We see them everywhere, abs, abs and more ripped abs – everyone is obsessed with them and everyone wants some. Each corner we turn we see cut and defined mid sections – on the backs of buses, in music videos, on tv shows, in clothing catalogues – and they look fantastic! Generally though most of us store enough body fat over our abdominal area so that any dream of etched in stone six pack abs seems like a ridiculous and distant fantasy. If you want defined abs, an understanding of the facts is essential, here is what you need to know to reveal your six pack…
The first thing to understand is everyone has abs. Six packs aren’t created by doing special ab exercises or buying bizarre exercise equipment – they are always there, whether we exercise them or not. When we can’t see our abs the reason is they are covered by too much fat. Very simply this means… the only way to see your six pack is to reduce your body fat and keep it off!
There is a lot of frustration surrounding abs, this is due to a load of myths we hear from friends and ‘fitness experts’. Hard training exercisers everywhere still apply outdated systems in the hope of attaining a six pack – clearly ripped abs are not a result of hard work alone otherwise we would see them a lot more – in truth they are the result of correctly applied lifestyle principles.
Let’s break it all down. Ab exercises will not get rid of abdominal fat. We have all heard about spot training to reduce body fat in a particular area but remember for the purposes of fat utilisation SPOT TRAINING DOES NOT WORK. The spot exercising preacher suggests that if you have fat covering your abdominals, exercising the muscles underlying the fat will burn the fat off. The truth is doing 1000 situps a day for a lard covered mid section will increase muscle strength and endurance for the abdominals, but will do nothing to reduce the fat covering that area.
This leads us to another ab myth – that abs need to be trained differently from other muscles. To develop my abs, I always follow the same principles that apply to other muscle groups. If you feel the need to do lots of reps then you’re not working them intensely enough, usually because of improper form. If you have to do 30 or more crunches per set before you feel fatigued, SLOW DOWN, focus on technique and if necessary add some resistance. I always hold a 10 or 15kg plate on my chest when doing crunches on the swiss ball – I focus on 5 sets of slow controlled reps of about 15 per set – by the end they are burning!
How often should you train your abs? At least a day of rest between ab workouts is best – you don’t need to train your abs everyday – this is another myth from the dark ages. Instead of working your abs everyday, try two or three times a week – when trained correctly this is plenty. Abs need a break for recuperation just like the rest of your body. The trick is to do your exercises intensely in as brief a space of time as possible to force your abdominals to develop.
…And you can forget the infomercials, the contraptions and systems you see in these advertisements, are shams. If the latest device sounds too incredible to be true, when it comes to exercise equipment it ALWAYS is! You don’t need special equipment to work your abs – a properly performed crunch on a Swiss Ball is the fastest and simplest way to abdominal conditioning.
Ok, that’s the basics here are the answers for awesome abdominals:
Train your abdominals 2 to 3 times per week. Perform 1 or 2 different exercises for each ab workout – each exercise should consist of 5 sets of 12 to 20 reps. The ab exercise I perform most of the time, and swear by for you too, is crunches on a Swiss Ball. I hold a plate on my chest for added intensity – just like any other muscle group you must overload the abs a bit more with each workout – that means increasing the intensity by either slowing down the speed of your reps, adding resistance in the form of weight, or slightly changing the angle of the movement.
Burn fat through intense cardio, performed at least 3 to 5 times per week. See my article earlier about the real fat burning zone. Reducing your body fat levels is critical to reveal your abdominals – the leaner you get, the sharper they will appear.
Perform weight training exercise at least 3 to 5 times per week to increase metabolism and overall calories burned.
Follow a 6 meal a day plan of low fat and lower (complex) carbohydrates, high in quality protein. And eat plenty of vegetables.
Avoid foods or supplements that include soy protein – soy leads to innapropriate hormone balance for fat loss, and soy has been implicated with thyroid regulation problems. Your thyroid is your bodies thermostat – don’t mess with it or your bodyweight may end up ballooning!
Generally though most of us store enough body fat over our abdominal area so that any dream of etched in stone six pack abs seems like a ridiculous and distant fantasy.
And finally… drink plenty of water.