Something I’m asked about daily, how do I get a six pack? Many of you reading this will have performed endless Ab Crunches and Sit-Ups, some will have bought the latest gadgets and gizmos (such as an Abs toning belt etc.), others will have watched long-winded DVD’s and read whole books on solely this subject matter, however, despite all of your searching and hard work, few of you will have achieved the illusive legendary six pack you desire. The difficulty achieving a six pack, and the rarity of seeing one, is why it’s so coveted.
Okay, here it is: the no-nonsense empowering guide to achieve your goal: how to get six pack abs...
Firstly, it must be remembered that everyone has Abs (Rectus Abdominis, to give them their correct name) – they’re hidden in there somewhere, beneath fat. You cannot spot reduce fat in this area by performing endless Abdominal exercises. Fat is stored energy and our miraculously evolved human body, in order to retain good balance, accumulates the majority of this towards our centre of gravity – men’s higher testosterone levels and subsequent greater upper body muscle determining this area to be the naval, whilst almost all women have a lower centre of gravity, the uterus, so there tends to be greater fat accumulation on the hips and thighs. With this in mind, it helps you to understand why relatively slim individuals will pinch fat in those precise areas stating “It’s just this bit I’ve got left” whilst the remainder of their physique can be lean in appearance. To reduce fat (stored energy), it’s necessary to cause a further energy deficit, so, if you’ve been dieting and exercising and your results plateau, it means furthering your efforts. I am an advocate of training smarter, not necessarily harder, and key to achieving this further fat loss is both efficiency and sustainability – this is a lifestyle change! We shall cover this matter in more detail within future articles.
So, reading the above, I just need to lose more body fat, RIGHT? No, this is only true in part. Elite endurance athletes will have a similar body fat percentage to a competition-ready bodybuilder, but not too many will display a six pack. The reason, the athlete has not significantly increased the strength and subsequent size of this muscle. Unless sufficient exercise is performed to work the Abs in the right fashion, a six pack appearance will not develop. Similarly to other muscles, you have to increase the load placed upon your Abs in order for them to warrant adaption and growth – yes, you read this right, we want to strengthen and GROW our Abs in order to help achieve a six pack look. You do not get big biceps by performing hundreds of curls with really light weights, similarly, hundreds of crunches in one go will not grow big Abs. So, what does? The heaviest work your Abs will undertake is as a stabilizer during other exercises. The greater resistance, the harder your Abs are working. Therefore, often, heavier exercises such as Deadlifts and Squats are likely to be the hardest work your Abs will encounter. For this reason, you should be mindful not to inappropriately fatigue Abs before these exercises, as it will hinder these lifts, and not be reliant upon supports (like a weight lifting belt), as this will detract from your stabilizing muscles. [Side-note: You will have heard many people refer to your mid/lower back and Abs as your “core” and stressed the importance of having a strong core to avoid injury through poor posture and functional movements. The heaviest work your “core” should undertake is as a stabilizer during these functional movements. In my opinion, general weight training exercises (functional movements), when performed in a controlled manner, are the best method to strengthen your “core”.] Nearing the end of a workout, my Abs now relatively tired from their efforts stabilizing me during non-Ab-specific lifts, I choose to train them to help achieve my desired overload. Again, if I present a reasonable load, I can train my Abs to sufficient failure within a relatively small repetition range.
Ab exercises can be made harder or easier with simple understanding of gravity, bodyweight and levers (our joints are levers!). Here’s an example: Too often, I’ll see Knee Raises being performed for hundreds of repetitions led down. Here’s an easy progression of the same exercise to increase difficulty - Lying Knee Raises > Lying Leg Raises > Vertical Knee Raises > Vertical Leg Raises. Remembering that our joints are levers, DO NOT move a large weight closer to the pivot-point in order to perform hundreds of reps, as it will make the exercise EASIER! I.e. Sit-Ups with 50kg in your groin or full-stack Cable Crunches with the weight pulled close to your groin. If you move the load FURTHER from the pivot-point, the greater the required force by you, therefore, if you perform say Cable Crunches with the load in front of your head, the force required to shift the same load will be that much greater. Think of a Seesaw and how whether you move closer or further away from the pivot-point affects the other person. For demonstrations on how to perform Abdominal exercises correctly, please refer to the related section of our Exercise Demonstration Database. You should also review our suggested gym workouts - website, best-selling books, free-to-download app (GP Shuffle) - for ideas on how to structure your training regime to best include Abs.
So, for six pack abs, we need to lose body fat and strengthen and grow our Abs. To achieve this, we need to bring about a further energy deficit, incorporate heavy functional movements within our training, and perform Ab exercises with greater efficiency.
The above statement is not the whole story. Whilst it’s true for developing your Abs to their best, once you’ve succeeded, you may not actually have a six pack. You’ll note that the image (that’s me, I’m a drug-free bodybuilder) has a symmetrical 8 pack. A paired muscle, Abs run vertically parallel and separated by a connective tissue called the Linea Alba. The most common genetic structure of the Abs is in the configuration of a six pack and is rarely symmetrical. However, it can be present in a different arrangement, such as a 10 pack, 8 pack (shown), or 4 pack. Your Abs can look impressive whether you develop a 10 pack, 8 pack, 6 pack, or 4 pack, and whether symmetrical or not!
This article is an extract from our forthcoming book Physical Culture: Training Diaries of a Natural Bodybuilder by Gym Professor, Inventor of the revolutionary Globe Gripz.
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