Monday, March 28, 2011
The Six Pack "Secret"
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How can I get a six pack?" It seems like everyone is interested in getting abs. In fact, I would say that I get more inquires specifically about building impressive abdominals than I do about all other body parts combined. So what’s the obsession with abs? For one thing, a well-defined mid section is the center of our physiques and represents someone who puts in a lot of hard work and takes pride in their physical appearance. Also, if someone has well defined abdominal muscles then they probably have a lean physique overall since most people (especially men) tend to hold body fat in their mid section, and this is one of the last place the fat comes off when dieting and exercising to lose fat. Now, there are some people who ONLY care about abs and have a great “six-pack" but no other muscular development. While I prefer and strive to build a more rounded physique, if just having great abs is your thing then that’s fine too.
Either way, obtaining a great “six-pack" is a very simple process that every one can achieve. That’s right, I said everyone. When some people ask me how I am able to get my abs so defined it is if they are trying to get the “big secret" to great abs. I feel like I am letting them down when I tell them that there is no secret, but that it is a matter of doing certain things both inside and outside (mostly outside) the weight room consistently over a period of time. The secret is that you have to both want it bad enough and be willing to do what it takes for as long as it takes. Other than that, it is very simple. So, here is what I tell everyone who asks me about getting abs:
Over the years, I have tried many different approaches, exercises, rep schemes, and frequencies for abdominal training. I have performed hundreds of crunches every day. I have worked abs at the end of each weight training session. I have worked abs 2-3 times a week, and I have worked abs only once a week. I have also concentrated on using lower reps while performing weighted resistance exercises, and performed only non-weighted exercises such as crunches and hanging leg raises using a more moderate rep range. After all of my trial and error I have come to this conclusion: The exercises I perform, the rep range I use, and the frequency in which I work my abs does not make a heck of a lot of difference in how my abs look! What does make a difference is how low my body fat percentage is. The lower my body fat, the better by abs look, period!
I am certainly not the first person to come to this conclusion still I continue to see people working their abs rep after rep day after day hoping for that six-pack that never comes. Even some of my own clients who I have explained that you must have low body fat levels in order to “show" your “six-pack", still want to focus on doing more or different exercises, when their real focus should be on what they are putting in their bodies at the dinner table. It’s almost like people know that what I am saying makes sense and will work, but they don’t like the answer so they continue to try new ab routines, but never improve the appearance of their abs.
If you want great abs, don’t make it more difficult than it has to be. Follow this simple strategy and be on your way to obtaining a “six-pack" in time for summer:
In the weight room:
Again, I can’t emphasize enough that the actual exercises you perform for your abs will only account for about 1% of your abdominal appearance, and if you have too much body fat covering your abs then that 1% becomes 0% because the fat will cover up any abdominal development you do have. That being said, I have found that working my abs once, or sometimes twice a week works well. I usually perform only two different exercises, 2-3 sets per exercise, and work in the 8-15 repetition range. I use weighted resistance exercises such as lying leg raises with a dumbbell between my ankles and rope cable crunches. I approach my abdominal training the same way I do for other body parts. I use relatively heavy weight to stimulate muscle growth. I then give my muscles time to recover and develop before working them again. I feel that working in a lower rep range using weighted exercises helps create deeper ridges and grooves in the abs as opposed to higher rep workouts without weight. However, don’t forget that the training only accounts for 1% of your results! Are you sick of me saying that yet? Well, no one ever seems to get it the first time so if it takes repeating myself and risking being a pain in the butt then I am willing to take that risk.
At the kitchen table:
Here is where 75-99% of your abdominal development comes from. The reason I say 75-99% is that cardiovascular exercise can be used to help burn body fat and bring out abdominal definition. However, if you are meticulous about your diet then you can build a great “six pack" without performing cardio. Depending on how much body fat you have and your metabolic rate, it may take much longer to achieve your “six pack" using weight-training and diet alone, but it can be done. The quicker and more balanced approach is to combine weight training, cardiovascular exercise, and a sound nutritional plan. As far as nutrition goes, in order to lose body fat you have to consume fewer calories each day than you expend. I personally use a diet consisting of approximately 45% protein, 35% carbohydrates, and 20% fat when trying to get lean. I feel these ratios allow me to burn body fat while building, or at least maintaining muscle mass. However, as far as getting lean abs goes, consuming fewer calories than you burn is much more important than the macronutrient ratio you choose to follow.
On the treadmill:
As I mentioned above, cardio is a great way to increase the rate in which your body burns fat and help you achieve your lean six-pack in a shorter period of time. I am a big fan of high intensity short duration cardio for really cranking up your metabolism and melting fat away quickly. Mix it up with some of the different machines in the gym or take it outside. Running intervals or stadiums outside is a great way to boost your metabolism and burn fat.
Although I went about it in a long-winded way, getting a head-turning set of abdominals that will be the envy of your friends and catch the attention of the opposite sex comes down to 1) train your abs once or twice a week applying the same principles used for other muscle groups 2) (MOST IMPORTANT AND CRITICAL TO YOUR SUCCESS!) consume fewer calories each day than you burn 3) use cardiovascular exercise to rev up your metabolism and burn fat faster. That’s it! Be consistent and true to your workout and nutrition plan and I guarantee you can have a lean set of abs. It won’t happen over night, but if you are persistent and keep working towards your goal it will happen, and the self-satisfaction will far outweigh the sacrifices you have to make along the way. Being able to showcase your new “six pack" on the beach this summer won’t be too bad either.
Source: Russ Yeager