Tip: The Misinterpreted Ab Training Study

With all the talk these days about having a strong core, why do many lifters still have weak-ass abs? Here's part of the cause.

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The Poll

We asked T Nation Instagram followers a simple question:

Abs Poll

Based on the comments in the feed, it looks like many of the people who make up the 39% of "no's" are skipping direct ab work because they believe the big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts will train their abs sufficiently. You can't blame them for thinking that, but there's more to the story.

"Rear Core Muscles" vs. Six-Pack Abs

A while back there were several studies that concluded that squats and deadlifts "activated" the core muscles nicely. But many missed the nuances in those studies.

The lumbar multifidus, transverse abdominis, and quadratus lumborum core muscles were trained the hardest by squats and deads... not the muscles you think about when you think "abs" – the rectus abdominis (6-pack) and the obliques.

As Coach Nick Tumminello has noted, the boring ol' push-up activates the abs and obliques more than squats or deads (based on EMG testing). You also "activate" your abs when you take a post-cheat day dump, but that's not exactly hypertrophying them.

The Abs Need to be Built With Resistance

Diets don't build or strengthen abs, they just make them more visible. You wouldn't tell someone who wanted big traps to just eat less so his puny traps will show up better, right? Same with abs.

Abs need some direct training for aesthetics, strength, and athleticism. And that includes heavy work. Lots of workout ideas here: Big, Thick, Chunky Ab Training.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram