I’m told that I should train my abs at the beginning of my workout to get them activated and warmed-up. But I read an article in the January 2007 edition of Muscle and Fitness (page 60) that said you should train your abs after your workout. They mention this for core strength during other large muscle workouts and for safety reasons. What is your take on this?
Here’s some thoughts on the timing of your abdominal training.
1 – Do them first as most people skip abs and calves. Some trainers will prescribe the ab work and calf work first as they are commonly neglected body parts.
2 – There’s no problem with working abs first as long as you still have enough core strength to safely finish your workout.
3 – “Work the weakest body part first”, as long as it doesn’t adversely effect other body parts you might work that day. If your abs are lacking, then you’d certainly want to focus on them and work them first while your energy and focus is highest.
4 – Depending on your goals, you can work them first or last. If your focus is abs then train them first. Weaknesses should be trained early on in the session when you are fresh.
5 – Timing doesn’t matter. Consistency is the key. Doing them is more important then when you do them.
6- Do them last after your larger muscle groups as sacrificing core strength at the beginning of the workout can compromise safety and strength.
So what is correct?A study done in the January 2007 issue of Muscle and Fitness found that a group who performed a 6 rep max squat set did significantly less weight if they trained abs before doing the squats.
It was obvious that if you train your abs first, you won’t have the core strength necessary to do certain leg exercises that require a fair amount of core strength.
If your abs and core are fatigued from previous exercises, it can cause weakness on subsequent exercises and increase the risk of lower back injury.
If you are short on time, you can superset them with other smaller muscle groups like forearms and calves. But never sacrifice core strength and safety simply to get your ab training out of the way early even if it’s your weakest body part.
Those concerned with their abs or if your abs are a weakness, you can do additional work on non-weight training days (some people do them after cardio to keep them separate from weight training sessions).
Something to ponder:
Why would you fatigue your triceps before doing chest work?You wouldn’t.
Why would you fatigue your abs before doing any muscles that require your core as a primary stabilize?You shouldn’t.
While I agree the level of core work depends on the abilities of the individual there’s still NO physiological reason yet that clearly describes a situation in which case doing core work BEFORE your workout is beneficial other than a time saver, your fresh or “do it first so you don’t forget it”.
According to David Grisaffi who is a Sports Conditioning Coach and holds multiple certifications including three from the prestigious CHEK Institute. Plus he is also the author of the popular selling e book, “Firm and Flatten Your Abs,”On Page 32 of Firm and Flatten Your Abs David says:
“On the days when you are doing weight training exercises for your other body parts (legs, arms, back, chest, shoulders), always do your abs and core routine after the rest of your weight training so that you’re not training the rest of your body with a fatigued core and stabilizers.”
The bottom line is: Ab training and any core work comes AFTER larger muscle groups.
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Marc David is a bodybuilder and author of the, Beginner’s Guide to Fitness and Bodybuilding. You can learn how to get six pack abs: To get Marc’s free e-zine on fitness including abdominal training visit JustAskMarc.com