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Science Fact Or Fiction: Hourglass Abs Workout

Defined abdominal muscles or “abs” have become a symbol of fitness and health. For this reason, the internet is full of information about how you can achieve a six pack. The latest influencers are posting their spot reducing formulas on the internet which can be incredibly convincing. 

Many of these recommendations involve exercises and devices that target the ab muscles. These workouts are designed to burn belly fat and get a “chiselled” abdominal look, however are these as effective as we think? One of the latest trendy workouts circulating at the moment is a 10-minute, continuous abdominal workout that claims to clench the waistline and give you an hourglass figure.

 

What does this workout entail?

The hourglass workout is 10 exercises, performed each for 60 seconds with no rest. These exercises include  

  • Basic Crunches 
  • Bicycle Kicks 
  • Jack Knives 
  • Russian Twists 
  • Toe Taps 
  • Bicycle Crunches 
  • Scissor Kicks 
  • Reverse Crunches 
  • Butterfly Kicks 

The big question: Will doing just this 10-minute ab workout regularly change someone’s figure?

In summary – likely not.

The problem with many abs exercises is that they promote the idea of ″spot training″, which is ultimately focusing on one body part during exercise to change it. Spot training your stomach cannot get you ripped abs. 

The old saying ″abs are made in the kitchen,” is somewhat true. Getting defined abdominals is a lot harder than many people make it look, and simply doing this workout in isolation likely won’t get you there. 

Yes, it may certainly feel like you’re getting a very toned waistline due to the burning sensation as you do your crunches, however the fatigue and burning sensation you feel after doing a continuous ab burner, such as the hourglass 10-minute ab circuit, comes from fatigue because blood flow to the muscle drops, which means there’s less oxygen available to the muscle. Less oxygen means your muscles end up feeling burnt-out, but there is no connection between this effect and actually burning fat or building muscle. 

Let’s cover what the role of our abdominals actually are…

Abdominal muscles help stabilise your core. They also assist your breathing, allow movement, protect your internal organs and are in charge of postural support and balance. 

There are four main abdominal muscles: 

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transverse abdominis
  • External oblique
  • Internal oblique

It’s important to maintain strength in all these muscles. Strong abdominal muscles can help improve posture and balance. They can also help reduce back pain and increase flexibility [1]Exercising your abdominal muscles will strengthen them. However, twisting, crunching and side bending will not make your abdominal muscles visible if they’re covered by a substantial layer of fat. 

There are two types of fat, namely…

  • Subcutaneous: Subcutaneous fat is located between the skin and the outer abdominal wall 
  • Visceral: visceral fat – the kind that wraps around the internal organs 

When present in large amounts, subcutaneous (under the skin) fat will prevent you from seeing your abdominal muscles. In order to have defined abs or a six pack, you need to get rid of subcutaneous fat from your abdominal area. 

Many people do ab exercises because they want to lose belly fat. However, the evidence suggests targeted ab exercises are not very effective if you’re not in a calorie deficit or have a layer of subcutaneous fat over your abdominal muscles.

Avocados could have an effect on visceral fat according to this new study…

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Are there any risks?

Trying to reach unrealistic aesthetic goals can be harmful to mental and physical health. Chiselled abs are not a marker of internal health, someone’s relationship with food or their mental wellbeing. It’s important to try give in to unrealistic standards of beauty and ever-changing body “ideals”, as hard as that may be. 

Majority of the time we need to ask ourselves WHY we are exercising? Is it for our mental health? Is it to reach a certain fitness goal or is it to only burn calories. Exercise should be something you enjoy and look forward to, not something that’s torturous and resembles punishment. 

  

The verdict

When looking at a 10-minute abdominal workout to achieve an hourglass figure and clench the waistline, it’s not possible through exercise alone. Spot reducing is an ineffective way to build muscle tone. Rather focus on eating a balanced diet as well as doing exercise you enjoy that increases total energy expenditure whilst being able to use your core. 

We’re definitely not for unrealistic beauty standards and more for a balanced approach to health and wellness. 

The hourglass 10-minute workout in our opinion – is another spot reducing trend if combined with an unhealthy diet. Although if you’re looking for a quick ab burner, this does this trick.

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


  1. Cholewicki J, Juluru K, McGill SM. Intra-abdominal pressure mechanism for stabilizing the lumbar spine. J Biomech. 1999 Jan;32(1):13-7. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(98)00129-8. PMID: 10050947.


Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell

Writer and expert

Jenaed Gonçalves Brodell is a well know Registered Dietitian (HCPC) and Sport Scientist. She is a fitness enthusiast and comes from a semi professional field hockey background. Her passion for sports nutrition and background in the sporting arena making her relatable to many amateur and elite sports personnel. She has experience working for the NHS & in South Africa as a consultant dietitian. She provides evidence based, easy to follow, practical advice and guidance.She has experience in the Paediatric field specialising in sports performance for junior and adult athletes. Her writing background comes from extensive researching throughout her career finding the most up to date information and translating it into easy to understand information for the public. She shares information on her public instagram page @the_Athletes_dietitianUK on the latest in evidence based nutrition.


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