How to get abs for women: It begins with knowing the facts
ShutterstockThere is a lot of misinformation when it comes to abs. So I went to get the facts from “tier 3+” personal trainer Roydian Chan at Equinox in Toronto. Find out what he says we should stop believing, and what we should start doing. By the way, here are some things you should definitely stop doing at the gym.
MYTH: Work out as hard you can to get abs
It is not about working out hard. There is a science behind how intense and how long you exercise for abs.
The fitness expert says: “It should be a mixture of intensities,” says Chan. He uses a training method called “undulating periodization.” What does that mean? “It’s essentially characterized by up-and-down variations of intensity,” he tells us. The lower your intensity, the more reps you should be doing. And—you guessed it—the lower your reps, the harder your intensity should be. “This strategy allows for optimal recovery weekly, which is important for sustainability. Getting abs requires programs that can be sustained without injuries, or regressions because the body has reached a plateau.” And make sure you're not making this common mistake women often make while doing ab workouts.
MYTH: Following heart rate is about fitness level, not abs
Your heart rate actually can help you determine how intense you are working out.
The fitness expert says: According to Mayo Clinic, you can determine the intensity you should be working out at by figuring out your maximum heart rate (HR). Generally speaking, that is 220 minus your age. And moderate exercise would be about 50 to 75 percent of that. But again, that is just a general guideline. The more you work out with a HR monitor or HR tracker, the more you will be in tune with your HR targets for intensity.
“With [HR] ranges, it comes down to the fitness of the individual. Someone who is new to exercise, or who hasn’t exercised in a long time, may be starting with a lower level of fitness,” says Chan. “Whereas someone who is physically active in the gym or play sports four to five times a week might be at a higher level of fitness, and then you have professional athletes being at the highest level.”
Here are some surprising things your fitness tracker knows about you.
MYTH: Heart rate is the only way to check your intensity
Shutterstock No HR tracker—no problem. Ask yourself how you feel.
The fitness expert says: How do you feel? That’s what you should be asking yourself when you are working out, especially if you want visible abs. And be honest. “Focus on low to medium ‘self-perceived intensities’ so [you] can last up to 40 minutes of steady state cardio exercise,” says Chan.
This woman got abs when she was 30. Find out everything she did.
MYTH: You can get abs training two to three times a week
If she looks like an athlete, and has the six-pack of an athlete, then she trains like an athlete.
The fitness expert says: “If [your] goal is to look like an athlete, take a look at the life of an athlete,” says Chan. What does that mean? “Lots of rest, healthy selection of foods on most days, varying intensity levels of exercise daily—warm-ups, practice, game days, cool downs—[being] on their feet a lot, massage, stretching, et cetera.” Learn the secrets of women who work out every day.
MYTH: To get a six-pack, do crunches, do sit-ups, and repeat
A toned stomach is all about working the core, and not just the abdominal muscles.
The fitness expert says: You will be surprised to read this. “The abs are a small section of the core,” says Chan. “The core covers everything from the pelvis up to the neck.” And when I trained with Chan at the Toronto Yorkville Equinox location with the goal of getting a six-pack, we did zero targeting of abs. Instead it was all core stabilizing and strength training. “Working on the entire core as opposed to a subsection of the core burns more calories, energy,” he says. Get started with these ab exercises that strengthen your core without crunches.
MYTH: Abs are 80 percent diet, 10 percent exercise
Shutterstock The math behind getting abs is much more complicated than this.
The fitness expert says: “If you go about it thinking it’s all about diet, then you’ll miss the bigger picture,” says Chan. “Yes, it’s 100 percent about diet, but it’s also 100 percent about exercise, 100 percent about stress management and what we refer to as regeneration [which is muscle repair]. Not to mention that most people don’t have the 'diet' part figured out either. A diet implies that there is a start and an end. To me that also implies you may find success during that diet cycle, and that the process will reverse the minute you get off the diet.” Of course, eating these foods that bust belly fat certainly couldn't hurt.
MYTH: If you plateau, a toned stomach is just not in your genetics
A plateau could be telling you to up your game, not that you don’t have game.
The fitness expert says: “Stick to the plan,” says Chan. “Revisit after four weeks to have your program fine-tuned to match your new level of fitness—otherwise you will plateau.” And that is where asking yourself how you feel during your workouts will also come into play. As your fitness level increases, so should your workouts. A personal trainer can help, and so can your HR tracker. Here are some reasons you're struggling to lose weight.
MYTH: No pain, no gain
Pain from a workout can signal a problem, not progress.
The fitness expert says: “Pay attention to pain,” says Chan. “Pain and soreness are different. Soreness can turn into pain if you’re not mindful. Pain can lead to more debilitating injuries that will stop you from exercising and getting abs. When you encounter pain, it means your body is telling you to leave it alone. Respect that signal, and rest [that area] for 24 to 48 hours.” Here are some other post-gym mistakes that could sabotage your workout.
Fat is hiding your abs
ShutterstockThis one is a bonus. Because it is not a myth—it is fact.
The fitness expert says: “It’s a matter of losing fat overall,” says Chan. So while your goal—just like mine was—might be about getting abs, it really is about looking fit and toned. And that happens from your shoulders to your calves. “Think of it this way. Everyone has abs. It’s just covered by overall fat percentage.” This is where your fat really goes when you lose weight.
Next, learn some other fitness myths you should stop believing.