The alternate title for this article is, Can You Get a Six-Pack From Just Squats and Deads?
It’s become accepted knowledge in most gyms and to most lifters that if you’re doing these compound movements, you don’t need to do core isolation movements. Science has proven they’re superior. Rejoice! No more side bends, sit ups or bicycle crunches.
The problem is that this “common knowledge” is based on a flawed, sensationalized interpretation of the research.
The studies that are often cited to back up the claim that squats and deads are superior for your core can be found here and here. Go ahead and read them. I’ll wait…. Just kidding. I’ll save you the time and outline the issues with the interpretation of those papers.
In the first study, the researchers are looking exclusively at the deep core muscles. There is nothing wrong with that. They found that squats and deads seem to be just as effective as isolated core movements for activating these deep muscles. However, they didn’t look at the surface muscles: rectus abdominis and obliques. So, if you’re interested in that six pack, this study doesn’t really provide any clues for you.
The second study actually compared squats & deads to isolation movements for the posterior core, not the anterior core. So, again… great information if you’re interested in understanding the impact of these movements on your back side, but no info for the front! It may seem crazy, but this is the way the media runs away with stories. They see a study was conducted looking at compound movements against isolation movements, barely even read the abstract and then start cranking out the hype.
So, feel free to use the hype machine to inform your training, but for me… I’m going to keep those weighted knee raises and the ab roller in my training. Don’t get my wrong, I’m still squatting and deadlifting religiously, but in addition to being able to pick up a car – it’s nice to look good at the beach too.
Now you have the information. Use it to design training around your core needs / goals. So, go forth, lift heavier shit AND look good doing it.