Can You Work Out Abs Every Day? Q&A

  • Print Friendly and PDFPrint

Everyone wants a six-pack and everyone wants to increase core strength, but should you do abs exercises every day to accomplish that goal? Some of the most frequent questions I get about abs training are – “Can you work out abs everyday“, or “Should I workout abs everyday“? Conventional wisdom tells you the more abs exercises you do, the better.

The short answer to the first question is yes, you can train your abs every day, but I don’t think you should train your abs every day.

Here are 5 Reasons NOT to work out your abs everyday:

Work Out Abs Everyday Issue #1:

You don’t need to do abs exercises to get a strong core, or even a six-pack

Here's powerlifter Ivan Stoitsov who purportedly does not do any abs exercises, yet he sports an impressive six-pack.

One big misconception about exercise is that you need to do abs exercises in order to get a six-pack, or even a stronger core. You can have a very impressive six-pack with a core as strong as steel by focusing on core, compound exercises like front squats with a barbell/dumbbell, dumbbell lunges, or even polymeric push ups to name a few. Another option is using stabilization exercises like an advanced bird dog exercise that works not just your abs, but your balance, lower back, and even arms and shoulders.

Work Out Abs Everyday Issue #2:

Frequently working abs can lead to posture problems

Just about everyone I’ve ever consulted, or trained has moderate, to severe posture problems from a sedentary lifestyle. When you have a desk job, or simply sit down in a chair for a few hours, your shoulders tend to rotate forwards so that your body becomes hunched over.

What does doing a bunch of crunches every day do to this pre-existing problem? Well it makes us hunch over even more by forcing our abs muscles to tighten and shorten. Soon you may be looking like the hunchback of notre dame! Stretching and foam rolling can help correct rounded shoulders and improve posture, but working abs every day may only make whatever posture problems you have worse.

Work Out Abs Everyday Issue #3:

Abs exercises don’t remove belly fat

The idea that you can remove stubborn body fat from one particular body part could be the most prevalent myth in the fitness industry. Certainly abs belts and abs machines try to promote this idea of “spot reduction”, but doing abs exercise will not burn any more fat off your body. In fact, when someone asks me how to get a six pack, I tell them “don’t do any abs exercises!”. Getting a six-pack requires achieving a low level of body fat that has nothing to do with how many crunches, or abs exercises you do. Your time is much better spent preparing your meals, planning your meals, or focusing on core, compound exercises. Overall, traditional abs exercises like crunches are extremely overrated.

Work Out Abs Everyday Issue #4:

Working abs every day is inefficient

Having a six-pack is like the international sign of fitness, but working out abs every day is unnecessary.

Let’s say you spend 10-20 minutes every day doing abs exercises. You could have spent that time doing high intensity interval training, stretching, foam rolling, and a lot of other fitness activities that would likely be A LOT more beneficial to your body and how it looks and feels. Spending 1 hour of your week working on one muscle group that is really a complex web of muscles is not a very good use of your time. My assumption is you are busy and you would rather spend that time hanging out with friends and enjoying your life!

A better approach would be to work out your abs intensely 2-3x per week using circuits to get a great abs workout in much less time, which is what I personally do. While your abs muscles are most likely comprised of resilient type 1 muscle fibers that can take a beating without getting sore, just like training other muscle groups, they tend to respond better to less frequent training. A similar muscle to abs that has type 1 muscle fibers is your calves, yet you don’t see people doing calves exercises every day!

Work Out Abs Everyday Issue #5:

Working abs every day can lead to muscle imbalances

Not only can working out abs every day lead to postural problems, but also muscle imbalances. Your abs complex, which is all your abs muscles are comprised of the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques, and external obliques. If you do standard crunches 7 days a week for 300 reps, your rectus abdominus muscle (the six-pack muscle) is likely to get trained much more intensely than the other abs muscles. Doing a bunch of crunches does not necessarily translate into a strong abs, or a stable core.

Even worse, if you do get your rectus abdominus too strong relative to your other abs and lower back muscles, you may be more susceptible to injury.

While having nice abs is like the international sign of fitness, there are much more effective ways to work out your abs then to do a bunch of crunches every day!

GD Star Rating
a WordPress rating system
Can You Work Out Abs Every Day? Q&A, 4.2 out of 5 based on 108 ratings

20 Comments on “Can You Work Out Abs Every Day? Q&A

  1. Walt
    March 9, 2012 #

    Interesting points, but I disagree. As a Thaiboxer, I’ve trained abs everyday for 200 + reps for years with 0 problems. But, otoh, if you train for show & not go, you might be right.

    1. Justin Janoska
      March 9, 2012 #

      I trained in Thai Boxing as well, and understand where you are coming from. Doing 200 crunches or so for the purpose of endurance is not uncommon… Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe doing that everyday though. Most people aren’t cut out for that amount of volume anyway and are predisposed to injury. But generally, like Marc said, you treat abs like any other muscle group especially with added resistance and rest for at least 96 hours before hitting them again. Works fine for me.

    2. March 10, 2012 #

      @Walt – I totally understand your point. I wrote this article in the context of the casual exerciser who is doing direct abs exercises. It’s difficult to generalize in fitness, but I still stand by my original assertion that it’s not necessary, nor beneficial for most people to work their abs directly every day.

  2. March 10, 2012 #

    Whoa! I’m so amazed about the content. I learned a lot, I mean a LOT! This article enlightened me about the myths of having and working out abs. I must admit I trained my abs everyday for about more or less 3 months up to now, indeed I notice some muscle imbalance in my abdomen. Actually when I skipped a day and proceed abs training the next day I feel ease doing abs training, probably the person above me is right, that it has to rest at least 96 hours before performing it again. Am not a body builder, I just want to have some muscle definitions being a man it’s something a “good to have” though I know it’s not “must have”, for me it’s more of “self satisfaction” and having a good body shape lends to more confident you. :)

    I notice each point is arranged chronologically, very well written. As the article goes on each point presented different facts / myths and convincing reasons. I find it hard to disagree since I’m not really knowledgeable in this aspect. Again, accept my warm “thank you” Marc.

  3. Malikka
    March 12, 2012 #

    Thanks so much Marc! I’m a female, and this is definitely an area I constantly try to work on. I notice that when I eat right, and do high intensity training, without any abs, my stomach looks a lot flatter, than when I concentrate on abs, abs, abs… I’m sticking with high intensity, planks, leaving the abs alone– they hurt!

    1. March 12, 2012 #

      Awesome, happy to hear that Malikka!

  4. Phillip Schlueter
    March 16, 2012 #

    Marc, I’d be happy to disagree with you but I fear it would do not good. Personally, I do workout abs everyday and I think with very acceptable results. You know, nobody agrees on this and probably never will. There are those who say never, never use weight and then those who say you have to use resistance. It is said that if you use weight you will build bulk in that area and that’s not what you want. The other school says in order to hypertrophy your abs you need resistance. Your example above, Mr. Powerlifter, is obviously a very genetically gifted person not to have done any direct abs exercises. I know these people exist!! For those of us who may not have that gift I feel specific direct abs work is necessary. After a time training with plank type exercises though is just not going to cut it. I’m not advocating hundreds of crunches, although I have done that, but a variety of abs exercises can be done safely and will produce awesome results. I know that some people just don’t like to do abs, so the excuses abound. Malikka (above) says she is “leaving the abs alone-they hurt!” I of course think they should!! Just like any other muscle that your working on. I’m 63 years old and won a couple abs contests so I do have a bit of practicle knowledge about getting abs. Let me add that doing a bird dog might make your abs/core strong but sadly, since I’ve done plenty of these stablizing exercises will not grow the abs much.

    1. Justin Janoska
      March 17, 2012 #

      It’s not even necessary completely to perform core movement exercises to see your abs. Some may need to like you said to see them because of genetics… but a low body fat can suffice. Stabilization exercises like the bird dog don’t really create hypertrophy for the muscles you see – just makes your core stronger obviously. People shouldn’t even really think about core movement exercises like crunches until you do lots of planks, bird dogs, bridges, etc. due to the risk of putting excessive pressure on the disks and forces on the lumbar spine which ultimately can damage the ligaments that support the vertebrae.

  5. Phillip Schlueter
    March 17, 2012 #

    Just want to show you what my kitchen made and gym sculpted abs look like. I did go from 16% bodyfat to around 6-7% in about 3 months. Let’s see if a link works here. I really had to do many direct abs exercises and when I entered a contest I really wanted to win so I doubled up on them on some good advice from a man with stunning abs.

    Made a video of doing some decline sit-ups and this is a clip.

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/p480x480/416902_382912968403295_100000537840663_1366959_82478575_n.jpg

  6. Thaddeus
    March 26, 2012 #

    I say with absolute certainty that this helped!! Thanks Marc

  7. Nathan
    April 3, 2012 #

    Wow, I just learned about builtlean, and well it sucks to know that I’ve been fruitlessly busting my butt to get abs with ab excercises to avail , well atleast now i know

    1. April 8, 2012 #

      @Nathan – Very happy you came across BuiltLean as well!

  8. mark
    June 17, 2012 #

    how many minutes it takes when you make abs exercise? thanks

    1. June 18, 2012 #

      @Mark – I think 10 minutes 2-3x per week should be plenty for most recreational exercisers, assuming you are also completing leg exercises and have a well balanced exercise program.

  9. Lauren
    September 6, 2012 #

    Hello Marc!

    I think these are great tips and I love your website. I am a 19 year old petite girl who is an active runner, former dancer and have been doing p90x for 5 months. I agree with a lot of your theory on focusing more on HIIT than abs. I am 111lbs (at 5’2”) but I still am not as cut as I’d like to be (although my body fat % is 17% according to a few fat percentage tests I took from your site). After doing sprint training for two to three weeks I started noticing faster results overall and more of my msucle definition that I had built over p90x. I just wanted to thank you for posting articles like these that help remind me that sprint training can be more effective than doing crunches every day. Keep up the good articles!

    Lauren

    1. September 6, 2012 #

      @Lauren – Thanks Lauren for sharing your story and the kudos regarding the website!

  10. Justin
    September 10, 2012 #

    Great article! I completely agree, I see so many of my martial arts students do abs, abs, abs, but they never work on their ‘CORE’ which is your entire midsection anterior AND posterior!

  11. Dennis Habern
    September 12, 2012 #

    Hi Marc:

    While at the gym, commenced to do a standing up-right row with extra weight

    as my first attempt when I suddenly if felt a pain in my left elbow. I immediately ceased

    this exercise but the pain is still there. At home, I applied Ben-Gay for about 10 minutes.

    Therefore, if you incurred the same pain, how would measures would take to increase

    the healing. Would an elastic elbow bandage be appropriate for this injury or would a

    bandage wrap be more appropriate, tightly wrapped. Would any of these wraps impair

    the healing process? I would prefer to workout if I can heal at the same time.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Dennis the Menace

    1. September 15, 2012 #

      @Dennis – the biomechanics of upright rows with a barbell are questionable; a lot of pressure is put on your shoulder and elbow joints. I don’t have the exercise in my builtlean program for that very reason. It’s hard for me to say what happened to your elbow. See how it feels, and if the pain persists, I would recommend seeing a doctor/physical therapist to make sure everything is ok. We wrote an article on managing elbow pain during weight lifting you can check out => 5 Tips To Manage Elbow Pain From Weight Lifting

  12. prince
    September 22, 2012 #

    your article are mind blowing i like keep it up

Comments are closed.