Abs in 2 WEEKS or Abs-olutely NO: Do Abs Challenges Actually Work?

You definitely have seen an abs challenge in the last two years, or maybe even have participated in one — maybe in the famous Chloe Ting’s Abs in 2 weeks, or blogilates' 100 Days of Abs — those videos were all the rage during the lockdown era. Now, as the hype seems to be wearing off, is the best time to reflect on those and find out if they are actually worth spending your time on.

Credit: Jonathan Borba (@jonathanborba) via Unsplash (unsplash.com)

So, usually, abs challenges take the form of a YouTube video workout no longer than 15 minutes, promising to give you a "flat stomach", "eleven lines" and "get rid of baby fat" in just 2−3 weeks by doing it every day. And, based on the views those videos get, seems like people actually believe those promises. It’s hard not to, actually, when influencers themselves promote their challenges with their before/after pictures — and the difference really makes you start thinking about canceling your gym membership and just doing those exercises at home. But are the results on these promo photos the same that a regular person can expect?

To get closer to understanding what muscles are typically associated with defined abs and what exercises are the most effective for them, I came to my friend, who works as a fitness trainer and prefers to stay anonymous, to ask a couple of questions. Here is a bit of our conversation:

So, does anyone actually come to you with the purpose of getting a flat stomach?

Well, no one that I can remember. People usually come to the gym to gain muscles or lose weight, and at different times they can have different short-term goals — like lift their first kilo or gain a centimeter on their glutes. Of course, many people here want to make their stomach look flatter, or even get their cubes to show, but it is never the one and only goal for the regulars. If it is for someone, these people are usually the ones who end up forgetting about their membership after a couple of sessions.

Wow, that is actually kind of sad. So, if I came to you and asked you to help me get defined abs, would you refuse?

Of course not, but I would at least try to convince you that those are not the only muscles that you should worry about, or at least give you multifunctional exercises.

By multifunctional you mean?

Targeted at different groups of muscles. The ones that you are interested about, those that account for your abdominal area are the obliques, located on each side of your stomach, the rectus abdominis, and the transverse abdominis.

Okay, so what are the best exercises to get those showing?

Well, if I knew some magical exercise to make your abs pop, I wouldn’t keep it a secret from you, but I am afraid that it doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, balance and consistency in training will always help you notice the effects of training on your body.

Credit: bruce mars (@brucemars) via Unsplash (unsplash.com)
Credit: bruce mars (@brucemars) via Unsplash (unsplash.com)

Well, after that not very encouraging conversation I decided to browse through some of the already mentioned videos to see if there is any other secret to their impressive before/after, and here are some things that I was able to find:

  • Most of the "before" pictures are taken on an obviously not empty stomach, or even a bloated one. Conversely, the "after" photos are obviously taken in the morning before eating or drinking anything.
  • To exaggerate their untrained state in "before" pictures, influencers tend to lower their leggings, or sometimes even position them in a way that they would gather the fat to make it seem like there is a lot of it. And in "after" pictures, those leggings are typically located over their waist, sucking everything in.

And these are just the things that could be seen without accusing anyone of editing their pictures! Most of those videos have a shocking number of views — which you can see on the graph below — and of course those influencers gain a ton of money from them. The more unbelievable the results they demonstrate and the more promises they give — the more views they get. But that doesn’t always mean more satisfaction for you.

Graph made with Canva. Image by Yuliya Puzina.
Graph made with Canva. Image by Yuliya Puzina.

So, abs challenges should definitely be going out of style — but maybe they are still worth joining. They may not give you what you want in two weeks or even a month, but they still could be a good home workout — if you add other muscle groups and are consistent, who knows, maybe in future you can also hop on influencer challenges' train!

Bachelor's student, Neurotechnologies and Programming