The most common ab workout mistake
Breathing is a lot more important than you think when it comes to ab training. If you are not breathing well in your ab workout, it may ruin your physique. But don't worry, we'll tell you what to look out for while training your abs.
As a regular reader of Builder, you may already know that working on your abs will do nothing to your body fat percentage (BFP) and that in order to lose fat you have to work on your diet, not your abs. If this sounds like news for you, then please read this article first, then come back here.
Because believe it or not, ab workouts can make you look fat, even when your BFP is fairly low – if you're doing them with the wrong technique. Bodybuilding is called bodybuilding for a reason: with weightlifting, you build your own body – you're like a sculptor who builds statues. You can't change your genetics of course, but your workout can make a big difference in your appearance, and ab training is not an exception.
Let's take a look at the picture below. Both of these guys have abs, both are lean, but one of them probably used the improper technique in ab training (ok, we know, one of them is flexing, while the other is relaxed, but you get the point). Can you guess who?
That's right: not only huge bodybuilders can get bloated bellies from anabolic steroid use. You can get it too if you're training with the improper technique, and you are a natural lifter. It depends on your ab training which appearance you will ultimately get when you get rid of most of your body fat.
Let me tell you this: if you want to have a narrow-looking waist and a flat belly, you have to eat well, do cardio/HIIT training, and you have to train your abs too. When it comes to ab training, the most important thing you must know is how to breathe during exercises.
Most people think that all they have to do during crunches (or any ab exercises) is to crunch up and breathe out, and then breathe in and get back to starting position. That is not it! You also need to use your transverse abdominis muscle, and if you push out your belly while you come up, you're certainly not using them. And this is a big mistake because it gives you bloated abs.
To avoid this you have to learn how to exhale without pushing your stomach out during the exercise. You should shrink your waist down as you come up. You don't have to hold your breath, but you should breathe out and cinch your stomach in at the same time. Do not let your belly extend while you exhale. It's very important that you have full control of your abdominal muscles during the exercise, otherwise, the exercise will be ineffective (this applies to every single exercise by the way).
How should this look in practice?
Let's take an experiment right here, right now. You don't have to lay down, just grab the back of your head with both of your hands, and execute one crunch fully. At the end of the movement, keep your posture and see what happened to your belly while you were exhaling. If it's extended, that's not good. Suck it in a bit, act like something cold has touched your belly.
If you can execute the movement like this, you will have a much flatter belly. If you don't do this and you do not activate the transverse abdominis, you will make things worse with time.
If you're unfamiliar with this technique, learning the proper execution might be difficult for you to acquire. Take your time, and don't stop trying when you fail for the first, second, or even the tenth time. Once you've mastered it, you won't forget it: it's like riding the bicycle.
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