4 Ways to Prevent Overtraining Abdominal Muscles in Bodybuilding

1. Abs Need a Break Too

When it comes to working out abdominal muscles, or “abs” as bodybuilders like to refer to them, we’ve all likely heard that it takes a lot of repetitions performed daily to achieve results. However, this kind of thinking can be more detrimental than helpful, leading to overtraining. Abs are no different than any other muscle in the body when it comes to bodybuilding: they need a break from working out as well as your biceps, triceps, pectorals and deltoids. A three-day per week or every other day abdominal session is adequate to get the kind of washboard look so many of us covet (along with a sensible low-fat diet, of course).

2. Cardio Trains Abdominals Without Overtraining

You don’t need to do crunches, sit-ups and leg raises every day to target your abdominal muscles. Doing high repetitions and several sets of these exercises daily may actually weaken rather than strengthen the abdominal muscles (for instance, the front abdominal muscle–the rectus abdominus–is a thin, long muscle and can be easily over trained). One of the key elements in working out abdominals is to get rid of any fat around the middle, and that is best done through cardiovascular workouts. Doing aerobics or spending time on a treadmill, exercise bike, stepper or row machine can burn a good amount of calories and help shed that excess weight from around the middle. A 30- to 45-minute cardio workout a few times a week can target those abs without the risk of overtraining.

3. Overtraining Abdominals Can Be a Weighted Issue

Some bodybuilders like to incorporate weights into their abdominal routines. While weights can of course build muscle, when it comes to abs, they may not really be needed. At least, you’ll need to be careful when it comes to adding weights to work out abdominal muscles. Using light weights is best. It’s not recommended to try placing a 50 lb. dumbbell or weight plate behind your neck as you do sit-ups or crunches. Not only does this have the potential to lead to injury, but you may only succeed in overtraining the abdominal muscles and not develop them the way you really should.

4. Ease Up on the Reps

Going back to what was said earlier: we’ve likely been led to believe that it takes high repetitions to achieve defined abdominal muscles. However, it may not be necessary–and may even lead to overtraining–to approach your abdominal workouts with this thought in mind. Rather than attempting a few sets of 100 crunches or sit-ups, try doing 10 to 15 repetitions with a slow, controlled movement, and hold the contraction for a few seconds. You’ll really feel a burn, and you’ll be working those abdominal muscles without overtraining.