Fitness
Moderators: melkor


Ab workouts make your stomach look bigger?


Quote  |  Reply

My trainer tells me not to do separate ab workouts, but to just tighten my abs while working out. This is what he said:

"Our abs and lower back are so difficult to burn muscle though because we r constantly using our back and abs all day. Our body naturally holds muscle in that area."

Now... I know that he's not one of those stupid trainers who don't know much about fitness. I mean, he studied for 10 years before creating his own gym and his own training program!

So I listened to him and I haven't been training my abs for several months now.

 

What do you guys think???

My goal for my abs is to not have a six-pack (although i can feel the packs if I flex my abs and really push into my skin haha), but to just have a toned stomach. Some muscles showing would be great !! Laughing

25 Replies (last)

I am guessing your trainer knows a lot and has studied the subject, so he could be correct.  But since my health-wellness doctor is a runner, weight-lifter, and makes his living advising well over 100 clients about diet and exercise AND since he does "isolated" ab workouts himself as part of his exercise routine, I am suggesting that not every "expert" agrees with your trainer.

I look at this way:  Does a person really need to "isolate" any muscle group, such as triceps, biceps, quads, calves, abs, etc to build muscle in those areas?  And the answer is no, but it is possible to build additional muscle by targeting certain areas. 

Concerning abs;  One has to lose the fat (and loose skin-LOL) off of the stomach area before ab definition will show.  It doesn't matter how firm the abs are if they are covered up.  Once the fat is gone, a person, in my opinion and I don't pretend to know as much about this as your trainer does, can improve ab muscular definition by targetting that area.  Now, as with many things about exercise, diet, and weight-loss, there is some disagreement about this.  But one can easily find web sites where professional trainers recommend doing ab workouts.

Possibly what he means is that if you're building up the muscles in your midsection without cutting the fat on top, you will appear thicker in that area. Also, I personally have been told/read that most exercises in general will use the abdominal muscles, since your body depends heavily on them to keep itself stable and upright, so isolating those muscles in particular isn't really necessary.

Honestly, I've heard people say you should isolate your abdominals, and I've heard people say you shouldn't. Generally, I tend to do three sets of some sort of ab workout along with the rest of my routine, simply because I feel that every part of my body deserves a workout. However, I don't spend a disproportionate amount of time on ab work, since I know that getting six-pack abs is mostly about diet.

Since everybody has a different opinion on the matter, and everybody's body is different and responds differently, I would say do what you want and if that works stick with it, and if it doesn't work try something else.

What is your body fat %?  You won't be able to really see clear definition until your bf% is around 10-12%.  There is a huge misconception regarding "will I bulk up if I workout that particular body part?".  Many people fail to realize how hard it is and how long it takes to add lean muscle mass to the body.  The "average" male, working out 3-4 times a week, eating at a surplus can expect a gain of ONE (1) pound of added lean muscle mass every four to six weeks.

 

Building bulk in the abs is no different than anywhere else but to see them you get to about 18% as a woman. The top to you will see earlier tho (around 21%). Needless to say most women, or men, never get to the point where they can see all 6 muscle heads.

Doing ab exercises to strengthen your core is a good idea but don't expect to see them unless you are very lean. Don't worry about a protruding stomach either since it's not likely you will build up enough muscle to cause them to bulk in any significant way unless you are genetically gifted.

I did gain an inch around my waist when I started working my abs in earnest (totally wonderful in my opinion!). I have fairly decent ab definition now at 19% body fat. I know that's succinct but hopefully it addresses your question. Smile

The abs (rectus abdominus) aren't a very thick muscle group and would add only a little to your waistline if you really worked on them hard. The obliques can get pretty "bulgy" and add to a waist measurement, but they still look good.

The transverse abdominus (TA) is underneath that and is the muscle that can pull your stomache in (toward your spine) to have a flatter midsection. Try breathing out by using your stomach only and then at the end of the breath just keep your navel moving towards your spine. You'll feel the TA coming into play. The TA has to fight against internal abdominal fat to flatten the stomach, so that is important too.

Trainers have been reluctant in recent years to push the old style ab work, in part because strong abs (RA) paired with a weak lower back cause lots of back problems. And, crunches etc. don't work the TA's which are more important for spine health.

Original Post by oldguysrule:

 

The transverse abdominus (TA) is underneath that and is the muscle that can pull your stomache in (toward your spine) to have a flatter midsection. Try breathing out by using your stomach only and then at the end of the breath just keep your navel moving towards your spine. You'll feel the TA coming into play. The TA has to fight against internal abdominal fat to flatten the stomach, so that is important too.

 

Stomach vacuums where a popular exercise years ago in bodybuilding circles to keep your waist small. Not sure if they really work but Arnold and Corey Everson swore by them.

 

 

I agree that most of your core work comes from doing compound lifts. However, twice a week on days I am not lifting, I do a 20 minute core program consisting of medicine ball twists (3 sets of 25), planks (3 sets of holding for 60 secs) and the pilate 100 (3 sets of 60 secs). I also like to do 10-15 minutes of lower back strengthening exercises like back extensions and good mornings. I finish with 20 minutes of light cardio. Ever since I started doing this twice a week, my lifts have improved and my core/lower back feel a lot stronger/more stable. I still will never do crunches or sit-ups though. Waste of time IMO...

I have been thinking this is true for a while now. I naturally have a very petite waist, and at its smallest about a year ago it was 22 inches.

I put on weight, it went up to around 24 inches. Then I started muscle tone classes and it went back down to 22 inches. However, over the past three months the classes have all started to incorporate side planks and side-core exercises that include weights. This is relatively new, and before it was only ever normal planks with no isolated side-core work.

I don't know if it's coincidence but since then my waist has gone up to 23 inches and no matter what I do, I can't get it back down to 22 inches. It's not fat either, when I pinch it feels hard.

I know muscle is good, but I used to consider my best feature my nipped in waist and now it's not so nipped in.

I'm now avoiding side-core exercises in hope that the muscle will reduce in size.

ETA: By side-core, I mean obliques. The word escaped me for a minute!

runjenrun:  You look very fit in any case.  I am surprised you would not like the look of having a muscular waist, including obliques and all.  When I see gals with tight abs/muscular-looking waists, I always think they look really healthy.  As far as avoiding the obliques, there is nothing wrong with skipping that aspect of your ab workouts.  You obviously are doing something right or you wouldn't have the tiny waist you do have.  I have talked to several women who do ab workouts that incorporate or include oblique workouts, and most of them seem to think it has given them a better looking "core."  Best of luck in your weight and exercise goals!

Thanks Shane! Those photos were taken in October / November right before I got the flu, was out of action for 2 full weeks, then had a 2 week Christmas holiday. So I'm slightly more out of shape now than I was then. I think measurements around the waist are half an inch more, and to look at there is an extra layer of fat. But if I stick to my old routine I should be back to where I was in a month, and from there can hopefully progress further!

I've always had a narrow waist line, I think naturally. As I said, I consider my midrift section to be my 'good' feature. I have short legs, and find it nigh on impossible to build up my gluts. So I do try extra hard to keep my stomach in shape. I'm hoping to cut more fat and get more definition.

I do a lot of exercises that incorporate core, such as karate and pole fitness (pole dancing but without the lap dancing or grinding element!) and weights. Out of respet to the teachers, I do the oblique exercises during the class but avoid holding any weights. I do like the look of a cut waist line, but do want to keep my waist smaller than my hips for that 'hour glass' shape!

dabrock,

Stomach vacuums have nothing at all to do with the tightening of the transverse abdominus.  I've never heard of them as an exercise. However, they will show you how much deep abdominal fat that you have (you just can't get your stomach to suck in if there is a bunch of fat around your organs). To do a good vacuum, you relax both RA's and TA's, breath out, lock your vocal chords, and suck like He**.

What I am talking about is the muscles that help force your diaphragm up to expel breath. The yoga people know them well. I started exercising the TA's consciously for a month and the improved breathing gave me a significant benefit on a 3 hour hill climb, i.e. 20 minutes off of a 5,000 foot vertical ascent (in seven miles).

 

Original Post by oldguysrule:

dabrock,

Stomach vacuums have nothing at all to do with the tightening of the transverse abdominus.  I've never heard of them as an exercise. 

Really? I usually don't use this site as a reference, but... here ya go:

The Stomach Vacuum is an isometric contraction (tenses the muscle without moving it) of the Transversus Abdominus.

You are on the ball amythystgirl! I checked the site you  mentioned and see why you commented on my post.

What that site describes is a combination of the vacuum and a "real" isometric contraction of the TA.  The suction of the vacuum doesn't do anything useful but might not distract some from getting the real benefit of the TA contraction.

I've read some of your previous posts elsewhere and know that you are very experienced and knowledgeable. Think about what your gut does just before going down into a squat.  You pull it in, or tighten it, but don't create a vacuum in your lungs! Right?

Runjenrun,

I agree with shane_p that your waist looks very fine indeed and that oblique muscles will not detract. They actually aid in getting vertically oriented indents, and no guy is going to actually measure your waist circumference!

Since one of my goals is to try to get defined abs, I am really interested in the opinions, advice, and suggestions about this topic.  I was thinking carefully about Runjenrun's original post and about the trainer's opinion/advice.  I think if one analyzes what he/she often does during Bender ball workouts, certain basic crunches, hanging abs, and many of the planks, he/she is "pulling-in (tightening)"--or whatever you want to call it--his/her abs.  So I am in the utmost agreement that if one really concentrates "pulling-in" the abs as he/she does weight-lifting, jumping rope, whatever, then that is actually just another way of doing an ab workout.  Since I prefer not thinking about tightening my abs when I do some of my cardio work, I still think tightening my abs during hanging abs, Bender, crunches, and planks accomplish the same thing; it just takes up more of my time.

Original Post by oldguysrule:

dabrock,

Stomach vacuums have nothing at all to do with the tightening of the transverse abdominus.  I've never heard of them as an exercise. However, they will show you how much deep abdominal fat that you have (you just can't get your stomach to suck in if there is a bunch of fat around your organs). To do a good vacuum, you relax both RA's and TA's, breath out, lock your vocal chords, and suck like He**.

 

 

As I said, I'm not sure if they do anything. I've done Yoga TA exercises and also physio involving those suckers. If you can't keep them tight during a squat you need a belt to help increase the pressure on the area so I'm always interested improving them since I squat raw in Olympic Lifting.

Oh, and stomach vacuums I do involve the isometrics just like the old bodybuilders do. They do seem to improve the look a bit so I'll keep doing them.

dabrock,

I absolutely agree with what you are saying. I know that, as a power lifter (I am not claiming to be one), you know the difference and which one is best. It is purely a matter of semantics.

You ever see a skinny kid suck in his stomach? His muscles are completely relaxed while he creates a vacuum in his lungs, and his stomach goes way in.

You are pulling in and tightening at the same time, right?

Yes, I pull hard to bring my stomach as far back as possible and contract down as well. It hurts like hell when you do it right!

Original Post by dabrock:

Yes, I pull hard to bring my stomach as far back as possible and contract down as well. It hurts like hell when you do it right!

I absolutely agree with that observation.  I think I am not mentally tough enough to endure that "hurt," so I opt to concentrate on one kind of a workout at a time.  If I am doing bicep curls, for example, using a triceps bar, I know I should be also contracting, whatever, my abs; but since I find that excruciating, I opt to just do the curls.  At some other time I will burn my abs, so to speak. 

25 Replies (last)
Recent Blog Post
While summer created opportunities for fun workouts to beat the heat, cold and dark fall and winter days seem like a perfect excuse to ditch the workout. Two whole seasons of no workouts seems like a lifetime and can really set you back on your goals! Instead of cuddling up with a blanket and a book, try one of these five methods to keep on track.

Continue reading...