Ask The Trainer #102 – Abdominal Training Issues

Ask The Trainer #102 - Abdominal Training Issues

QUESTION:

Hi. I train for boxing and I am a heavyweight. The abdominal portion of my training is a struggle. I have two questions. First, what can I do to help prevent getting cramps on the lower portion of my abdomen while training abs? Second, is it okay to train abs every day?

Cary


ANSWER:

Hi, Cary. The cause of muscle cramping that transpires in the process of abdominal training is not clearly known. Even so, there are some simple measures you can take that will generally reduce the likelihood of muscle cramping.

The most obvious recommendation is to keep yourself well hydrated. It sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m perpetually shocked by how many people I encounter who don’t even drink 1 glass of water each day!

When you’re in the midst of heavy exercise or extremely warm environments that cause you to sweat, your body loses water. Within this water are valuable electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride which are also lost. As you continue to push yourself in this physical state, and you lose more water and electrolytes, your body becomes increasingly depleted.

Role of Electrolytes

Electrolytes help transmit nerve impulses throughout your body. This the mechanism that allows muscles to contract. When your body loses too much water and electrolytes, the nerve impulses being transmitted from your brain to your muscles become erratic, which can cause certain muscles to begin cramping into a frenzy.

Dr. Jeff Golini had this in mind when he developed Karbolyn Hydrate, an electrolyte fortified carbohydrate formula that’s extremely popular among various types of athletes.


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That being said, you should make an effort to drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to physical activity. You can also drink an electrolyte containing ergogenic drink like Karbolyn Hydrate, or purchase a mineral supplement from a health food store that contains all of the key electrolytes in adequate amounts. Taking these measures won’t guarantee you’ll never get muscle cramps again, but it’s worth a shot!

I also want you to understand that prolonged fatigue can reduce your muscles’ reflex control. Instead of the muscles contracting and relaxing the way they should, nerve impulses continue to fire, causing the muscle to cramp, or even begin rapidly twitching. This is one of the reasons I’m always telling people NOT to overtrain!

How Often To Train Abs

This leads me to my answer to your second question: You should NOT train abdominals every day!

Remember, your abdominals can be overtrained just the same as any other skeletal muscle in the body. Not only is daily abdominal training a waste of time, but it is counterproductive and can result in negative repercussions, like cramping or even muscle injuries.

I’m speaking from experience here. There was a time during my competitive bodybuilding career where I trained my abdominals every single day. Coincidentally, that was the time period where my abdominals looked the most unconditioned.

Furthermore, I would occasionally also experience uncomfortable cramps in my abdominal muscles when I trained them. After I discovered what I was doing wrong, I limited my abdominal workouts to just 1 or 2 ab training sessions per week. These ab training sessions lasted about 10 minutes each.

Before I knew it, my abs were looking sharper, fuller, and harder than ever before! Plus, I never experienced another muscle cramp again. So yes, overtraining a muscle can make it more susceptible to cramping.

Warming Up Your Core

Additionally, I recommend making sure your core muscles are nice and warm before training your abs. Doing so will help minimize the chances of cramping. This is why I would always train my abs after I finished my cardio sessions. So far, this protocol has served me well as I haven’t experienced any issues.

Hopefully, this information has shed some light on your concerns. If you try these tips and still have perpetual problems with cramping, you should see your MD to make sure there isn’t a more serious underlying issue.

I wish you all the best of success!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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