Now this may be a hard-hitting truth but one that some of you may need to here… the 30 day Ab Challenge will not get you abs. No matter how many crunches you do, little will be achieved in getting you that toned, defined stomach that you are hoping for. This won’t be a cynical post but one that hopefully points you in the right direction to get you the body you desire. So without further ado, the Ab Challenge and what is it?
The AB Challenge
There are different variations of the Ab Challenge depending on which picture or site you got to, but it basically boils down to doing repeated repetitions of crunches, sit-ups, planks and leg lifts.
To save any confusion the crunch is where you lift the shoulders off the ground, ‘crunching’ the abdominals. The sit-up brings your chest to your knees, the plank is where you hold your body still on your elbows and toes tensing your whole core (the demon of exercises). And leg lifts are where you raise your legs up off the floor while keeping your back and shoulders pressed firmly against the floor.
Self-explanatory exercises, and ones that are most popular to use when doing an ab workout as they target the abdominals and core directly.
As each day progresses the repetitions of the exercise increases; which means on Day 1 you are doing around 15 reps each, by Day 30 you are up to 125 reps, even 200 reps on some variations.
Hopefully we all understand the Ab Challenge at this point, so now we’ll move onto why you shouldn’t do it. Well that’s if you actually want to achieve defined abs, if you are just doing it for a challenge then have fun.
The first issue with the Ab Challenge that you will find within a week or two of starting is that it is VERY time consuming.
The first few days are fine, it is like a normal gym work out where you do a set of 12, 3 times and move on to the next exercise. But nearing to the end you’re spending at least half an hour trying to complete the challenge, and the majority of people are losing the will to live.
This is a ridiculous amount of time to be spending on abs.
When in reality, abs only need 10 minutes of hard work to feel the full benefits of a workout.
Training has demonstrated that for abs to see true benefits they should be trained to exhaustion, meaning that you work until you physically can’t do another. Then you need at least 24 to 48 hours recovery.
The Ab Challenge does not follow this. You may be working until exhaustion depending on how capable your abs are at doing 140 crunches, but you won’t be giving body the adequate recovery time.
This is actually good news depending on how you look at it.
To get the best abs, you only need to train them 3 times a week at most.
No need to do 30 days straight.
To get abs, you aren’t training just one muscle. You need a variety of exercises to cover all bases, and crunches and planks don’t cut it.
The ‘abs’ have the 4 parts, and all need training. You have the external obliques as well as the internal obliques, then more to the centre is the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis.
Each of these muscles need a different exercise to train them specifically, to focus on the obliques the Russian Twist or side lateral bends are a good exercise to do.
The Ab Challenge, therefore, doesn’t cover all of the actual ab.
To get the full ab effect you need to train all parts, so a more variety of exercises are necessary.
Not Just Floor Exercises
Following on from this last point, the Ab Challenge localises to just the ab region.
To train abs fully you need to not just work abs. Sounds like a strange statement to make, that you train your abs more when you don’t do ab specific exercises.
But hear me out.
To get abs you need to train your core in bigger exercises, such as deadlifts, shoulder press and squats. These aren’t exercises that will make you big as you will most likely be using lighter weights, but it is an exercise that engages your core. Then you need the cardio aspect.
When I say cardio it doesn’t have to be running, but you need to try and fight that layer of fat that is over your abdominals that is stopping the definition you are looking for.
As said before, you only need to train your abs directly around 3 times a week. Your other gym sessions or workouts should be focused around targeting the core and getting your heart rate up to burn the fat away.
When I say work the core, you engage this when you hold yourself in the positions for squats and deadlifts. You brace yourself to hold yourself as still and tight as you can, and this positioning works wonders for your abdominals more than doing crunches on the floor.
So to get abs, don’t work your abs directly.
Resistance Over Endurance
The next issue is that an increase in repetitions doesn’t mean you are training your muscles to be stronger, merely to endure more.
What you need to do instead is add resistance, meaning weights or including a decline in your crunch for example.
Increasing reps will get you a slight tone but at a slow progress, but adding resistance will build up your core to be stronger at a faster pace.
The last point to make with the Ab Challenge and why it won’t get you those amazing abs is that abs start with a healthy diet.
To see your abs you have to lose the weight first so you can see those muscles that have built up underneath to the flab.
Therefore, you can finish the Ab Challenge and see no difference. There will have been progression, don’t get me wrong. Doing the Ab Challenge won’t have been in total vein, there will be more tonnage to you abs, but you won’t be able to see any of it because there will still be a layer of fat over them.
Without a change in diet, and an addition of cardio, your abs will never show. Which is why this challenge is flawed; you can get abs but you’ll never know about it.
So change to a lower calorie diet, cut down the carbs and add more protein.
Not a diet of chicken and broccoli as people always seem to think, you can still eat all the foods you love but just have a smaller portion size. Or switch from potatoes to sweet potato for a slow releasing carb, or better yet cauliflower rice (not as bad as you think).
How To Actually Get Abs
So to highlight the positives to take away from this article, if you want just a challenge to demonstrate your abs can endure more than at the beginning then enjoy the challenge and the best of luck. I couldn’t get past day 20.
But if you want to get defined abs to get closer to that body you’ve dreamed off, then follow these simple steps:
1. Train your abs to exhaustion 3 times a week (max).
2. Include a variety of ab exercises that target all 4 muscles, e.g. Russian Twist.
3. Focus on the bigger exercises and cardio – these are you priority exercises.
4. Eat right – reduce the calorie intake to reduce the fat on your stomach.
If you follow these simple rules you should be on your way to getting the abs you desire.
But be sure to give yourself plenty of time, the 30 day Ab Challenge gives you an unrealistic time frame. This process will take at least 6 months to start seeing results, but if you persevere it will be worth it.