Column: Common myths on the quest for flat abs

Today, I will bust a few of the myths on the quest for flat abs and a strong core, says Tanja Shaw.

The physiology behind effective core training has been lost in bustle of machines

Training your core, the part of your body that connects your arms to your legs, has become a major focus in fitness.   A strong core will improve your balance, posture, overall strength, and athletic ability.  However, the physiology behind effective core training has been lost in bustle of machines, fad fitness programs and infomercials which promise a trim waist and perky backside with four easy payments of $19.99.  Today, I will bust a few of the myths on the quest for flat abs and a strong core.

Myth 1: The core is another name for the abdominals.

The ‘core’ is made up of all the muscles which attach to the pelvis, hips, and spine, not only the abdominals.  The core includes the diaphragm, pelvic floor, abdominals, back muscles, hip flexors, hamstrings, buttock muscles, and muscles of the neck.

Myth 2: Doing abdominal crunches will result in a strong core.

Crunches target the rectus abdominis, the most superficial abdominal muscle (also known as the six-pack).  It is only one muscle of the entire core complex.  Over-strengthening this muscle will lead to poor posture and back problems.  Aim to strengthen all the muscles of your core for a balanced body.

Myth 3: Crunches will give you a six pack.

Crunches and other abdominal exercises (even better exercise such as planks, lower abdominal exercises and cable rotations) target your muscles, not the surrounding fat.  Muscles do not ‘own’ the fat around them.  A sensible diet and exercise regime will reduce the belly fat and expose the muscles underneath.  We cannot spot reduce.

Myth 4: If we cannot spot reduce, we must to exercising in the ‘fat burning zone’ is the best way to shed extra body fat and flatten the abs.

If only this was the case!  Traditional cardio is grossly overused.  There are a lot of benefits about from doing traditional cardio exercise, but fat loss isn’t one of them.   Some common side effects of too much cardio is increased appetite and the false believing that you burned enough calories to compensate for poor eating.  Like I said, there are still many benefits of doing low intensity training.  If your goal is fat loss, however, you will get more results from building strength in your body and eating properly to shift your body to ‘fat burning mode’ while you are at rest.

Myth 5: The best way to strengthen your core muscles is to isolate them with specific exercises.

Core muscles are essential for all movements, including walking, running, turning, bending, pushing and pulling.  They should be active and strengthened during all exercises and movements.  Use the drawing-in exercise to activate your core.  While sitting, standing or laying on your back, inhale and let your belly expand.  As you exhale, hollow your abdominals by drawing your belly button in toward your naval.  At the same time, contract your pelvic floor (think about stopping the flow of urine).  Hold for 10 seconds.  Practice breathing while still drawing in your abdominals.  You should initiate all exercises with the drawing-in maneuver.

Myth 6: You should train your core every day.

Your core muscles are no different than any other muscle – they need rest to get stronger.  You should use your core everyday (while you walk, run, turn, bend, and so on), but you should train them every other day.  This will give your muscles time to recover.

For more information on core training join Tanja Shaw at Ascend Fitness Inc. on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. for the free community seminar “Six Secrets to Flat Abs”.  This community seminar is free, but registration is required.   Email or call 604-858-9947 to register.


Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio.  Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  For more fitness tips go to

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