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Can You Get Abs from Coughing or Laughing?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could develop a killer six-pack from laughing or coughing? It would make all those days spent sick in bed worth it, and most of us would hang out at comedy shows in an attempt to shred our abs. Talk about the quick and easy way!

Sadly, the answer to this question is: No, you cannot develop a six-pack from coughing or laughing. While both activities engage your core muscles, the sad truth is that there isn’t enough effort to cause serious muscle growth. Read on to find out the mechanisms that help you develop abs, and why coughing and laughing aren’t quite what you need to get shredded.

How Muscles Grow and Get Stronger

When you lift weights, you are essentially loading more on your muscles than they can easily carry. The repeated lifting of the weight causes a breakdown in your muscle fiber (don’t worry, this is a good thing). Your body sees that it’s unable to support that amount of weight, so it tries to increase strength capacity by increasing the size of your muscle fibers so they can store more energy. More stored energy = greater weight-bearing = stronger muscles.

If you’ve ever lifted weights, you’ll notice that it takes weeks or months to see noticeable differences in your weight-bearing ability. Perhaps you can increase the load on your barbell or dumbbell by a few pounds, but you don’t see huge muscle gains until you’ve been putting in the time and effort for months. This is because the amount of muscle growth resulting from each exercise session is microscopic. It takes time for that growth to become visible — both in terms of muscle size and capacity.

Why Coughing Doesn’t Train Your Muscles

When you cough, your abdominal muscles tighten with the force of your cough. However, the tightness isn’t in response to external stimuli, so there isn’t more load placed on your muscles than they’re able to bear. They simply contract and release over and over with every cough. The effect is comparable to lifting a very lightweight a few times. Your muscles are able to handle the strain, so there is no muscle breakdown, which means there is no muscle growth.

And what about serious coughing? In some cases of chronic coughs, there is some change in muscle definition and strength capacity due to the constant contraction and relaxation of the muscles. Picture it like doing 100 crunches. Though it’s light effort, repetition is what places strain on your muscles, forcing them to adapt to increase muscular endurance. The muscles will be stronger, but you very likely won’t see visible changes in muscle definition.

Why Laughing Doesn’t Train Your Muscles

Laughing is similar to coughing, but it’s far less explosive, meaning it requires a lot less muscular force than coughing. You’d feel that soreness in your abs if you laughed hysterically for a full 30-60 minutes, but that rarely happens. For the most part, the contraction and relaxation of your abs caused by the act of laughing doesn’t push the muscles even close to fatigue, meaning there’s very little chance of muscle hypertrophy.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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