. You can even get by training your abs once a week and be fine if you keep all these tips in mind. Remember that you can also engage your core even when doing exercises that target the arms, back, or leg. You will need to be aware of your core and keep it in a good posture in every move you make.
2.) Neglecting Your Diet
Remember: you can never out-crunch your diet. No matter how much you sweat in the gym, a poor diet will never get you where you want.
Having visible abs will only be possible if you lower your overall body fat percentage. A balanced diet is about 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Here are some tips to achieve it.
Protein Is Your Friend
The two most important components of building great abs are losing fat and gaining muscle. Lean protein allows you to do both.
You can find lean protein in:
- Lean cuts of beef
- Low-fat milk
- Pork loins
- Plain greek yogurt
- Skinless white-meat poultry
- White-fleshed fish
Processed Carbs Are Your Enemy
The primary culprit for belly fat is not fat. It’s refined and processed carbs. Processed carbs are grain products that have been processed by a food manufacturer so that the whole grain is no longer intact.
- Any drink or snack with added sugar and junk food
- White bread
- White flour
- White rice
Instead, go for healthy carbs that contain fibers. You can find them in:
More Water, Less Liquor
Hydration is so important that we have now apps that remind us to drink water throughout the day. Hydration is even more important when you’re exercising your abs. It helps prevent belly bloating by flushing out excess sodium and keeps the stomach full.
To measure your recommended daily water intake, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2. The result is how many ounces of water you should be having per day.
Hydration doesn’t mean all liquids are fine though. Alcohol is a big no-no. If you can’t cut it out completely, at least lower your booze consumption.
For more information, click here to discover what you’re doing and discover diet plans that work.
1.) Using Abs Training Gizmos
Now and then, the market gets flooded with a new gadget promising miracles and wonders. Some of these products claim to burn fat instantly or shake your abs without you moving. Other products are training machines that claim to work wonders on your core when they do not offer a real workout.
In many cases, you will also hear about new nutrients, diet pills, supplements, or shakes that will turn your diet upside down and “melt” your fat away no matter what you eat. Even if they claim to be backed up by “research,” we advise you to stay as far away as possible.
Those are empty promises, and the only thing they will make slimmer is your wallet. The secret to keeping an average body fat ratio is having a balanced diet and exercise.
A Real Solution: An Ab Machine
Do you want something that will help you work on your abs? Try one of the best ab machines.
Unlike the gadgets we talked about before, these aren’t gimmicks made by people who want to get rich off of people’s desire to get fit. They’re exercise machines that can expand your range of workouts and help you get those toned muscles that you want. Many of them help reduce the strain on other parts of your body, like your neck or your back, so you can do ab workouts without damaging other areas.
They are an excellent option to add to your home gym, and some of them are small enough that you can keep them in a closet until you’re ready for them if you don’t have a dedicated exercise space.
There is nothing more effective than a good diet, great cardio workout, overall compound exercises, and a suitable workout plan to get the abs of your dreams. If you are looking for diverse workout exercises to take your routine to the next level, read our next article.