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Is Isolating The Abs Necessary For a 6-Pack?

Is training your abs just necessary if you want to shrink your belly or want a six pack abs? Or is it also necessary if you don’t have those goals? Here’s what you want to know. 

Training the core is necessary and useful for everyone, no matter what your goals are. The core is important for strength and looks but also for general health, longevity and injury prevention. The core can be trained easily at home without equipment so should be worked out regularly. 

Let’s take a look at the different goals people have and how ab training plays into this. 

Is Training Abs Necessary?

If training any body part is necessary depends on what your needs/goals are. Everyone has different goals but there are some common ones. 

The most common reasons why people think about training their abs are; getting a flatter belly, better athletic performance, physique and injury prevention through strengthening the core. Is doing ab exercises necessary to reach those goals? 

Let’s look at the different goals people have for their core and what is necessary. 

Visible abs
Training is necessary to get this look

Flatter belly

Ab exercises are somewhat effective in getting a flatter belly but only to a small degree and you have to do the right exercises. 

Doing ab exercises doesn’t shrink your belly. You can’t reduce fat in one place on your body by just exercising that body part. Weight loss is general over the whole body and where it goes first depends on genetics, gender, age, hormone balance and more. So if you want to get a smaller belly, losing body fat is the way to go. 

However, there are some ways doing ab exercises help create a flatter looking belly. By doing exercises that target the transversus abdominus, you tighten the muscle that pulls the belly in. The belly being pulled in means less is sticking out. If you’ve got reasonably low body fat on your belly but it’s still sticking out, try exercises that target these muscles and you might get good results. However, bloating could also be an issue in that case. 

Suggested: Does an elliptical trainer reduce belly fat?

Athletic performance

The core is very important for athletic performance. The core ties the upper and lower body together so almost any athletic endeavor uses the core quite a bit. 

While many sports require a strong core and will create one through just playing the sport, you will see most athletes doing at least some ab exercises regularly. The core is so important and ab exercises are relatively easy so it’s an easy way to make sure you can perform well. 

Also, for most people, the core is too weak compared to other muscles even if you play a sport. Doing ab exercises is a good way to let it catch up. The specific exercises can be tailored to your sport but pretty much any amateur athlete could use improvement in this area. 

A strong core helps all athletic pursuits


Of course the first thing everyone thinks about when you say ‘ab exercises’ is the six pack abs. Most men and many women wish they would have visible abs. And even if you don’t need a visible six pack, strong, big ab muscles and obliques usually look good. 

To get visible abs, you need two things; 1. Low body fat (under 15% for the average man), 2. Large enough ab muscles. 

Man with good physique

The first thing you’re not going to get from only doing ab exercises. The second thing absolutely requires ab exercises though. That is unless you do some kind of sport where the core gets a really hard workout regularly but most people don’t do this. And so doing ab workouts is the way to go. 

Without targeted ab workouts it’s pretty much impossible to get well developed abs and obliques. 

Injury prevention

Since the core is well, the core of your body, it’s very important to have it strong.  It actually plays a very important role in keeping your back healthy. Sure the back muscles are important for this but the core is the other side that also has to be strong to prevent back injuries. 

Try building a tower that’s made out of steel on one side and gummy bears on the other side. That building is not going to be very strong even though one side is. What I’m trying to say is that if your core has the strength of a soft candy, your back is going through a lot of stress to keep you upright in different positions. 

If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist for back pain, they have probably recommended some core exercises to improve your back health. 

Many people have back pain and nobody enjoys it so for this reason ab workouts are essential. But don’t just focus on the visible muscles. Focus on the strength and endurance of the underlying, deeper core muscles as well since those are the ones that are important for posture and back health. 

Woman with painful back in bed
A strong core can prevent back injuries.


There is no reason not to work out your abs whatever the goals are. The core is a very important body part for all different goals and you do yourself a disservice no matter what you do. Even sitting the whole day, you need your abs for a proper seating position and to prevent back pain. 

The specific exercises are a little different if you want to focus on strength over looks but there is a lot of overlap and most ab exercises will work for both goals to some degree. 

Is Training Abs Useful In The Real World? 

So if you want a visible six pack or better athletic performance, the best way to get them is to train your core. But what about normal people? You work out for general real world strength, health and longevity. but don’t care about athletic performance or necessarily how good you look. Is abs training useful for you? 

As already mentioned above, the core is a weak body part for most people, especially if you’ve got a desk job. And since they play a vital role in allowing your body to produce strength and preventing back injuries, training the core is very important for everyone. 

abs diagram

It’s not necessary to start training your abs obsessively like you’re a fitness model (don’t worry, you won’t get there with two workouts a week) but doing some intensive core exercises two or three times a week is a good target. If you really want to focus on improving your core strength, 5 or 6 workouts a week will be effective. Core exercises require relatively little recovery time so you can train it often. If you already work out somewhat regularly, just add the core exercises to your routine. Adding 2-3 exercises for the core will help a lot. 

If you don’t work out (yet) or don’t want to go to a gym just to train your abs, don’t worry, the core is one of the easiest muscle groups you can train at home. Something like a yoga mat will make things a lot more comfortable but it’s not strictly necessary. You can do exercises like; sit-ups, leg raises, mountain climbers, planks and variations on all of those easily at home without any equipment at all and they’re very effective. 

Suggested: The cheapest equipment to train abs at home.

For beginners, doing about 2-3 core workouts a week is a good starting place. Do 3 sets of 3-4 exercises per workout to begin with but you can make the workouts a little longer after a while. Most ab exercises should be done with high repetitions per set (12-25). Alternatively you can use time as an indicator. 

Suggested: How many sets of abs per week is enough for a 6-pack?