Whenever we want to build general muscle, we do at least 6 reps and at most 12 reps on like 3 sets, then why does abs workouts tends to be conducted to fatigue? (I mean 20 to 50 reps on 5 sets)

Isn't it faster to achieve failure when we are working our core with few reps and sets?

  • Do sit-ups with weights and you wont have to do 50 reps ;)
    – Erwan C.
    Oct 8, 2015 at 9:49
  • Sit ups? Nah, save your back my friend. Oct 8, 2015 at 20:00

3 Answers 3


Why Do Abs Exercises Have So Many Reps?

Short Answer: To feel "The Burn"

Many people erroneously feel that most abs exercises are cardio exercises. As a result, they try to perform as many reps in as short a time frame as possible.

First, because the abdominal muscles perform many functions,they're capable of being stressed longer than most muscles. As a result, the burn isn't usually felt until after a lot of repetitions.

Should Abs Exercises Have So Many Reps?


Abs exercises should be performed in a slow, methodical fashion; there should be a pause at the top and bottom of the movement. Equally important, the exercise must target the specific muscles being exercised.

When performed with these considerations, "the burn" will be felt in as low reps as between 10 and 15.

Another Note Worth Considering

No one single abs exercise target every part of the abdominal muscles; you'll need to perform different exercises that target each segment of the abdominal muscles.


Without a low body fat percentage, abs exercises don't mean squat aesthetically. The muscles might be strong and puffy; however, without a low body fat percentage, you won't be able to show them off (this could be one of the reasons people use abs exercises as cardio).

  • Re: your "another note" section: Myth, if you do the exercises correctly.
    – JohnP
    Oct 8, 2015 at 3:43
  • Give me some abs exercises that hit all the abdominal muscles equally :) Oct 8, 2015 at 3:47
  • Any exercise that the upper body curls towards the pelvis and doesn't bend at the hips. "upper", "lower", it's all one sheet of muscle. Now, if you are talking about the obliques, that's a different matter, but the abdominal muscle (rectus abdominus) is one muscle. (or vice versa, curling the legs towards the upper body)
    – JohnP
    Oct 8, 2015 at 3:48
  • I included the obliques as I think that well-defined abs are incomplete without the obliques. Equally important though, although the "v-cut" isn't part of the abdominal muscles, it's almost impossible to target that region without any lower-torso based exercises. Oct 8, 2015 at 3:56
  • V cut is part of the obliques. Any twisting motion should work them, but there are a lot of good twists that bring the lower body up rather than the other way around :)
    – JohnP
    Oct 8, 2015 at 4:00

Aside from having a lower potential for overall muscle growth, the abdominals are much like any other muscle group. In other words, it is up to the user on how many reps they use; though some exercises tend to work better with fewer reps (weighted exercise for example) while some tend to align with higher reps or time (purely body weight exercises).

The reason that it's common to see many using higher rep schemes with ab exercises is the misconception that ab exercises themselves are responsible for defining one's abs. Simply put, many believe that performing higher reps will get them shredded.

That being said, performing higher rep ab exercises isn't necessarily a bad thing. The core (and the abs by extension) play a large role in stabilizing the upper torso during movement. A certain degree of muscular endurance is required of the muscles in the core for it to perform its job well enough to prevent injury. How much is required depends on the level and type of activity the person in question is generally involved in.


Ab exercises themselves are very complex. They have been advertised to build shredded abs, which they do, but the problem is they DON'T BUILD STRONG ABS. Any exercise that has you doing high repetitions is endurance training, with not as much muscle growth. The reason that they build shredded abs is because most people get on a plan that has them doing enough to define their abs, but not enough to strengthen them. If you actually want to strengthen abdominal muscles, you should perform deadlifts, squats, and exercises that use weights while still activating them as a primary muscle used. Almost all exercises targeted directly for abdominals are bodyweight exercises, which usually are other forms of endurance training, the exceptions usually revolving around pull ups and dips.

  • They have been advertised to build shredded abs, which they do... - I don't think performing ab exercises alone will "shred" your abs without a strong commitment to gradual calorie reduction.
    – rrirower
    Oct 8, 2015 at 13:04
  • @rrirower As stated, an hour of ab exercises a day equals about 400 calories burned. But yes, to maintain shredded abs, littler calories must be taken in. But if you want to bulk up, sacrifices must be made. Oct 8, 2015 at 19:59
  • Where does the 400 calories calculation come from?
    – rrirower
    Oct 8, 2015 at 20:04
  • @rrirower calisthenics workout burns about 400-500 calories. Oct 8, 2015 at 20:07

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