When it comes to the best workouts for abs, there’s a LOT of information out there - and not all of it is accurate.
Think you can’t eat carbs and have a flat tum? Or that just doing sit-ups will give you a six pack? Not necessarily true.
To help you in your quest for a tight, toned tum, we bust the belly myths and reveal what really helps you get a firmer core...
Abs workout myth #1: You have to do hundreds of stomach crunches to get rock-hard abs
Knocking out 50 crunches a week to get your abs in shape? You may be doing more harm than good. They’re notorious for bad technique – jutting your neck out as you curl up can create enormous strain.
‘People often bash out a set with little thought given to form or time under tension,’ explains Amy Tarr, founder of personal training company Giant Leap Training. ‘This can lead to your hip flexors taking over, making them short and tight.’
So if you’re going to do them, make sure you do them right (see our how to do a crunch guide for detailed instructions) and do them slowly. But if you’re looking for a longer, leaner silhouette, try these oblique (side) exercises…
Side Plank Dips
Lie on your side with legs fully extended and weight supported by your forearm and palm resting on floor. Place one foot on top of the other and lift your body off the floor. Dip your hips down towards the floor, before lifting back up. Aim for 3 sets of 8.
Cross-Body Mountain Climbers
Begin in push-up position, with weight evenly distributed between your arms and heels. Engage core and draw your left knee as close to your right elbow as possible. Return to start and switch sides. Aim for 4 sets of 12.
Lie on your back and spread your arms at a 90° angle with your body. Raise your legs off the floor. Keep them together and rotate to the left, lowering towards, but not quite touching, the floor. Return to centre and repeat on the right. Aim for 4 sets of 12.
For more core workout inspiration, check out the moves in our 30 day abs challenge.
Abs workout myth #2: Training my abs continuously will eventually give me a six-pack
If you're wondering how to get a six pack, know this: there’s no point powering through planks if you still have a layer of fat surrounding your core. ‘If your body fat is over 12%, your abs will stay hidden, no matter how developed your rectus abdominis muscle is,’ explains Chris Richardson, co- founder of Zero Gravity Pilates.
To shed this layer, you need to create a calorie deficit. Cut back on sugar, alcohol and refined carbs, eat a range of grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein, and do at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise four times a week, including running, swimming, cycling or HIIT.
But remember to give your body a break, too. ‘If you train your abs intensely, they need rest to recover and regenerate,’ says Chris. This will help them become stronger for your next session.
Abs workout myth #3: You can’t eat carbs and have a tight, flat tummy
‘There’s no one size fits all. Some people will react better to carbs than others,’ says fitness writer and Fit at 40 campaigner James Crossley. James suggests recording a food diary for three days. ‘Most people will have a very high carb diet, so it might be time to limit your intake of calories and carbs, especially if you’re trying to lose body fat.’
But James believes any dietary changes need to be small and sustainable if you want to avoid piling the weight back on. ‘Switch your pasta and white rice for brown rice and sweet potato or ditch sugary cereal for a couple of poached eggs and salmon.’
Abs workout myth #4: Slower reps are better for toning your abs
Doing ab exercises at a slow, controlled pace is great, especially when doing sit-ups, but it’s even better if you can mix up your rep speeds.
‘Slow reps help you focus on the target muscle. However, fast reps use more muscle fibres, especially the external obliques (the ones that define your waist),’ explains Chris. ‘Start with slow, controlled reps, then finish off with faster pulses to get maximum activation and exhaust the muscle.
Abs workout myth #5: It will take years to get my stomach in shape
We all have abs, we just need to find them. Trainer Scott Laidler recommends taking up a full-body training regime – so that means mixing in cardio workouts as well as core-strength training, too – and you should notice visual changes after about four weeks.
He’s also a big fan of Pilates. ‘You’ll experience a different relationship with your abdominal muscles than you’ve ever had before,’ says Scott. ‘Once you’ve established a connection with your ab muscles, you’ll be more in control of your core and your stomach will appear flatter.’
Scott’s top tummy toner? The Corkscrew: a great move for all your core muscles, particularly your obliques. Lie on your back, arms by your side, palms down and extend legs to the ceiling. Keeping legs together, lower them to the right, then circle down towards the floor as far as you can go, without straining your back. Then lift round to the left and back to the start. Repeat in the other direction.
What is CBD oil, and can it help prevent anxiety? Here's all the facts
Mindfulness What is CBD and CBD oil? A leading doctor and nutritionist spills the beans
By Fit&Well •
How to use Strava - plus is the fitness app any good?
Wondering how to use Strava? Allow us to break down the activity tracking and analysis app for you...
By Howard Calvert •
Jaybird Vista vs Beats Powerbeats Pro: Which workout earphones are worth your money?
Versus We compare two top-rated earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro and Jaybird Vista, to see which is most worthy of a spot in your gym bag
By Lee Bell •
"I will treasure this feeling forever": meet our Trainer of the Year!
Awards 47-year-old Emma Goodman-Horne was crowned Fit&Well's Trainer of the Year from a 70-strong longlist
By Stephanie Wood •
Fitbit Versa deals: Great offers on Fitbit's top multi-model smartwatch range
Deals Get Fitbit Versa 3, Versa 2 and Versa Lite – the ultimate fitness watch for style and features - at the best price
By Rob Clymo •
Best workout earbuds: Top beats to soundtrack your runs & gym sessions
Buying Guide Give your workout a better soundtrack with our best workout earbuds to soundtrack your sweat session
By Lee Bell •
7 celebrity fitness secrets from over 50s: Barack Obama, Halle Berry & more
Fitness From Halle Berry to Barack Obama and Michelle Pfeiffer, steal the fitness secrets of celebrities
By Claire Fox •
How to get rid of aches, back pain and bad posture in 20 minutes a day
Fitness Simple stretching exercises are the best way to ditch bad posture and fix back pain, according to experts
By Matt Evans •
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 deal: Save $$ on our award-winning fitness watch
Deal This Best Buy deal shaves $50 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2, a Fit&Well award winner
By Matt Evans •
Best treadmill: The top indoor running machines for home gyms
Buying guide Our list of the best treadmills for you, from beginners to seasoned runners
By Lee Bell •