Busting ab myths

Known for her six-pack, Melbourne trainer Maria Martinez busts the five biggest myths about your abdominals.

1. You can burn abdominal fat only

Spot reduction is a controversial topic, but I believe that it just doesn’t happen. Performing 100 crunches to lose only your belly fat is a fantasy. If you’re losing fat, you will lose it over your entire body.

2. Crunches are crucial

There are three things I don’t like about crunches: they’re so easy to get wrong, it’s easy to injure yourself doing them and some people get obsessed with them. There are many exercises that are far more beneficial for your six-pack than crunches, like knee raises, planks and hip tucks — exercises that involves curling your hips.

3. Train fast and intense

People think that ab exercises need to be fast and intense. Time Under Tension (TUT) — the time that a muscle is under strain while performing and exercise — is vital for growth. To have a greater TUT you should train at a slow-moderate speed with a constant tempo. Just remember, the longer the TUT, the more your muscle grows.

4. Don’t train abs to have abs

This myth is due to athletes having abs despite not training specifically for them. High performance athletes might not target abs, but they intensely train their full body daily, unlike an ordinary gym-goer who trains a few days a week. If you want abs you should train them, working different areas of your midsection at least three times a week.

5. You can out-train a bad diet

If you think that training hard justifies giving your body bad food, you’re doing it wrong. Bad diet means a lack of results. Your belly won’t shrink if you’re putting fat and simple carbs into your body post-workout.

Maria’s tips on how to perform a proper crunch

1. Lie flat on the floor with knees bent and heels close to your glutes.

2. Put your hands behind your neck with elbows pointing out.

3. Inhale, and while exhaling raise your upper back off the ground and gently squeeze your abdominals. Inhale to lie back down and repeat.

What not to do…

  • Don’t pull from your neck. This can damage your spine.
  • Don’t use your arms, neck or head to apply force. All the force should come from your core.
  • Don’t go too high. You’re not doing sit ups! You only need to go high enough to squeeze your abs.

Originally from Venezuela, Maria Martinez is a personal trainer at Fitness First
St Kilda. Trained as a chef, she has just released two eBooks, one on nutrition and the other an 8-week training program. Follow her on Instagram at @fitmariamaria.