Toned abs are often seen as the symbol of a fit body and healthy lifestyle. Having a flat and lean tummy can help boost your confidence. Even if your goal isn't to achieve a six-pack yourself, training your core regularly can significantly improve your overall strength, will help with any sports related performance and help prevent injuries.
Sadly, no matter how hard you work, if your exercise techniques is not correct or you are making any of the following mistakes, you may not be able to enjoy the benefits. Sometimes it can even make matters worse. Let's dig in.
1. Avoid Twisting HIPS
Have you ever been told that your hips wiggle too much on certain movements? This can be while walking, running, performing squats or single side exercises like lunges or single leg deadlifts, or even when doing plank pased core work.
The role of your core muscles is primarily to stabilise your spine and in exercises that are supposed to work on your stability, your hips and core is meant to stay engaged throughout the movement. If you find that you are not able to keep your hips from twisting, it may mean that exercise is too advanced for you. Regress it down so you can be in full control.
2. Avoid Pulling from the hips
Do you ever feel a pulling sensation just on the inside of your hip bone after performing countless number of sit-ups, Mountain Climbers or other core exercise that requires bending from the hips? If yes, did you think that was normal?
I am here to tell you it's not and indicates that your hip flexors have been working too hard which goes against the point of performing those exercises. Start slow and ensure your abs and core area inside and above your hip bones are engaged throughout and control the movement. As your muscles get stronger and you acquire better muscle-mind connection, you can speed up the exercises.
3. Too Much Focus on Six-Pack
Your core isn’t just a six-pack, it’s so much more than that. The abs that become visible after you tone up is just the icing on the cake. There is much more going on under the surface, not to mention that your glutes, muscles along your spine and pelvic floor also play a very important role in making sure your body's moving correctly.
So, while I have no problem with helping clients achieve a six-pack if that's their goal, I encourage you to not leave the other essential areas neglected. Perform planks and pilates type core work regularly to protect your lower back and stay mobile for longer.
4. Incorrect Breathing Technique
It’s incredibly important to control your breathing during sets. You should be focusing on inhaling and exhaling correctly during your exercises, with emphasis on your diaphragm instead of your chest.
Besides the obvious importance of ensuring the oxygen supply to your brain, vessels and muscles is constant, performing breathing correctly is important for preventing injuries. If your breathing is off, that could cause tightness in certain areas of your back and if the problem is not addressed your whole upper body may tighten up and manifest in shoulder or hips problems.
5. Not Changing Angles
Your core muscles wrap around your torso so it makes sense to work them in all directions and not just one. Performing crunches, sit-ups or even plank based exercises that only work your rectus abdominis (abs) on the front will only take you so far.
Include exercises that will train your obliques, all three glute muscles and your lower back for an overall strength balance. Russian twist, side plank, plank rotations, woodchop and kettlebell swings are only example exercises you can perform to work your core all around.
6. Focusing Too Much on Your Core Area
Did you know that compound movements give your core an excellent and challenging workout too? Probably you didn't realise, but squats, dealifts, press-ups, pull-ups and the like are very efficient in improving your core strength.
Not to mention if you want to shed the fat layer from the top of your abs, performing exercises that involve most of your muscles will help your body burn the fat faster.
7. Not Goal Specific Diet
While this point is not really about your training, if your fitness goals include achieving flatter tummy and toned abs, understanding that training alone will not get you there is crucial.
The "six pack is made in the kitchen" saying is a cliche, mainly because it's true. You can't outtrain a bad diet, especially when it's about your abs. Understanding that from a fat loss point, calorie deficit is key and finding a nutrition plan that works for your individual lifestyle is key.
8. Getting Stuck in a Routine
Performing the same core routine week in and week out will take you so far. It's important to plan your workouts so you can keep track of your progress and feel the improvement in your strength, but eventually you will get to a hold.
That's when it'll become important to increase the intensity, change up the routine to challenge your muscles from a different angle or with a different load for continued progress.
9. Not Taking Breaks
Training every day doesn’t get you faster results. If you train your abs every day, they have no time to recover. Give them a little slack and only train them 3-4 times a week at the start.
Have you got further questions on how to achieve your fitness goals? Feel free to get in touch!
Owner and creator of One Small Step, Joe has been in the health and fitness industry for 8 years and takes an all-round approach to his coaching.