14 Mistakes You're Making When Training for Abs
Carving an impressive set of abs isn't a walk in the park.
A few sit-ups every morning just isn't going to cut it, if you want to finally achieve that elusive six-pack.
Getting lean enough to see the definition in your abdominal muscles requires planning, discipline, and consistency - not just in the gym, but also with your nutrition, hydration, sleep, and recovery.
If you're serious about earning some abs, it's worth understanding what it truly takes to get them - and that starts with ironing out the mistakes so many people make that inevitably lead to failure in the quest for six-pack abs.
Here are 14 of the most common mistakes people make...
1. What's your goal?
You don’t have a specific measurable goal that has a clear time frame that’s written down: we’ve all heard of SMART goals, right. (Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and TIme-Bound).
Simply spend some time sitting down and writing down your goal that’s specific to you, and how you are going measure it, is it realistic and what’s your current reality and obstacles preventing you from achieving your goal, once you know that we can put a time frame on you setting about achieving your goal.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What exactly do I want to achieve?
- By when?
- What are my limitations?
- What are my options and possibilities?
- Why exactly do I want to reach this goal?
- What are the benefits/consequences of achieving / not achieving this goal?
- How can you achieve something when you haven’t stated what you want to achieve?
- How can you get somewhere when you haven’t set the destination?
2. You don’t have a plan that will lead you to your goal:
You may have an end goal in mind – an outcome goal, but you’ve never figured out the day to day, week to week, month to month process goals that are the small steps each day that get you there.
Spend some time writing out four or five day-to-day habits or tasks that will take you closer each day, each week, each month to your goal.
Such as - exercise for 45 mins, prepare four meals for my day tomorrow, drink 3 litres of water, sleep 8 hours. It's as simple as that!
3. You don’t action the plan:
So by now, hopefully you’ve got your goal, and day-to-day tasks or habits written down. Where many people now fall down is they don’t action or schedule what they need to do. They don’t call a gym and book an appointment to join, or hire a trainer, or plan in time to food shop.
Once you know what you need to do, schedule it in your diary and stick to the plan.
4. There’s no-one to hold you accountable:
History tells us what’s required to be successful. Take a look at sport the world’s best and most successful athletes Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods they all have coaches to help them get to the top. Having someone who you are accountable to will seriously boost your chances off success when it comes to getting lean and getting abs.
A trainer or coach will keep you accountable and honest to your goals; whether that's counting every rep, overseeing your daily diet or monitoring your sleep and stress levels.
5. You don’t track anything:
The devil's in the details, as they say! If you don’t track and review your plan, your workouts, your nutrition, your calories, your weight, your body fat percentage, your daily steps, among things, then how do you expect to be successful? What gets tracked, gets managed!
So track everything fastidiously. Start building up this data which will give you an accurate picture of whether you're really making progress.
Even taking weekly photos will give you a visual account that you can track to ensure that you're heading in the right direction towards your six-pack goal.
6. You aren’t in a calorie deficit:
Tying in with point number 5, you aren’t tracking anything, especially the amount of calories you eat day to day and week to week. It's often said that to lose 1lb of fat a week you must create a 3,500 weekly calorie deficit, which can be up to 500 calories a day.
Use apps like MyFitnessPal which can help make tracking your calorie intake and your daily diet easy.
7. You’re eating the wrong food choices:
As much as quantity matters in the above point, so does quality. Start by cutting out the “bad” stuff such as sugar, alcohol, chocolate, fizzy drinks, bread etc. and replace with protein, vegetables, healthy fats, low glycaemic carbohydrates, along with plenty of water. Remember even though calories do count, not all calories are created the same in terms of the effect they have on your body.
8. You’re not eating enough protein:
Protein is known to increase satiety – keeping you fuller for longer. This is what we want when it comes to fat loss to get you lean enough to see your six-pack.
Protein also increases thermogenesis (which helps burn calories via the production of heat) meaning roughly for every 100 calories consumed of protein around 20-30 calories are lost through heat and digestion.
Make sure you consume a good sized portion of protein at each meal. It has been shown that consuming a higher intake of protein in the range of 1 to 1.4 g/lb (1.8-2.7 g/kg) while dieting could help to build or preserve muscle mass.
9. You’re not drinking enough water:
The average adult human body is roughly composed of 50-65% water.
Water serves multiple purposes:
Water is the primary building block of cells.
It acts as an insulator, regulating internal body temperature. This is partly because water has a high specific heat, plus the body uses perspiration and respiration to regulate temperature.
Water is needed to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates used as food. It is the primary component of saliva, used to digest carbohydrates and aid in swallowing food.
The compound lubricates joints.
Water insulates the brain, spinal cord, organs, and foetus. It acts as a shock absorber.
Water is used to flush waste and toxins from the body via urine.
10. You don’t train consistently enough:
Not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder or has the time to train like one. However, if your aim is to get in shape for the summer it is simply not going to happen if you’re sat on the couch, or even training just one or two sessions a week won’t cut it.
Conversely, you don’t have to train 7-10 times a week either. Instead, the majority of our clients who get the best results train 3-5 times a week consistently.
Three weights sessions and two cardio sessions are more than enough week on week to help you achieve those abs.
11. You don’t train hard enough:
This goes without saying, but to get results you have to train and push your body harder than you ever thought possible and is a skill in itself. To change your body you have to challenge your body through progressive overload.
Progressive overload is a gradual increase in sets, reps, weight (intensity) volume, frequency, reduction of rest time to force an adaption from the body.
Training hard isn’t easy; it’s extremely challenging but it's also very rewarding. If you struggle to push yourself to the limit we suggest you get an extremely good training partner or hire a U.P. trainer to find out.
If you’re wondering how hard you really need to train, you can also come to one of our U.P. training camps to take your training to the next level.
12. You aren’t active enough:
Many people just aren’t active enough to lose weight. We get our clients to increase their daily and weekly N.E.A.T. (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) this is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or exercise. We ask our clients to use apps on their phone to track their daily and weekly steps.
Start by aiming for 10,000 steps a day or 70,000 over a week, by doing relatively simple stuff like parking in the furthest car parking spot away from work, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or going for a long walk with the family at weekends.
13. You don’t do any cardio:
If you want to get lean and peel off the fat to reveal your abs, you need to do some cardio.
Adding in cardio on top of your weight training sessions will really help achieve your goal.
You don't have to do hours and hours of cardio on the old hamster wheel, but just add in some short, sharp HIIT intervals at the end of your weights session.
You can also factor in some LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State) cardio by doing some long walks or sitting on an exercise bike with a podcast and pedalling away. Just watch how quickly this helps accelerate your fat loss results.
14. You don't train abs effectively
Doing 20 sit-ups every morning isn't going to get you where you need to be.
Once you've got your diet in hand, your weight training in place and your sleep optimised, you need a training plan that will make those abs really pop.
A well-constructed, abs-specific training programme that works all the muscle of the midsection through a range of repetition, load and tempo variables is the answer.
Nick Mitchell says that 20 minutes of gut-busting abs work at the end of your sessions three times a week can build you an impressive set of abdominal muscles in as little as six weeks.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Stop doing the same things over and over that doesn’t produce you results and expecting a different outcome each time. It isn’t working. Instead, start applying the 14 steps above to fast track you towards having visible abs in time for summer!
Want to train with world-class personal trainers and get a taste of the real UP training experience? Click here to sign up for one of UP's famous Hypertrophy Camps.