Here are 10 of the most overlooked and misunderstood facts about abdominal training – some of these may fly in the face of what you THINK you know to be facts! Keep an open mind and read the explanations.
You may still not agree but it might just change your ideas on how your abs should be trained.

This is Part 1 – keep your eyes peeled for Part 2, coming soon!
1. Using A Belt Makes Your Abs Stronger, Not Weaker.
This is perhaps on of the most pervasive myths that people hold about abdominal training, and about training in general. Let’s apply some simple common sense to the issue: if you can lift more weight with a belt than without (and virtually all people can), are your abs “asleep” as many people who have you believe? Or, are they working harder than they would be without a belt?
The reason you’re stronger with a belt is that it gives your abs something to contract against. Imagine you want to train your legs and all you have is two primitive options:
1) You can “leg press” a heavy box by pushing against it with your feet while sitting on a slick floor. Or…
2) You “leg press” a heavy box by pushing it with your feet while sitting on the floor with your back against a solid wall.
Which option do you think will result in more tension for your leg muscles? Obviously the second option is far preferable, because by wedging yourself between an immovable object and a heavy moveable object, you can create a high level of tension on the muscle’s you’re trying to train.
Using a belt during heavy squats, deadlifts, or Olympic lifts works the same way- by giving your abs something to push against, they can create greater intra-abdominal pressure, allowing you to 1) lift more and 2) lift more with less chance of spinal injury.
Just having a belt however, doesn’t ensure success- you’ve gotta use it properly. The three key things to remember are:
1) Wear the belt high enough so your abs can exert pressure against it- many people wear a belt too low and rob themselves of the potential benefit
2) Don’t wear the belt too tight- a looser fit allows your abs to get better leverage against the belt. And finally…
3) Get a high quality belt- some nylon/Velcro belts won’t stand up to heavy use. Case in point: I recently purchased such a belt from my local Sports Authority and broke the buckle the first time I used it (must be my weakened abs from excessive belt use). Thinking it was a fluke, I returned the belt for a new one, and once again, broke it the first time I used it.
2. Having A 6-Pack Is About Diet, Not Training
You can train abs, all abs, nothing but abs, all the time, and still not have a six pack UNLESS- and here’s the kicker- unless you’re below 10% bodyfat. And probably you’ll need to be below 8% bodyfat. The truth is you already have abs- you just can’t see them. Since this isn’t a nutrition article, I won’t elaborate on how you should eat, so if you need help in that area, you might consider an expert nutrition consultation.
Now of course, you can drop bodyfat through training as well, but not “ab training per se:” instead, focus your efforts on challenging the largest possible muscle groups. My favorites include heavy weight circuits including a mix of Olympic lifts, power lifts, and strongman lifts.
3. The Main Function Of Your Abs Is Not Force Production
Although the abdominal muscles can and do function to flex and rotate the trunk, I’d argue that their primary function is to prevent unwanted motion. Specifically, strong abs help to protect the spine in two ways:
1) They create intra-abdominal pressure which helps to counteract compressive forces resulting from axial loading (e.g., squats, deadlifts)
2) They help to prevent forces that take the spine out of its preferred neutral position. More on this in the second installment next time….
Stay Tuned For Part 2!

  1. Laurent 13 years ago

    Your insights about training with a belt are really interesting and clearly exposed.
    You’re leaving me drooling in the wait for part 2 !

  2. Esp Ghia 13 years ago

    When I was competing in powerlifting (raw/unassisted) I found that a belt added about 20lb to my squat and 10lb to my deadlift. However it is no substitute for good form.

  3. Author
    Charles Staley 13 years ago

    Esp: Correct— the belt is an addition to good form, not s substitute for it

  4. Aymen 13 years ago

    great posts thanks
    always nice to know more about abs

  5. Here’s another one you might want to add. Resistance training – NOT enormous reps! Abs are just like any other muscle group, and if you want them to grow, then TRAIN them like any other muscle group. (yes I know, they’re fast twitch… )
    You wouldn’t do 5lbs dumbbell curls to gain mass in your biceps so why would you do 100 crunches?
    The BIGGEST impact on my abs (almost 8pack now) would be using resistance training VIA- holding dumbbells between legs, ankle weights etc.
    THIS followed by rock solid eating habits of course – WILL give you more than a 6 pack.
    Now go work them abs!
    P.S- Will… I’m quite the fan. Keep up the solid work.

  6. Dental Camarillo 13 years ago

    Wow, this is an informative post. This gave me an idea on how to have abs effectively.

  7. Shane 13 years ago

    I think that I have the best ab work-out in the world, Very few people can do it,
    It does not take very long, But I think that I would put it against anything that the pros, could come up with, Even the the pros would be sore the next day, For the last three years I have proven this fact day after day, Even the after doing it for three years it still works, Has nothing to do with reps.

  8. Robyn Booth 13 years ago

    Glad to hear your comment about using a belt. I have just started using one for deadlifts and felt a bit guilty, thinking that it may be detrimental in the long run, even though it has improved my form and allowed me to increase the weight, so I am now happy to have read otherwise.
    Looking forward to the next installment on ab training.

  9. Kieran 13 years ago

    Some good rational behind a Belt Makes Your Abs Stronger

  10. John 13 years ago

    Nice tip about the belt I have always felt better with the belt and lifted more. I thought it was just a extra bit of confidence wearing one.
    Stay Well Stay Happy

  11. Chuck 12 years ago

    So where is part 2 Coach???!!! We need the info!

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