Due to the nature and impressiveness of well developed abdominals, abs training has attained some kind of glorious status among general fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders… crunches and numerous variations in particular. But, are efforts being misplaced?
First of all, most people do crunches because they wrongly assume that’s what they need to do to burn stomach fat, and conclude this is a benefit of the exercise. It’s not. Abdominals are actually very small muscles and burn very little calories when trained. And since spot burning is a myth which should have died out long ago, training the abs will really do no good whatsoever for burning stomach fat.
But surely there are other benefits? Of course but these benefits will be different for every person, because everyone is different.
Some people may have very flat abdominal muscles, and, crunches done in moderation will bring out some shape and definition in them. Not to mention in an anabolic environment (that means calorie excess and muscle growth) there comes strength gains. Having a strong midsection is never a bad thing, because it helps to balance and support the load of heavy weights in all kinds of lifts – and even for those who don’t lift, a strong midsection is better than a weak one.
But, how far you go with abs training and the direction you take it really depends on what your goals are.
Some may take abs training too fat resulting in them becoming oversized, making the stomach protrude, and taking away from the aesthetic appearance of the abs. But, bigger abs means more strength, so for those who aren’t concerned with having a flat stomach but more concerned with strength, is this something you can live with?
Then there’s something Vince Gironda said. Vince wasn’t really a proponent of abs training for beginners, because he believed that it shocked the central nervous system into curtailing growth throughout the body. Also, he noted that those who trained abs excessively and directly would often develop a smooth, bloated look – as opposed to the deep-cut, separated look bodybuilders and aesthetic trainee’s desire.
My advice to those looking to train abs is this: if you don’t have low enough body fat to show them, don’t bother training them because you’ll never see them until the body fat is reduced enough. And when it is reduced enough so you can feel rock hard muscle not cushioned by fat, you may well see you have great abs already.