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Ask Raphael: How Often Should I Work My Abs?

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:01pm
Have a question about your routine or anything fitness-related? Send it Raphael's way


As a personal trainer, I tell clients to rest muscles for a day after training -- thus the alternating body parts workout -- yet I still have people as well as other trainers who have years of experience insisting that the abs are the only body part you can train every day.

I tell them any/every muscle you work needs a chance for that breaking down and recovery period. Your thoughts? -- AS


The real question is what is the goal? If someone is looking to get ripped abs, then we know much of that is related to diet and low body-fat levels.

If the goal is to strengthen the abs as much as possible, then I contend working them every day is counterproductive for the reason you mention about a muscle needing to recover. If the goal is general conditioning and muscular endurance, then it’s fine to work the abs every day -- although not necessary in my opinion.

I find that most people work the abs every day with the delusion that body fat will magically melt off the area. Or that the area will somehow flatten with a lot of work. You and I know that’s not going to happen by performing more ab work.

I’ve been a natural competitive bodybuilder for a long time, and I achieve 8-pack abs by the time I’m ready for my shows. I accomplish this by working the abs twice a week with heavy weight. For example, I use a fitball and lie on it with a 9- pound dumbbell wrapped in my arms and placed on my chest. I then perform 12-15 intense crunches against this resistance. I also perform exercises such as kneeling cable trope crunches with the entire stack for 12 grueling reps.

If I were to perform this type of resistance training for my abs every day, I would not be able to handle that type of heavy resistance. However, my goal is to get the ab muscles to grow and become stronger. This way, when my body fat is greatly reduced, the abs appear more prominent.

So again , it all comes down to the question I ask every personal training client and every eDiets member:What is the goal? That answer always helps me provide the most effective solution. There have been times where I’ve recommended ab work more often or less often based on the answer. However, I’ve never recommended more than four days per week.

For most of the population, I recommend ab work about three days per week on non-consecutive days.Work them hard and efficiently and then let them recover. Most people who work abs every day perform the same basic exercises with the same reps -- that's a very ineffective approach.

Thanks for submitting your question! It's always good to hear from a trainer who questions the status quo.

Have a fitness question you want answered? Email Raphael at and you could have your question picked! And if you missed a previous column, see the archive here.

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