How to Get a Six Pack - 5 Things You Must Know
Building some washboard abs will be a top fitness goal for many guys. But their plans to get a six-pack never comes to fruition.
There are thousands of infomercials and trainers that promise you quick, effortless programs to get shredded — you just have to buy this overpriced equipment and DVD set. Unless you have amazing genetics or your diet is bulletproof, none of these miracle plans would work.
On the other end of this spectrum, there are the die-hard lifters that believe 60 to 90 minutes of exercise for six days a week will get you there. If you have the time and energy to put into this sort of training, that's commendable.
But is there a way to build a six-pack that is doable for more people? To help answer this question, Mike Wunsch CSCS, and Craig Rasmussen, CSCS help with the answer.
The main key to your program's success is how feasible it is to be consistent, to fit your time schedule. Both Wunsch and Rasmussen say that 30 to 40 minutes a day for three days per week could be enough.
So if you can dedicate this amount of time to getting the abs of your dreams, let's jump into what it will take to get there.
How to Get a Six Pack
1.) Abs Start in the Kitchen
It's really, really, really hard to outwork a crappy diet. Abs start in the kitchen, so your approach to your nutrition needs to have the same discipline as your workouts.
From frequent feeding eating six meals a day to intermittent fasting, there's no one "right way" to do this.
The trick is to be consistent.
A few things to watch out for are added sugars and processed foods. You need to build muscle and load up on nutrients that your body needs to grow.
Talk to your doctor before you change your diet.
Watching your carbohydrate intake can help with reducing how much water weight you carry. This is why your friend who quit eating carbs dropped weight so drastically — they burned glycogen, not fat.
When you start to cut the levels of carbs you have in your diet, the first few days may suck. You may experience more fatigue in your workouts and you could have a "fuzzy mind" as your body start adapting to lower carbohydrate levels.
Generally, within a week you'll start feeling better, as long as you get plenty of nutritious fats and protein.
When you start cutting your carbs, you're going to lose a lot of water weight right off of the bat. Proper caloric intake, nutritious foods, and plenty of exercise will get you burning body fat in no time.
2.) Body Fat is the Enemy
If you want to see your abs, you're going to have to limit the amount of body fat you have.
Since muscle is your primary fat burner, lifting weights will significantly increase the amount of microtrauma you sustain to your muscle fibers.
This is a good thing.
"Your body has to expend energy to repair and upgrade those fibers after your workout," Rasmussen says. "And a single total-body weight-training session can boost your metabolism for up to two days."
Studies determined people burned more calories the day after a lower-body workout than the day after an upper-body section. Maintaining an elevated metabolism will help burn the body fat and reveal the abs you're creating.
3.) More Crunches Aren't the Answer
"You can do lots of crunches and sit-ups and still have a weak core," says Wunsch. "We see that all the time."
Classic ab moves like crunches and sit-ups will work muscles that allow you to flex your lower spine. True core exercises train muscles that keep your spine from flexing.
They also help you produce more force from your lower body to your upper body. A golf swing would be a good example.
Adding some instability exercises into your routine can help hammer on your core.
This isn't to say you should try squats on a Swiss ball, though. When you perform instability exercises, your body has to work to remain stable — your core will put in extra work to maintain your balance.
Performing ab exercises on an exercise ball can reduce stability and help burn more calories and work your abs more.
Limit Rest Periods
Metabolically speaking, limiting your rest periods to 30 seconds can help you shed fat faster.
You don't need to turn your workout into one big circuit routine, but limiting the rest period between sets will maintain a higher intensity throughout the workout.
A true core exercise will train you to keep your spine stable and in its natural alignment. Planks, side planks, mountain climbers, rollouts, hollow body holds, and even the pushup are all great core exercises.
"We test everything in our gym," said Wunsch. "And we've seen that people achieve far better results when they do core exercises at the beginning of their workout instead of at the end."
So training your core when your muscles are fresh will achieve the fastest gains in strength. Wunsch and his colleagues have found the core to be a limiting factor in almost every exercise.
"A weak core is what keeps most men from lifting more weight in the squat and deadlift and just about everything else," said Wunsch. "If we focus on strengthening their core first, they'll ultimately be able to lift heavier weights, which allows them to work more muscle and burn more calories. We're thinking about long-term success."
4.) Learn to Love the Plank
The plank, with its many variations, is one of the most important exercises you can do to build a stronger core. The move is basic, boring, and definitely not easy to go for longer holds.
I mean, you're simply in a push-up position and you need to support your weight... how hard can that be?
"The plank is easy only if you're doing it incorrectly or don't know how to make it more challenging," said Wunsch. What's more, he adds, the plank is key because it teaches you to make your core stiff. "That's a skill you need for almost every exercise."
You aren't simply just resting in place, you need to maintain a tight and rigid core — the isometric contraction is what helps build strength and muscle.
5.) You Don't Need Hours of Cardio
While you need more than five minutes of exercise to get some abs, you do need to spend the right amount of time to dedicate to your targeted core training.
"We've found that just 2 to 4 sets of one or two core exercises is quite effective," Rasmussen said. "Our goal is to make you stronger, not more tired."A 5-minute core routine prior to weight training has a side benefit, too. "It revs up your core muscles so they fire better as you do other exercises," Rasmussen says.
"If you have only 30 to 40 minutes to devote to a workout, then every second has to count," Rasmussen said. "In those cases, our clients do zero running."
Basically, you can achieve a faster fat loss with resistance training — running does not burn more calories than lifting does.