Our culture has come to associate a flat, toned stomach and ripped six-pack with athletes, models, and the very fit.
The ONE thing I get asked about most and gets the most reaction from people, is my abs.
Everyone wants to know how to get that definition.
If you are in pursuit of a six-pack, I have good and bad news for you.
Let’s start with the bad news (sorry). If you’re still around after hearing this, you may have a chance.
Abs are primarily made in the kitchen. Abdominal definition requires a low level of body fat. Simply put, you can have all the core muscle in the world, but it will never show under a layer of fat.
Additionally, what you eat matters. Foods high in sodium, sugar, and trans fats will cause water retention and bloating that will make your belly round, not flat.
If you want abs, you need to eat clean, meaning a diet made primarily of lean proteins, clean carbs like brown rice, oats and quinoa, healthy fats including nuts and avocado, and lots and LOTS of veggies.
You want to avoid things like processed (read: packaged) foods, artificial sugar (read: candy, cookies, etc), and alcohol. Sorry.
Genetics play a role as well. For me, I hold weight in my lower body, and it is much easier for me to drop fat from my midsection. Others genetically hold weight in their midsection and not their legs and hips. It can seem unfair, but all that means is some people have to work a little harder to get abdominal definition to show.
So now you’ve heard the bad news. Are you still with me? Good because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Even if you aren’t willing to make the sacrifices needed to get a ripped six-pack, you can still have a flat toned tummy that looks great in a bathing suit.
You just need to balance your diet splurges with healthy choices, watch your overall calorie intake, drink lots of water, and hit the gym a few times a week.
You can work your abs daily, they don’t need a lot of recovery time. I also recommend HIIT cardio, which incorporates moves like burpees, high knees, and mountain climbers to help burn fat and work the core at the same time. Running and cycling are also great activities for the core.
When working your core, you want to think about hitting it from every angle to work all the muscles groups: your upper, middle and lower abs, the transverse, and the obliques.
I suggest weighted core workouts no more than twice a week, and if you’re new to exercise or have lower back problems, I would avoid it all together until you build a healthy, strong core through resistance exercise.
Here’s an example core workout that works every part of your midsection. The reps are high, because you want to fatigue the muscles and build endurance.
Complete 20 reps of each exercise then move on to the next. Repeat up to 4 times.
Stability ball crunch (advanced: hold a med ball with arms straight and reach up as you crunch)
Alt. leg raises (advanced: raise both legs at once but be sure to keep lower back flat)
Reverse curl (advanced: use an incline bench and take legs towards floor then back up)
Side-to-side obliques (advanced: lift feet off floor and/or hold med ball)
Plank hold for up to 1:00 (beg. start on knees, advanced on toes)