Top 6 Ab Training Mistakes

this ripped couple avoided ab training mistakes

Want thick, dense abs that stand out like a washboard? Want a ripped midsection with veins and shredded striations? No? How about this: Want to look good naked? If you answered yes to any of those, you’ll want to be sure you’re not making any common ab training mistakes.

You will never achieve any of the above goals or personal goals if you train your abs once a week with three sets of crunches for 100 reps, or if you eat like a horse. Avoid these 6 common abdominal training mistakes and your abs will dial in. Whether you are a bodybuilder, an athlete, or a novice, chances are you are making several of these ab training mistakes in your training right now. Take heed!

The Top 6 Most Common Ab Training Mistakes

1. Neglecting Your Abs

Neglecting the abdominal muscles is something that average gym-goers and bodybuilders alike tend to do quite often. This is a combination of multiple things. Sometimes, people figure that doing compound exercises is sufficient for ab development. Wrong. You can develop decent abs from compound exercises, yes, but you won’t maximize their strength and size this way. More than likely, you should be training abs much more seriously than you are.

A good idea for your ab training regimen is possibly on your normal off-days, to come in and train your abs extremely hard. Being one of the smaller, more stubborn muscles on your body, they’re able to be trained quite often. Training them 4-5 days a week is probably overkill, but hitting them hard 2-3 times a week is a decent start. Throwing them in at the end of a chest workout, though, isn’t going to allow the same level of abdominal fatigue.

2. Lacking a Structured Ab Routine

Most bodybuilders look at their training routine, and they are planning on how to hit the largest muscles in their body, like the chest, back, legs, and others primarily when mapping out a training program. Similarly, they quite often completely leave a day focused on abs out of their program, or just throw it in with a large muscle that requires tons of energy and don’t focus on it.

Putting more effort into training abs, and mapping it out well in your routine will pay dividends. Occasionally train your abs at the beginning of your workout, when they are fresh and when you have the highest level of energy.

Female and Male Abs

3. Not Training Abs with Enough Intensity

Whether they’re in a hurry to get out of the gym, or simply don’t understand the basics of human anatomy, many people train abs while just going through the motions, and end up targeting other muscles rather than their abs. It’s important to feel your abs engaging during exercises and focus on squeezing them.

If you want to train your abs hard, do them first in your workout. If you hear or read that training abs before squats or overhead presses could lead to injury due to a fatigued core, just know that is more of a myth than a reality.

4. Improper Oblique Training

Arnold's ripped washboard abs

Many bodybuilders especially train their abdominals like they’re sculpting a masterpiece. This is because as a bodybuilder you’re looking to maximize the v-taper appearance of your physique, and its overall appeal, and over time training obliques has been known to make the waist appear wider. Therefore, the majority of bodybuilders barely train abs, and avoid heavy oblique training.

On the other hand, strongmen, powerlifters, sport-specific athletes, weekend warriors, and pretty much anyone who is training for actual fitness rather than bodybuilding, should not neglect their obliques. Perhaps the obliques should never be trained with 12-15 rep sets to target hypertrophy, but there is always a reason to train your obliques with heavy weight to make them strong, develop core stabilization, and improve rotational power.

In my opinion, you can never go wrong training your obliques once in a while with higher rep sets (20+) for conditioning and endurance, especially if your sport requires rotation or abrupt turns.

5. Training for Abdominal Definition

In general, nothing you do inside a gym will truly build or allow for ripped visible abdominal muscles. The essential key to obtaining a ripped midsection, and washboard abs, is a good diet. When shedding fat away and revealing those abs is a concern, the primary focus should be on your caloric expenditure exceeding what you eat daily. This will allow for fat loss from week to week, and start revealing those abs. Of course, remember to take in sufficient protein to avoid muscle loss.

6. Performing Excessive Repetitions

It’s not exactly precise where people get this notion from, but many people believe that your abdominals are built from doing tons and tons of crunches, or situps. Your abs, however, are like any other muscle and grow from resistance.

If you want large, thick dense, abdominal muscles, you’re going to need to add some resistance. Lower the number of repetitions you’re doing to build some thickness and density in your abs.

Also, choose exercises that are not traditional cookie-cutter step-class movements. You want to be moving your entire body through space and lifting heavy weights when you train your abs. Crunches won’t do you much good at all. Try windshield wipers and clothespins instead.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of tips and suggestions at Project Swole to help you avoid committing the most common ab training mistakes. Here is the summary, then check out our list of best ab exercises to get you through the next 6 months of intensive core training.

  • Make sure to include ab training at least twice a week, and do it effectively.
  • Keep most sets between 5-10 repetitions, and increase resistance weekly. You can make ab training harder by doing structuring your abdominal exercises as a superset or even a giant set.
  • Don’t get in a rush. Take time and focus on squeezing your abdominal muscles.
  • Occasionally train your abs first in the workout to prioritize them most effectively.
  • Target oblique training around your fitness goals, but generally target all abdominal muscles equally.
  • Train abs like any other muscle, and don’t forget that dieting is key to revealing a ripped midsection.
  • Use low rep sets instead of high rep sets to make your abs dense and thick.

Read this: The Top 10 Best Abdominal ExercisesPart 1, Part 2, Part 3

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6 Responses to “Top 6 Ab Training Mistakes”

  1. #6 100%, you always see people swaying and using momentum to get all their reps in, such a waste of time. focusing on keeping your abs flexed throughout the rep, and training it like any other muscle like you said is the way to go.

  2. I’ll take note of that, now i know that we should never do those top six mistakes above.. Instead of giving you a lean look, they might give you problems in the future. Thanks for sharing these helpful advices.

  3. I think another ab training mistake is not incorporating total body exercises into your strength training routine. You don’t just have to do “ab exercises” to get the benefit in your core. For example, one of my favorite exercises is the one leg deadlift where you hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand as the leg you are working. That way your core has to work hard to resist rotation, which is what it’s actual job is.

  4. Top 6 Ab Training Mistakes…

    Want thick, dense abs that stand out like a washboard? Want a ripped midsection with veins and shredded striations? No? How about this: Want to look good naked? Well, you will never achieve any of th……

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