The Problem With Your Abs

I’m sorry.  Like, really sorry.

For years, I have said not to train your abs.

You will get all necessary abdominal work through squats, deadlifts and pull ups — floppin’ around on the floor is just wasting your time.

HOWEVER, I am returning to the round table of crunches, planks and leg raises with an open mind.

But first, let me tell you why I was so very against abdominal training.




Most of the population (95%) still believes that TRAINING your abs will GIVE YOU abs — a six-pack — a Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Lautner, ahemmikevacanti, Ryan Gosling head-turning, jaw-dropping stomach that, in all honesty, gets dudes more hot n’ bothered than girls.

Sorry guys, it’s true, you want a six-pack much more than chicks care if you have one.

Although, ladies, I can’t say the same applies in reverse, we xy chromosomes are pretty visual creatures.  

But nobody’s sole training motivation should be validation from the opposite sex anyway.

Back to that 95% – here is what I’m talking about:


Now, I don’t blame this guy.  It’s a war-zone of bad information out there (the internet), and it has ingrained many false beliefs.

One of them being ab workouts lead to six packs.

The truth is, everyone has abdominal muscles; they are just covered by fat. You’re smart, so you probably already know this.

The way to see a six pack is by reducing body fat, not by performing endless sit ups and leg raises.  This myth and others are explained further here.

It is painful watching people, like our facebook friend above, waste hours training their abs when all they really need is a calorie deficit.

So, I drew a line in the sand and took a staunch DO NOT TRAIN ABS approach.

Why You SHOULD Train Abs

Now that we have established that training your abs will not give you abs, let me tell you why you should train your abs.

First, here is a quick personal story: Sometimes it takes a real knockout punch to regain common sense.

I mean, Rocky suffered a second round knockout from Clubber Lang before regaining the title.


Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team before winning six NBA championships (yes, I know he really just played JV as a sophomore, go with it).


And Edmond Dantes was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison before rising to the top and owning his enemies.

After four years of proudly training my abs exactly zero times, I found myself locking out deadlift rep numero tres and *SNAP*. Oh, God. My. Lower. Back.

[[Wait, did you just compare yourself to Michael Jordan??]]

I “snapped my shit up” and was left bedridden for three days. It was disheartening missing repeated training sessions, barely able to walk and sidelined from deadlifts indefinitely.

Me, basically (Too long, don’t watch)


Even though I had abs, I lacked ab strength. My weak stomach was contributing to some pretty bad anterior pelvic tilt.

This is a common problem for a lot of people.

Anterior tilt  vs.  Posterior Tilt


Basically, when you deadlift or squat, your vertebrae compress.  My overextended back (pictured above, left) had my spine pretty crooked increasing the risk of a ruptured or herniated disc.

And that sounds terrifying.

So, I had a reality check, much like Edmond Dantes after his failed suicide attempt, and decided to take control of my life.

Wow, it got a little dark there.  I guess I really just took control of my posture, ab strength and ability to deadlift.  But that’s still sorta important.




Ab Strength Benefit #1 – Progress on Lifts

You need to be strong from head to toe if you want to keep adding weight on any compound movement.

Look at the squat: If you break down at any point – from upper back weakness to ankle inflexibility – you will either fail the rep or neglect proper form.

Having a strong core is necessary for progress on deadlifts, squat, bench press, rows and nearly every other move.


Ab Strength Benefit #2 – Avoid Injury

This one is pretty straight forward, and I don’t want to insult anyone’s common sense.

The abs are stabilizers for nearly all exercises, they protect the spine, and a spoonful of every other five benefits of core work article that’s been written.

Train yer abs, get less hurt.


Ab Strength Benefit #3 –


“I mean… for you to get hit in the stomach like that, and go down, you gotta have a soft ass stomach.”



Below is an ab circuit that I want you to try out. It takes about 10 minutes. You can do this 2-3 days/week at the end of your training session.


Now, if you aren’t concerned with posture, injury, athletic performance or general competency at life – then keep not training your abs. You’ll be a beautiful piece of glass, six-pack and all, just waiting to shatter.





Comments for This Entry

  • Nickle

    I learned the importance of keeping your abdominal muscles strong back in high school; my gym teacher was fit, like most of them are, but when she had surgery on something in her abdominal region, she found out that not targeting that area to make it strong means a difference in recovery time of months. At least, it did for her. So she passed along the lesson by making us do sit-ups or crunches every day. Lots of them. There were other exercises as well, but it drove the lesson home. At this point in my life, I'm new to fitness all over again, but crunches are already something I'm doing 100 of a day.

    October 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nadia

    Hi Mike, Thanks for this post. I have been trying to strengthen my abs for my back ache which I have been coping with the past 6 years. The diagram of the anterior tilt looks a lot like my body now. My sixth physiotherapist (yes I have had 6) noticed that I walk with my butt rather than my legs. She reckons it is my subconscious mind telling me not to put too much weight on my right leg after a fracture 6 years ago. My own silly mind reckons if I strengthen my abs, it becomes stronger, I will be in less pain. I deduced this after going in for a killer combat class with an instructor who solely focused on abs for an hour. For 2 days after, my abs were were burning but for once, I did not have any pain in my lower back. Does this sound logical? What can one do to get a more posterior tilt? I use all sorts of cushions, backjoy support, ergotron standing desk and even 2 small miracle balls to cope with the pain. Could the secret be in the core/abs?

    May 13, 2014 at 8:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Juny

    Hi Mike, I would like to check your 10 minute Ab circuit out but the picture/link is not working.... Would I be able to find it on another page or something?! Thank you!

    March 22, 2015 at 9:51 am | Reply to this comment

  • megan

    Hi, I tried the hyperextensions for my abs and my lower back was in pain...could my form be off? or is this normal?

    March 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment