Whether you are twenty-six or sixty-six many people consider six pack abs to be one of the hallmarks of fitness. Well I can tell you from bitter experience, at sixty-seven it is a big ask – but I am slowly getting there!
However, it is still the main goal many people have in mind when they begin their fitness journey. And well done to those people for having such a goal.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and bad science out there that will hurt your progress a lot more than it helps. Here is a quick look at what you should and shouldn’t be doing to get a bulging six pack.
1. Crunches and Sit-ups for a Six-Pack
For any muscle to be prominent, it is important to work it. If you want to have a prominent six pack, it is essential that you perform resistance workouts that challenge your abdominal muscles. In other words, core fitness and strength.
But the one thing I see time and again in the gym is so many people seeking to strengthen their abs through endless amounts of crunches and sit-ups.
Although these exercises can help, they will not magically make your abs visible underneath a layer of fat. You can do crunches all day long and never see any results if you have too much fat on your belly. Change your diet and you will change your shape.
You should also be especially wary of sit-ups as they can be harmful to your lower back.
In fact, I can’t remember when I last did a sit-up. The problem I have with these types of exercises is that they tend to reinforce poor posture and can place huge stress on the spine and having had a back operation myself that is the last thing I, or you want.
Just the rigors of daily living can create more than enough ways to give us back problems so why make it worse at the gym. I know many people have a strange fascination for sit-ups and crunches but let me tell you that too much spinal flexion over time can end up leaving you with disc problems. Been there, done that and I would like to save you from the pain in your future life. There is nothing worse than the continual pain of a crook back.
2. Fat Loss and Your Six-Pack
If you really want a six pack (and being truthful, who doesn’t), in this case, fat loss is definitely the name of the game.
You must have a workout plan that will train all of your muscles in order to increase your metabolism and have something to show as you lose fat. You should also have an adequate amount of cardio in your routine.
Finally, diet is the key. I can’t emphasize this enough.
You will never be able to lose those last few pounds of fat and expose that beautiful six pack which is currently hiding under a thin layer of fat without a perfect diet. In the end, it all comes back to what is most important to you. Lifestyle or a super beach body.
3. Resistance Training to Lose Fat
Wen trying to lose fat, many people believe you should adjust your resistance training to use lighter weights for more reps. This belief is actually misguided and may lead to increased muscle loss as you lose fat.
The best way to retain your lean body mass as you lose weight is to keep lifting heavy.
Challenge yourself so that your body knows it cannot afford to lose muscle. In fact try doing some super sets comprising your main compound exercises. Make sure each set has opposing exercises (i.e. one pushing and one pulling). For example you might do a bench press combined with a pull-up.
4. Cardio for Fat Loss
Cardio is important for getting a six pack.
But be aware, too much cardio can ruin your efforts as well. Try to make your cardio sessions last for 50 minutes or less. Although high-intensity interval training will make you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, it will also increase your risk of muscle loss and hinder your recovery between workouts. When you’re trying to burn away those last few pounds, low-intensity steady state cardio is the way to go.
As you can see, it is all a bit of a balancing act.
5. Diet to Show Your Six-Pack
It is commonly said that abs are made in the kitchen. And whoever said that knew what they were talking about.
If you’re being strict about sticking to 50 minutes of cardio or less, there is a well-defined upper limit to the caloric deficit you can achieve through exercise. The rest of the deficit must be achieved by eating (and drinking) fewer calories.
When you’re eating fewer calories, it is crucial you get enough protein from lean sources such as chicken, fish or lean grass fed beef. You must also consume complex carbohydrates from foods such as quinoa, chia seeds, brown rice and healthy fats from foods like avocados.
Just remember, if getting a six pack was easy, everyone would have one. In fact, many people have one but just can’t see it yet.
So if you are still determined and prepared to stick to a consistent eating and exercise plan, you will eventually be able to chip away at your belly fat and see your great abdominal muscles. It takes time and you might fall off the wagon a couple of times along the way. Don’t let that worry you, it can be done so don’t give up now.
Good luck with your journey.