Ab Exercise Obsession - Are You Doing Too Much Ab Work?

Stop wasting your time on ab exercises that don't get results

When it comes to workout routines, quick-fix fitness tips and overrated "must-do-exercise lists" many exercisers are getting caught up in the world of ab exercise obsession. Abdominal exercise is one of the most searched topics on the web. Even on this site, The Best Ab Exercises is one of the most popular articles.

Why all this fuss about the abs, core, six-packs and endless planks and crunches? Aside from the pure aesthetics of a nicely toned torso, there is actually something beneficial behind the movement to build a strong and toned core.

Doing hours of crunches and other ab exercises as a way to reduce body fat and build the perfect "six-pack," however, is considered by many fitness experts as a waste of precious exercise time. Yes, ab exercise is essential, but going overboard with ab exercises, such as basic crunches, is pointless because it doesn't provide the best return on your exercise investment.

How Much Ab Exercise Is Enough?

How much abdominal exercise you need is often dependent upon the sports you play or activities you do on a daily basis. It also depends upon your lifestyle, what you do when you aren't playing sports, your previous injuries and even your biomechanics and typical movement patterns.

Most people only need a short amount of time to target their abdominal and core muscles. You may need to focus more on building a stronger core if you are prone to injuries, have poor posture, or have anatomical issues that change gait, or range of motion.

Where many people go wrong is by failing to work all the abdominal muscles properly. Before you can design the best ab workout, it helps to understand the abdominal muscles, including where they are and how they work. You'll also want to combine exercises that target all the abdominal muscles—not just the rectus abdominus.

What Ab Exercises Should You Do?

Select at least five of the following abdominal exercises from these three categories for a well-rounded ab workout:

Spinal flexion

Examples of this type of exercise include:


Exercises you should try include:

Lateral Flexion

Try these exercises:


  • Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise and move to the next exercise.
  • Change your abdominal exercise routine every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Maintain good form with each muscle contraction.
  • Contract your abs and pull your belly button in toward your spine with each contraction.
  • Maintain a slow and controlled movement.
  • Support your head when you need to, but don't pull on your head or pull your chin to your chest.

How to Get Defined Abs

You can't lose body fat covering your abs by doing ab exercise. This concept, called "spot reduction," is one of the great fitness myths.

In order to get defined and visible abs, you need to reduce body fat all over. The best way to do this? Well, you already know. You'll need a balanced plan that incorporates a healthy diet and exercise routines that focus on strengthening your muscles and cardiovascular system.

There is no magic bullet, but there are some time-proven ways to get strong abs. It requires consistency, good nutrition, and efficient, strength-training exercise along with adequate rest.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Kordi R, Dehghani S, Noormohammadpour P, Rostami M, Mansournia MA. Effect of abdominal resistance exercise on abdominal subcutaneous fat of obese women: a randomized controlled trial using ultrasound imaging assessmentsJ Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2015;38(3):203-209. doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2014.12.004

  6. Matthews J. American Council on Exercise. Why is the concept of spot reduction a myth?. Sept 4, 2009.

  7. Benito PJ, López-Plaza B, Bermejo LM, et al. Strength plus endurance training and individualized diet reduce fat mass in overweight subjects: a randomized clinical trialInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(7). doi:10.3390/ijerph17072596

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.