The True Purpose of Ab Workouts

It is important to understand the true purpose of ab workouts if you want to lose weight and especially if you want to get 6 pack abs! The fact is that no matter what stomach exercises you do, the purpose of doing an abs workout is to simply stimulate the abdominal muscles to adapt to stress that is being placed upon them, not to burn the fat that overlies them!

In order to burn off maximum amounts of body fat it is important to be aware that the following internal environment needs to be created. Without all of these situations occurring, your body's ability to burn fat will be compromised.

Purpose of Ab Workouts

The ideal internal environment for burning fat:

Your metabolism must be elevated

Your metabolism may be sped up by optimising your thyroid function, increasing your muscle mass and by boosting your 'sympathetic tone', which is the activity of your sympathetic nervous system. This may be easily done by using thermogenics. XLR8 thermogenic is a good example.

Insulin must be low (and therefore glucose must also be low)

Insulin may be kept low by simply controlling your carbohydrate intake, using glucose disposal agents and by having small, frequent meals.

Level of fatty acids must be high

It is relatively easy to increase the level of free fatty acids in your blood stream. This may be done by keeping your blood sugar level stable or ideally, slightly low. By doing so, this induces the secretion of the 'fat mobilising' hormones, which are: glucagon, epinephrine, norepinephrine, growth hormone, cortisol and testosterone. Another way is simply by using thermogenics (mentioned previously). Thermogenics contain caffeine and caffeine is a powerful fatty acid mobiliser.

The reason why ab workouts don't contribute to fat loss is simply because fat is mobilised from the adipocytes (fat cells) as a result of stimulation by one or several of the 'fat mobilising' hormones (mentioned previously).

These hormones get produced in response to a low blood glucose level, stimulation by the nervous system or stimulation by other hormones. Then, these hormones travel through the blood stream to the adipocytes (fat cells) where they stimulate the enzymes within the fat cells to release stored fat.

The enzymes stimulate the release of fatty acids from the fat cells and the fatty acids are carried by proteins (serum albumin) via the blood stream to the targeted tissues, i.e. muscles and liver for oxidation (they are broken down for fuel).

Therefore, even if you perform all the stomach exercises ever devised, you will not be able to burn the fat that sits on your belly unless you create the correct internal environment as desribed here! So the question still remains, 'what is the purpose of ab workouts?'

The type of ab workout being performed will determine the type of adaptation that occurs in the muscles.

Here are the 3 main benefits of ab workouts:

  • Stimulate muscle growth (hypertrophy)

  • Increase the strength of the abdominal muscles

  • Improve the neural innervation of the muscles

Benefits of Ab Workouts

You may have noticed that none of these benefits relate to burning abdominal fat because the fact is that performing ab workouts will do very little, if anything, for getting rid of belly fat!

Nevertheless, they do serve an important purpose so they should be included in your exercise program. However, it is important to be aware of what ab workouts actually do rather than simply believing all the hype surrounding them and thinking that they will help you directly burn off the fat that overlies your stomach.

Stimulate muscle growth (hypertrophy)

By stimulating muscle growth in the abdominal muscles through ab workouts, you may induce muscle growth to occur. [NOTE: Stimulating muscle growth does not mean that muscle growth will actually occur. There are other factors that come into play in order to actually allow muscle growth to occur.]

In saying this, if muscle growth does occur, then your metabolism will speed up, which may then indirectly contribute to fat burning and the muscles themselves may become thicker, which means your abdominal muscles (6 pack abs) may become more prominent sooner as you lose body fat. However, thicker abdominal muscles also means a thicker waist and this may detract from your aesthetic appearance so you may need to be quite careful about the types of stomach exercises you perform.

Increase the strength of the abdominal muscles

Probably the major benefit of performing your abs workout is the fact that you can increase the strength of the abdominal muscles quite dramatically. Strong abdominal muscles offer a whole range of health benefits. Not only do they provide major benefits when performing any athletic movements as well as eveyday tasks, but they also significantly reduce your risk of injury because they contribute to keeping your spine stable.

Improve the neural innervation of the muscles

Specific stomach exercises help to improve the way in which nerves fire into muscles and this may have a 'carry-over benefit' to any physical activity or sports you play by helping you co-ordinate the movement more effectively.

Overall, ab workouts are an essential part of any weight-loss program but not for the reasons most people think! As long as you are aware of why you are doing the ab workouts and understand their place in your program, you will be able to gain all the benefits they offer and by using them in conjunction with the fat-burning principles covered elsewhere on this site.

Also, by performing ab workouts on a regular basis (but no more than twice a week) you are sure to achieve 6 pack abs or at the very least, a mid-section you can be proud of.

Also, if you would like to learn some great ab workouts, please watch this video:

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