Thick, dense abdominals are what every bodybuilder strives towards, but somehow they always become the forgotten muscle group. We have talked about the importance of strong abs many times on this blog and on the Mass and Shred Podcast. At the end of the day though, ab work is always done post workout and with little structure by most of us.
Here are some of the top key training mistakes made when training the abdominal muscles.
Not Paying Enough Attention to Your Abs
This aforementioned issue is the most serious of the lot. The most likely scenario with anyone serious about bodybuilding is that they are neglecting their abs. Whether it is only doing a few sets post workout as you cool down or thinking that you get enough ab work when performing compound exercises, the fact of the matter is that they are not getting enough work.
The abs are accustomed to working, so you can actually train them quite often. I typically do ab exercises three times per week, but I know people who do them as often as six times per week. That is a lot to me, so I stick with three days per week as it works well for me.
Not Working Your Abs Out Hard Enough
It is important to feel your abdominals engaging during each and every repetition. Focus on squeezing the abs with each rep. If you are not feeling the burn, then you are not working your abs out correctly. It is very easy to inadvertently work other muscles than your abs if you are using bad form or simply going through the motions.
Going through the motions is one reason to not save your ab work for the end of your workout, but I save them until the end, so I know that it can be done correctly. The important part is to give your abs the same amount of focus you would give your chest. I have to admit that I have done abs first in the past and actually like it. Doing them first really is a nice way to train as well because your compound exercises will hit the abs as well, so that will be extra work.
Working Your Abs Out With Too Many Repetitions
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have too much work being done in the manner of too many reps per set. Many people believe that strong abs are built by repeated reps. That is really not the case. If you want strong, thick abs, you need to add resistance in order to lower the amount of reps that you perform per set. Your abs are muscles and they grow from resistance. Try cable crunches, cable oblique crunches, weighted leg raises, etc.
Not Targeting the Obliques
Do not leave your poor obliques under-trained. Use heavy weight with your obliques and go 12 – 15 reps with them as well. The obliques are a crucial muscle group in your body and not only for aesthetic purposes. If you are an endurance athlete, you may think about doing sets of up to 20 reps though.
Not Dieting For Your Abs
I do not want to make this point seem less important because many will say that it is the most important of the bunch, but many people will tell you that abs grow in the kitchen – not the gym. You can work your abs out all day and night, but the fact of the matter is that no one will see them if you are overweight. In order to fully display your abs, you need to have a proper diet and get down to a low percentage of body fat. Just please keep in mind that cutting calories does not mean that you need to trim your macros. Make sure that you still get sufficient protein in your body, or the weight that you lose will end up being muscle.
Not Having an Ab Routine
While this seems like a no-brainer, it is normally not. As we previously have mentioned, ab work tends to be an afterthought for most people training. Just like you should have a structured plan of exercises and weights you are looking to use for your weight workout, you also need to have a structured plan for your ab workouts. Log every weight and rep just as you would with your bench presses. Try and improve upon your last set of every exercises with either more weight or a few more reps.
Washboard abs do not come easy, so it takes a tremendous amount of dedication to develop strong, thick abs. If it were easy, everyone would do it.