t’s usually the first thing we get told when we meet with someone for the first time during their fitness assessment: “I want to have 6-pack abs.” At some point in the long history of human aesthetics, seeing ones abdominal muscles has become the pinnacle sign of someone’s fitness level. Each year, millions of people blindly spend money on magazines, fitness gimmicks, and bogus nutrition supplements solely on the fact that these products make the promise of giving you the flat, rigid stomach that you are supposed to have. However, there is one problem: none of these sources that claim to be “the only thing you need to get the body that you want” actually educate the person.
When it comes to achieving a look that allows for your rectus abdominus muscle to show through, there are two main things to keep in mind, one which you can control, and the other you can’t: your body fat and your genetics. When it comes to the former, there are a few variables that you can manipulate that will help put you in position to have the best chance of achieving the look you want, the first being diet. One of the biggest inhibitors of getting a lean midsection is the quantity and selection of food that is being placed in the body. Any extra calories, in the form of the food we eat, that is not used up through the course of our daily activity will ultimately be stored as fat. More so, carbohydrates in particular create issues because their caloric content has a way of sneaking up on you without you realizing it. Therefore, try to keep your calorie intake managed by getting an understanding of how many calories you actually need per day given your lifestyle and activity level. This way you will have an idea of how much you can eat in a day without going over and putting yourself at risk of having left over calories to be stored as fat (a great way to calculate your needs can be found on this site: http://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/calories ).
Additionally, when choosing your dietary carbohydrate options, try to make most of your carbs come from fruits and vegetables. This will allow you to get the carbs that you need, plus have the added benefit of fiber which will make you feel fuller faster and curb your appetite.
The next way that you can help yourself get closer to a washboard stomach is to manipulate the type and amount of cardio vascular exercise you are doing. As we stated before, if extra calories left over to be stored as fat (i.e. unused energy) is the main problem we face in order to see the abs we want, then burning those calories (i.e. using that energy) must become a primary focus. So, if you typically live a relatively sedentary life, make sure you get up and take a walk, go jogging or go for a swim as a way to add activity into your schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require adults to do at least 20min of cardio activity every day just to stay healthy (http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/).
However, in order to do real damage to those fat stores, try increasing that to 30-45min per day. Doing physical activities can also serve as time for you to de-stress from your day, which helps your mental health as well! If getting out and running is not usually an issue for you, try changing up your routine by doing intervals where you sprint for 1min and jog for 3min on and off again over a period of 30-45min. The interval method is an extremely simple way to get more calories burned per session. Whatever activity you choose to perform, remember the key is to always use up more calories than you take in. If you ever need help finding an activity that works best for you, never hesitate to ask an expert! (Feel free to mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to cardio activity, resistance training is vital to helping you cut body fat and help you trim the midsection. Specifically, by building your lean muscle mass through progressive strength training, you are creating a constant fat-burning environment inside your body because maintaining muscle requires more energy than storing fat. Over time, this process raises your metabolism or the amount of energy required to power you through your daily life, making you more efficient at using the calories you get from the food you eat, and protecting you from the dangers of over eating. The best way to make your workouts as efficient and as fat-burning as possible, is to be sure to work all major muscle groups including your chest, back, legs and glutes.
As you can see, there is a little more effort, discipline, and work that needs to be applied in order to get that coveted 6-pack. Unfortunately, contrary to what marketers would like you to believe, buying the new crunch machine, or shocking your abs with electrical stim pads, or simply doing 1,000 sit ups will never get you to where you want to be. That being said, there is hope! The body is capable of achieving seriously high levels of performance and appearance when it is stimulated and stressed in the appropriate way-the only thing you have to do is ask! (You should begin sooner rather than later, because swimsuit season will be here before you know it!)
Joe Gernetzke CSCS