I used to have defined abs, but then I had my children and that was the end of that. I didn’t expect that, I wasn’t prepared for that. I thought for some naïve reason that my stomach would eventually return to what it looked like before kids, give or take some work. However between an umbilical hernia and recovering from Diastasis Recti, I just may not ever have the defined abs I once had and that’s okay, I’ve come to terms with it and it doesn’t mean I have given up on making my core stronger and correcting this “mommy tummy” of mine. Although this may not be your specific scenario, I’m sure there are a lot of you out there that may be working hard to achieve a flat toned stomach with abs and just haven’t reaped the benefits of your hard work. Here are three reasons that may be preventing you from having defined abdominal muscles.
3 Reasons Why You Don’t Have Abs
1. You’re Exercise Routine is ALL Wrong: Your abdominal muscles are a part of a bigger picture when it comes to your musculoskeletal system; it’s a part of your core. To get just a tad technical with you, your core consists of the following muscles: obliques, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and erector spinae. With that being said, it doesn’t matter how many crunches you do; it’s not going to make those abs pop. In fact, crunches are the least effective core exercise and for some that are trying to work on your lower abdomen, it can actually cause more bulge (source). It’s not necessary to dedicate an entire workout to your core. Incorporating core engaging exercises into a balanced workout routine as well as adding two to three core specific exercises at the end of your workout is what you need to start seeing results. Some examples of core engaging exercises include squats, dead lifts, overhead shoulder press and lunges. Check out the list below for below core and core engaging exercises to incorporate into your exercise program:
*please note, some of these exercises are advanced, so be mindful of starting slow and modifying
You should complete your core exercises at the end of your strength training or cardio. If you choose to do core exercises before strength training or cardio you will find it hard to complete the remainder of your workout, ultimately setting you up for failure and you don’t want that. A couple of other things to be mindful of during your exercise routine is to keep a good posture throughout each exercise, engage your core by drawing your belly button in toward your spine and do not forget to breathe.
2. You’re NOT Taking Your Diet Seriously: Have you ever heard of the saying that abs are made in the kitchen? Well it’s true. “Eighty percent of your ability to reduce excess body fat is determined by what you eat, and the other 20 percent is related to exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits” (source). If your diet is mainly foods that lead to belly fat such as: processed foods, junk foods, simple carbs, and excess sugar; you can kiss all of that hard work in the gym goodbye. You cannot out work a bad diet. I repeat. You CANNOT out work a bad diet. We all have abdominal muscles, but in order for them to start popping you have to remove the layer of fat mass over your abs to be able to see the definition, and that is only through what you eat. In other words, fat tissue does not turn into muscle tissue. You need to be sure that you have a healthy intake of foods that benefit not only your abs but your entire body. Including vegetables (dark leafy greens), fruits (berries, mangos, apples, pineapples, etc.), healthy fats (nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish etc), lean protein (chicken, turkey, beans, and eggs), and complex carbohydrates (whole grain pastas, breads, rice, quinoa, and oatmeal); these are essential for a balanced diet.
3. Life: There are some things that happen to our bodies that we cannot control, such as childbirth and our genetics and then there are some things that we can control such as the amount of sleep we get per night and our stress levels. If you are not getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night on a daily basis then that can eventually affect your hunger hormones and the rate you burn calories at rest (source). The same goes for chronic stress; the hormone cortisol elevates in your body and can lead to belly fat. Recovery is such a significant factor for any workout. During the resting period your body has the opportunity to heal and rejuvenate; recovery is where the magic happens and everything comes together…it’s the glue.
Final Thoughts : Having defined abs goes a long way outside of aesthetics. Your core is such an amazing muscular complex that really is the foundation to your body. If you have a weak core it’s hard to do the everyday things in your life. Keep in mind that it takes six to eight weeks for muscle definition to be recognized. Relax, be patient. These abs aren’t going to come overnight.
Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!