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Debunking Common Myths About Washboard Abs
Chiseled abs have always had the stigma of peak physical fitness – but research has started to reveal a multitude of reasons why this is not the case.
For decades, achieving a 6-pack has been the cornerstone of athletic prowess. Chiseled absmeant that you reached the peak of fitness (and they didn’t look too bad either). Flash forward to modern times, and science has started to reveal a multitude of reasons why this is not the case. We're here to explain why three of the most common six-pack myths are NOT true and explain why.
#1: 6-pack = strong core
Actually, quite the opposite. Gaining a six-pack is more aesthetic, while a strong core is physically performing at a higher level. Abs shape our abdomen and look nice, but they don’t help perform your daily activities.
You can have a strong core without a visible six-pack. In reality, not everyone is genetically capable of achieving defined abs. Body composition is impacted by factors beyond what you eat and how you exercise.
- Genetics: varying degrees of muscle depth in your belly and the makeup of muscle fibers means that we do not necessarily know how our abdominals will surface–even if we hit all the requirements.
- Hormones: differing levels of hormones contribute to the way we hold fat in the abdominal area. For example, stress-related hormones have been linked to higher levels of abdominal fat in non-medically overweight women, according to research.
#2: Got a six-pack? You’re in the best shape of your life
Actually, having a six-pack does not equate to being the healthiest and most athletic you’ve ever been. The most disciplined? Maybe. In most cases, if you have a six-pack, it indicates a very low body fat percentage due to extreme dieting and exercising. Sometimes doing too much of something can actually backfire.
Maintaining a six-pack over a lengthy period of time means that the essential body-fat percentage is compromised. Fat helps protect internal organs, insulates our bodies from the cold, and releases metabolism-related hormones. Lower levels of body fat can lead to reduced bladder control and bowel function, hormone imbalances, weakened immune system, and increased risk of injury. For women specifically, body fat needs to be at least 20 percent to remain fertile and have regular menstrual cycles.
We also have to factor in mental health. Following a strict diet can also create gaps in your regular social schedule. You may also find yourself obsessing over the scale and your physical appearance. It’s important to understand that restrictive eating and overly intense exercise are the two major reasons athletes are at high-risk for mental health issues.
#3: You can crunch your way to a six-pack…over, and over.
Avoid endless days of crunches wondering why your six-pack isn’t coming to life: resorting to crunches is not the answer. Variety and emphasis are important factors when training. Just like all of our other muscles, our abdominals get used to a repeated stimulus and movement. You need to mix-up workouts in order to create muscle confusion and continue working all areas of the core. For example, our Ab Acceleration challenge was designed to emphasize different muscle groups and modalities in order to continue strengthening our core in different ways.
Plus, ab workouts are notoriously dangerous–especially when performed incorrectly. Excessive abdominal crunches can lead to hunchback conditions due to the flattening of the lumbar curve, creating a weekend spinal structure. Trust us, you don’t need to over-do the crunches in order to strengthen your core.
Many people believe that abs can be trained every day, and should be in order to achieve the best results. Negative. Treat your abs like every other muscle group: ensure appropriate recovery time, challenge your muscles in different ways, and mix up levels of intensity.
What's better than a 6-pack?
Inner (core) strength.
Gaining a six-pack does not necessarily equate to being healthy, having a strong core, having confidence, or being happy. Take the aesthetics out of the picture. Focus on functionality and overall health.
That doesn’t mean we’re taking six-packs off the table, but rather revisiting and revising our goals. Learn more about why a strong core (NOT a six-pack) is beneficial.