If you're not using weights in your abs routine, you could be holding your belly back from achieving the flat, firm and fabulously defined look you've been striving for. Abs exercises and weights go together like reality-TV stars and on-camera meltdowns — one is just not the same without the other.
Myths About Your Midsection
Ask any woman why she doesn't include weighted exercises in her abs routine, and the answer is usually the same: either she's worried her waistline will look thicker than a linebacker's or she's afraid it will increase her risk of injury, especially in her lower back.
Here's the good news: it's an absolute misconception that using weights when training your core will add excess size to your abdominals. Your rectus abdominis and obliques are actually broad, thin layers of muscle that are simply not designed to grow as large as other muscles. It's the excess fat over and under your abs muscles — not doing weighted moves — that is usually to blame for making your belly grow.
And when it comes to injury, many women don't realize that when you perform any abdominal exercise — with or without weights — there is always a risk of straining your lower back, neck and other secondary muscles if proper form is not followed. If you stay smart when it comes to your tempo, form and how much weight you use, your odds of injuring yourself are no different than with any other exercise in your usual workout regimen.
Why Your Waist Needs Weight
Your abdominal muscles gain strength and definition the same way the rest of your muscles do: by placing them under stress, you force them to recover and rebuild stronger than before. And as your core strength increases, you must continually add more resistance to keep them challenged.
Women who exercise regularly may also encounter another problem that can only be solved by adding weight to your abs moves. When you lose excess body fat, less muscle-toning stress is placed on your abdominals, making each rep of your body-weight abs moves less effective. That's why your abs, dumbbells, weight plates and medicine balls should be closer friends than the characters of Sex and the City.
Bonus: Training your abs muscles with weights exhausts them using fewer reps instead of plowing through the countless repetitions many women tend to rely on. That additional edge firms them up a lot faster, giving you noticeable results without having to devote hours to your abs training.
Your Weight Workout
Even though adding weight to your abs exercises will lead to major improvements in your midsection, that doesn't mean it's for everyone. If you're new to working out, stick to a routine of basic non-weighted abs exercises for at least six months. If you're already an intermediate or advanced exerciser, then you're all set to give it a try.
For each move, perform one set of each exercise, choosing an amount of weight that lets you do the required amount of reps without sacrificing form, then move to the next exercise without resting. Try doing this routine three times a week, resting a day between each workout. As you get stronger, make sure to increase the weight you're using in small increments to keep your repetitions within the recommended totals.
If you find yourself breaking form, you're likely using a weight that's too heavy for your lower back, so reduce accordingly.