posted this on bb.com a while ago to stop the newbs asking the same questions again and again.... anyway here it is
FAQ: training abs can make your waist larger
A: this myth leads some to avoid ab work altogether and others to stick to high reps in hopes of "toning" their waistline.
While it’s true there’s not much that can be done about a genetically wide waist (typically due to a wide pelvis), other muscle groups, particularly your legs and shoulders. When you create additional lower and upper body width your waist will actually be narrowed in comparison. So, in many respects, squats and military presses may do more to improve the appearance of your waist then any amount of crunches.
FAQ: high reps are for tone, low reps are for bulk
A: its not how many reps you do, its how much WORK you do. Just to set the record straight, "tone" refers to a partial, involuntary state of contraction - typically the result of a recent workout or other stress to the muscle. Problem is, if your abs are covered by fat, it WONT MATTER HOW TONED THEY ARE, BECUASE YOU WONT BE ABLE TO SEE THEM ANYWAY! So the truth is that having great abs comes down to energy management... you need to coax your body into reducing its fat stores by reducing calories and doing some more physical work.
So reps.... at the end of the day its not so much how much or how many reps you do, or how many sets you do, but how much WORK you do. In other words, for any given muscle or muscle group, if you lift 200 lbs for 3 sets or 20 in 15 minutes (which most people would call high reps), you’d get a total volume of 8,100 (135x60 reps) for that 15 minute workout. On the other hand if you perform 6 sets of 10 with that weight, you'll also get 8,100 pounds. Or if you lift 260 pounds for 4 sets of 11, you'll get a total volume of 8,140 pounds. So there are many ways in which you can approach number of sets and reps
FAQ: to firm up your lower abs, you need to target them with specific low ab exercises
A: to firm up your lower abs you need to lose fat! There is no way to burn fat in one area alone; there is no direct metabolic pathway to the lower portion of your rectus abdominal muscle and the fat layer on top of it! Physiologically, the rectus abdominus muscle spans the distance from your sternum to your pelvis-it is one muscle group (although it does have between two to four tendinour inter sections along its length - hence the term "six pack". the lower section of this muscle does have a separate nerve supply than the upper portion, leading some to speculate that one can devise specific training drills that will "firm up" the "lower abs". I find this untrue as if you assume a crunch position on the floor and place one hand on your upper abs and the other on your lower abs so you can feel the muscles contract as you perform a crunch. as you curl yourself up into the crunch, you'll feel both portions of your rectus abdominis contract simultaneously. Most ab exercises burn relatively few calories compared to big compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses and pull-ups.
FAQ: too much ab work gives you a big waist
A; Its physiologically impossible for most people to develop enough muscle to give them a big waist, very few individuals are capable of significant muscular hypertrophy of the abdominal muscles, which could thereoretically lead to a larger waist. These muscles have a smaller proportion of fast muscle fiber (the type most capable of enlargement) than do your chest, legs and arms. The architecture and tissue of the muscles makes them less capable of significant growth as compared to longer, better-levered muscles like the quads, lats and hamstrings.
Many people believe that training abs can lead to a bigger waist by looking at the pro’s who posses distended abs (even at exceedingly low body fat percentages) this is most likely a function of anabolic drug use and is not a concern for non drug users.
Heavy rows, squats, deadlifts and back extensions, enlarge the lumbar extensors of the spine. This would increase your waist size, however, it would not lead to the appearance of a larger waist
FAQ: Crunches are better than sit us for “isolating” the abs
A: The word “isolate” which is a myth unto itself because rarely can a specific muscle be isolated during a physical task. Here is a passage from Duane juhans book “jobs body” “lets us imagine ourselves observing a person who is standing erect and executing the simple gesture of raising their straight right arm to the side until it is horizontal. The fibers in the deltion, the supraspinatus and the upper trapezius will contract to produce the primary motion, while fibers of the pectoral major; the pectoral minor and lattisimus dorsi must simultaneously extend to allow it. But the contraction of the right trapezius will not only raise the right arm, it will also to the pull the neck toward the right, therefore, the left trapezius, along with the other muscles of the neck, will have to contract as well in order to stabilize it. Furthermore, the extended right arm will overbalance the torso to the right, so the erector spinae muscles on the left side of the spine must contract to brace the whole torso and keep it erect. And since this contraction of the left erector spine set will tend to pull the left side of the pelvis up as well, the gluteus medius and minimus of the left side must also to hold the pelvis level. Since not only the torso but the body as a whole is threatened with tipping by the overbalancing weight of the extended arm, the right leg must brace as well, using fibres in the hip, the thigh, the calf, the feet, the toes”. With that understanding in hand, lets look at sit-ups versus crunches: it is true that sit –ups involve more muscle groups than crunches. That’s because a crunch involves trunk flexion only (the act of “rolling up” such that your spine leaves the floor one vertebrae at a time), whereas a sit-up involves flexing at the hips (involving hip flexor muscles, of course) once you’ve completed the act of the trunk flexion. So in essence, crunches primarily challenge the rectus abdominus muscle, and sit-ups target the rectus as well as the hip flexor musculature. Which is best? By all means do them both, remember that “seeing” your six pack is a matter of having a low body fat percentage and far more calories are burned by training the larger muscle groups such as the quads, lats, hamstrings and pecs.
FAQ: you can (or cant) work your abs everyday
A: The optimal frequency of any type of training is a function of two factors: how intensely you train and the total amount of training your body must recover from. Therefore, if your ab training session are super gruelling, it’s probably best to train them to or three times per week. One the other hand, if your ab training is more on a “maintenance level” schedule, it may be possible to train them everyday without any negative consequences. However, intense squatting, deadlifting and./or overhead lifts should be performed on fresh abdominal muscles. This is because the abs play a key role in raising intra abdominal pressure during these lifts, which functions to decrease pressure on the intervertebral disks in the lower back. If you perform, heavy squats when your abs are tired from the previous day, you may significantly decrease the risk of lower back injury, this fact is particularly responsible for the common practice of training abs at the end of a leg workout – this ensures that your abs will be as fresh as possible during the subsequent leg workout. As a related observation, its sometimes interesting to examine the motivation behind ones training practices. In this case, what would motivate someone to want to perform abdominal work everyday? In most cases, it’s the misguided belief that large volumes of abdominal work will somehow decrease the size of the waistline.
Genetic constraints now withstanding whether or not you abs are enviable or regrettable is mostly a function of your overall body fat percentage, which is most effectively lowered through an intelligently designed exercise and nutritional programme, which in turn must be supported by a healthy lifestyle and smart time and energy management strategies. Issues such as lower versus upper abs, high versus low reps, and sit ups versus crunches (among other issues) really account for less then 2 percent of the final result. Bottom line is that is you want great abs; you’ve got to lower body fat levels through sound nutrition and smart, intense training for all your major muscle groups
references: charles stacy, deune juhan