I hear the phrase all the time at the gym or on the internet, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” To me, this is a very misinformed statement and I’ll tell you why.
Every human is born with a set of abs (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques) unless they have some type of genetic birth defect.
What people fail to realize is they serve more of a purpose than just for looks. Yes, you can diet and do fasted cardio to make them what I like to say “Come out to play” but what’s the point if they’re weak. If you don’t train and strengthen these muscle you wont get the results you want when you start to lose body fat.
Now when I say “train your abs” if the first thing that pops in your mind is cable crunches or weighted crunches on the ab machine then you need to keep reading.
Not only are those exercises (if you can call them that) dysfunctional, they are potentially harmful to the person doing them. Dr. Stuart McGill explains that when your lumbar spine goes into repeated flexion (bending forward) your squeezing on the intervertebral discs in your spine (Source) This repeated action can lead to serious issues to your lower back and spine down the line.
I compare it to smoking cigarettes. One wont kill you but after 30 years of smoking you wind up with lung cancer. Most Americans have desk jobs where they sit all day in front of a computer screen and their hip flexors are constantly being put under a shortened position and become immobile over time due to a lack of blood flow.
So lets say you want to go to the gym after you get done with work. You get done with work and hop in your car to sit some more on your way to the gym. Better options by the way would be walking if its within a reasonable distance or take a bike ride to the gym and try to avoid sitting on the bike!
When you finally get to the gym to train abs why would hop on the seated ab machine and start crunching out reps with a loaded weight? I ask, because I’ve seen it several times at the gym and I’m usually busy training and don’t have the time to help the misinformed. So without getting too far off topic lets delve deep a little more into the core.
The core is the center piece of the human body. It connects the upper body to the lower. Hence, it is a very important structure and must be trained not just for aesthetics but for function and strength. Having a strong core will not only allow you to perform all movements in the gym better (deadlifts, squats, pushups to name a few) but better in everyday activities (sitting, standing, walking, sprinting etc.). There is a better way to train your midsection and get you the results you want without wreaking havoc on your spine.
Here are some exercises to avoid doing when training your core:
- Weighted crunches w/ rope attachment
- Seated or Standing Ab Machine crunches
- Decline crunches with feet in fixed position
- Weighted Lateral Bending
- Wheel Rollouts
- Physioball Lying Deadbugs
- 1/2 Kneel Cable Chop
- Kettlebell Suitcase Carry
The phrase should be, “Abs are built in the gym but come out to play in the kitchen.”