Will core exercises give you flat abs?

I know this is a tough pill to swallow, but I’m not going to bury the lead.

Despite popular marketing claims, core exercises, including Pilates, won’t give you “flat abs.”

It’s 2020 and spot reduction is still not possible, just like it said in all my exercise science textbooks in the early 2000’s.

Before you feel too badly about this, some other nuances worth adding here.

I’m not saying that an exercise modality such as Pilates or strength training can’t change your body, but when you consider what results in visible abs there are other factors at play.

For example, did you win the genetic lottery, because to a degree that’s a thing.

Are you working out in a caloric deficit, maintenance, or a surplus? I know all those memes about how abs are made in the kitchen are next level obnoxious, but they’re also kind of true. Visible abs require having a body fat percentage low enough to see them and for many people that will require a caloric deficit – aka being “in the kitchen” for perhaps longer than you realized.

Furthermore, how much are you training and what type of training are you partaking in? Some forms of strength training will result in more visible changes in one’s body than others (however, remember what I said earlier about how a caloric deficit probably will influence this MORE than any exercise program) AND re genetics everyone’s body responds differently to exercise.

Also, are you new to exercise? Newbie gains are real. You’re more likely to see results, which may or may not result in a change in your appearance, from any form of exercise if you are brand new to working out than if you are more conditioned.

But here’s the thing that I *really* want you to take away from reading this post.

Even if you body’s doesn’t change dramatically OR at all, there are still SO many other benefits to exercise – less pain, more strength, better mobility, more stamina, more muscle, cardiovascular endurance. ALL of these things are so important as we age.

While I know that’s not as sexy as rapid results in 30 days, you know what’s hot? A better quality of life as you age.

Finally, this isn’t to rain on your parade if you have aesthetic goals. I actually share this to say that if you aren’t seeing the results that you want, it’s not a moral failing on your part, despite what the industry would have you believe.

It’s more likely that you may have been given inaccurate information and a wildly unrealistic timeline + unrealistic expectations.

In summary, you can’t spot reduce, but that doesn’t mean that exercise doesn’t have value.

It does!

If you enjoy core exercises or Pilates, you should 100% do it. However, don’t buy into the myth that it will give you #abs or that you are doing it wrong if you don’t see abs, because on a personal note, I can tell you right now that I’ve been practicing Pilates for over 10 years and even when I managed to diet down to a weight that left my face looking scary skeletal where I was so weak I could barely walk a mile, I STILL didn’t have super visible abs.

And you know what? Who fucking cares. As someone who has been down that rabbit hole only to find hunger, misery, and a disordered relationship with food, I have to tell you that I don’t believe that this shit is worth stressing over.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. It’s not for obsessing over how our bodies look.

There are 6 comments on this post

  1. Mary
    11 hours ago

    Thank you for your clarity and honesty! I get so tired of seeing all the ads for miracle results, the fad diets, and all the folks who feel miserable because their body doesn’t look like that in the “30 day challenge” or whatever. Yes to feeling good about your body, and to choosing what healthy is for you. Stay safe and stay sane!

    1. Nikki Naab-Levy Author
      10 hours ago

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! Agreed. I don’t want ANYONE to feel bad about their body at any shape, size, or fitness level and I am so over all of the fads and 30 day transformations. My hope is that by talking about it, we are able to make more informed choices that serve our mental AND physical health, rather than pursuing this pit of despair that is often sold to us. <3

  2. Stephanie
    5 hours ago

    Love this: “You know what’s hot? A better quality of life as you age.” Hmm, how can we make mobility look sexy?

    1. Nikki Naab-Levy Author
      1 hour ago

      Thank you! It’s an excellent question. I personally put fishnets on it lolz.

  3. Lesley Fantin
    9 hours ago

    Love it! We all need to hear this. Even in my 40’s I’m still caught up in wanting the ‘ideal’ look for a yoga and fitness coach and it’s hard to keep up… and often NOT worth it. Keep speaking the truth.

    1. Nikki Naab-Levy Author
      7 hours ago

      It’s so hard not to fall into this mindset trap. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. <3


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