You've probably heard the old adage that abs are made in the kitchen, and you may have even believed it to be true; however, many fitness experts disagree with this premise. The idea that you can get a ripped set of abs by simply adhering to a strict diet is not only cliché, but almost impossible to achieve.
In order to flaunt a toned mid-section, you must perform strength-building moves to tighten the abdominal muscles, but you also must incorporate something that most individuals wouldn't consider: cardio. Many bodybuilders perform daily cardio exercises, but is it really necessary? Some fitness experts say it is.
If cardio is a necessity for envy-worthy abs, how much and what kind do you need to perform to get optimal results?
Cardio for lowering body fat
Recently, a study was published that followed the weight-loss efforts of a natural bodybuilder showing the benefits and downfalls of cardio. In the last 30 days of his contest prep, the bodybuilder performed five 40-minute cardio sessions each week. In a 14-week period, he had shed half of his body fat, but he also lost several pounds of muscle, which made up 43 percent of the total weight lost. This amount was much higher than expected and was contributed to excessive cardio combined with too large of a calorie deficit.
Many bodybuilders also avoid cardio due to the belief that any form of exercise that builds endurance will prevent muscle growth and decrease their strength.
A study recently published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness looked deeper at two of the main reasons of concern when it comes to cardio:
-Both strength and endurance exercises affect and develop various muscle fibers in different ways. Only one of those ways will give you a tight, toned look.
-Both of these types of exercise will deplete the glycogen stores from muscles, which can severely limit a lifter's ability to lift as heavily as he or she can.
Exercises such as running can affect the size and strength of the muscles in the entire lower body, due to the fact that the intensity and impact causes higher amounts of muscle damage. Cycling and walking are safer choices, as they burn calories but do not damage the muscles as easily.
Intensity can also affect a bodybuilder's ability to gain visible muscle. The more intense an activity is, the longer it will take to recover. Muscles that aren't allowed to recover fully between bouts of exercise will not grow or look defined. This can also lead to feelings of irritability and fatigue.
For bodybuilders, low-intensity walking or cycling is the best choice. Finn states that three to five hours of cycling or walking spread out over four to five weekly sessions is plenty enough to get the job done; however, if you can get the results you want with less, you should try to do so.
Rock hard, defined abs may indeed be started in the kitchen, but they are finished on the treadmill.