I know I’ve hammered this home before on this blog but screw it, I still see people who seem devote entire workouts to abdominal exercises. So if this can reach their eyes, I hope they will learn to focus their efforts elsewhere.
This research comes from the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. The purpose of this study was to research the effects of abdominal exercises on abdominal fat. The study participants were sedentary and aged 18 to 40 years old. There were 14 men and 10 women in total. The participants were randomly assigned to two groups; control group (CG) or abdominal exercise group (AG).
The study lasted six weeks. The AG performed 7 types abdominal exercises for 2 sets of 10, 5x/week. This is a crap load of volume, but is definitely a protocol that I’m sure many gym goers use. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by the stretching area of my gym and saw someone doing crunches, then after I’m done my training I see the same person doing a slightly different variation. The CG performed no abdominal work. Both groups maintained an isocaloric diet for the studies duration. Anthropometrics, body composition, and abdominal muscular endurance were measured before and after training.
The study concluded: “there was no significant effect of abdominal exercises on body weight, body fat percentage, android fat percentage, android fat, abdominal circumference, abdominal skinfold and suprailiac skinfold measurements.” Android fat, is just a fancy word for describing fat around the shoulders, chest, trunk, and neck. Abdominal and suprailiac skinfold measurements are the measurements taken around the abdominals (obviously) and the area around the ‘love handles.’
The study also concluded that the AG group increased abdominal muscular endurance more so than the CG. The AG group was able to perform 47+/-13 curl-up repetition vs. 32+/-9 repetition in the CG group. La-dee-da!
So there you have it folks, performing abdominal exercises during an isocaloric diet makes zero difference compared to if you sat on your ass, and ate properly. Unless you are entering an sit-up contest, they won’t help you at all in your quest for that vaunted six pack. This doesn’t surprise me one bit. So next time you’re in the gym save the abdominal day, perform compound lifts, and read up on eating properly. It’ll get you where you want to go much faster.