“Stomach exercises” are among the most frequently asked about and searched on (via internet) yet misunderstood subjects in the entire field of health, fitness and exercise. Regardless of age, experience or gender, everyone wants a flat “stomach” because the abdominal region is the true showcase of your physique. Since the abs are usually the last place to “shape up” and “lean out,” then most people would say that if you’ve got abs, you’ve got it all.
Well, in my way of thinking, this is only partially true. There’s more to a complete physique than “abdominal exercises” and “six pack abs” and most people are completely wrong about “stomach exercises” and “”stomach muscles.” (you’ll find out why in just a moment)…
The Difference Between “6-Pack Abs” And Truly “Fit Abs”
Having a great looking set of abs is very much a matter of low body fat. But make no mistake, just being lean and seeing a “six-pack” doesn’t mean you are strong, fit or conditioned. Real fitness means more than visible muscle development, it means strength, endurance, and stability, and this type of true functional fitness does not come from merely eating the right foods or reducing your body fat.
Nutrition is so important that you could even say that “abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” and you would not be telling a lie. But this clever maxim is not telling the whole truth either. Great abs come from nutrition AND training, not one or the other. The training develops them. The nutrition uncovers them.
Don Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in America in 1493 looking for a fountain of youth and today in the “stomach exercise” marketplace, it seems that far too many people are looking for a “magic fountain” in order to flatten their waistlines.
Ponce never found the fountain of youth and you will never find a magical solution for flat abs. There are no short cuts. It takes a change in lifestyle to get a change in health, physique and performance. That includes nutrition AND training.
There’s No Such Thing As “Stomach Exercises”
Proper choice of exercise is a critical factor in your quest for a firm and flat waistline. But you will never get a great “stomach” from ANY “stomach exercise” because your stomach is a part of your digestive tract, not your skeletal muscular system! So let’s get the terminology straight, shall we?
The area of you body you really want to improve is called your “core region.” Many people refer to it as the “abdominal region.” However, training only with “ab exercise” is NOT the optimal approach.
The abdominals only include the front (anterior) side of your body and if the only type of training you do is abdominal training, you may be unwittingly setting yourself up for lower back problems. If you don’t think this is serious, then consider this statistic:
According to the American Chiropractic Association, more than 31 million Americans are suffering from low back pain at any given time.
So would you like to trade great abs for a bad back?
I didn’t think so. The good news is that you can kill two birds with one stone.
You can develop great abdominal muscles, great core muscles and a strong, pain-free back by using exercises that focus not on the “stomach,” (which is not a muscle you train at all), not on the “abdominals,” (which is only part of the muscles you need to target), but on the entire core.
The core is the key to your success.
The core is the entire complex of muscles around your hip and waist region from your lower rib cage to the bottom of your pelvis. If you just focus on “abdominal exercises” alone (or “stomach” exercises, LOL), you will develop what I refer to as a “one dimensional body.” I focus on training the body as a whole, or “multi-dimensional training” to develop a complete person and to develop effective and powerful athletes.
What every program I write has in common is that I do not attempt to “isolate” the abdominals (or train the “stomach muscles!”) It’s all about the core and about integrating your body as a unit so you function better in daily life.
As you do core-focused exercise programs you are improving not only your muscular system but also the systems that drives your muscular system – that is, the nervous system. This may very well be the most important secret for getting better results in your workout programs.
The more efficiently your nervous system works, the better your results will be. Core workouts that improve both muscular strength and conditioning while also improving neural drive and develop stronger neural control of the associated muscles.
This type of training for your core may very well be the most important secret for getting better results in your workout programs.
• THIS is why my “brand” of core training gets results in women who have had C-sections, or other abdominal surgeries when nothing else worked
• THIS is why the core exercises I recommend will flatten out a “pooching” belly, which is a result of deep muscular weakness and lack of neuromuscular control (It’s NOT just a body fat problem!)
• THIS is why my clients have overcome lower back when all else failed
• THIS is why my workout program have helped men and women recover from embarrassing incontinence
• THIS is how I have helped hundreds of new moms regain their flat and firm midsections after having their babies
• THIS is why my clients remain injury free, while so many other training programs are actually the CAUSE of injuries
• And THIS is why my type of training – PROGRESSIVE CORE TRAINING – develops amazing athletes – top wresters, PGA golfers, and pro boxers with powerful punches and abs of steel.
I’ve written an entire book about core training (“Firm And Flatten Your Abs), which you learn more about on the Flatten Your Abs home page, as well as dozens of articles which you can read elsewhere on this site (or you can subscribe to my biweekly newsletter).
The purpose of this article was not to give more workout routines (there are plenty of core training workouts to be found on this site and in my book and lots more to come in upcoming issues of my newsletter). The purpose of this article was to “install” 3 incredibly important lessons into your brain:
• You can’t train your “stomach” because your stomach is an internal organ of digestion not a skeletal muscle!
• You can’t totally “isolate” your abdominals because your abdominals do not work in isolation, they work in conjunction with the rest of your body (and “isolation” as with only doing crunches, is not the optimal approach anyway).
• You get more by training your core! You become a better athlete, you help prevent injuries, you get stronger and you get that coveted 6-pack abs look.
I hope the “morals” of these lessons have already sunk in and will become a part of your own fitness philosophy… and the next time you hear someone talk about “stomach exercises”, you’ll now be able to get a good chuckle out of that.
Coach David Grisaffi,