Why does building your six-pack have so little to do with building your six-pack?
Have you noticed those ads on Facebook or Instagram for weird ab-training gadgets that promise you “Get a Six Pack in 12 weeks!!” for the low price of $39.99?
If you think they’re too good to be true, you are right.
The biggest misunderstanding about your Abs is that if you just train them enough, without changing your diet and workout regimen, they’ll turn into those of a physique model.
Honestly, that’s just not going to happen.
Whether for self-confidence or vanity, lots of us dream of having a great six-pack.
As a result there’s a lot of misinformation around and dodgy gadgets for sale, especially from ‘influencers’ and businesses looking to capitalise on the six-pack dream.
Here’s the truth, with practical steps that really work and will turn your six-pack dream into fabulous reality.
Why are Abs important?
The Abs help with our breathing especially, forceful exhaling. This is seen after exercising and in conditions where breathing out is difficult, such as in patients with emphysema. Abs help to protect the internal organs and keep them intact, and they create intra-abdominal pressure, as when exercising or lifting heavy weights, during forceful defecation or during childbirth.
The Proven Six-Pack Secret Formula: The 70-20-10 rule
The six-pack war has waged for generations, and there are those amongst us who were victorious. However, the battlefield in which we won was not the gym, but the kitchen.
70% Nutrition – Clean Eating & Calorie Deficits
Have you ever noticed a shirtless guy at the beach or playing sports, skinny and likely never been to a gym, who somehow has an impressive six-pack?
There’s a reason for that and it’s the biggest part of the six-pack secret.
For most of us, our Abs are hiding under a layer of subcutaneous (just under the skin) fat. It’s cruel, but that layer prevents the definition of our Abs being visible, no matter how much we train them.
Imagine you’re at a theatre to see a play. They have the most beautiful stage setup in the world and it took hundreds of hours to produce. But, until the curtains have been drawn back, nobody can see it to appreciate it.
So how do you “draw the curtains” and reveal your Abs in all their glory?
Simply, by running a calorie deficit. By burning more calories than you’re taking in.
Minimising your intake of processed sugars and saturated fats is the universally acknowledged first step.
That doesn’t mean you have to eat broccoli and chicken breast every day! You can replace a bowl of ice cream with low-fat frozen yoghurt and fruit. When eating out, ask to change the ‘rice’ in chicken rice to white rice. Small such changes, repeated through the week, go a long way.
The TL;DR is:
Your Abs, no matter how well-trained, are likely hidden behind a layer of subcutaneous fat. Getting rid of that stubborn layer comes down to good nutritional habits and burning more daily calories than you take in. This is 70% of the battle for a visible six-pack and it’s why many slender people who don’t even go to the gym have great Abs, while you do not.
20% Compound Exercises – Muscle Engagement
“Sit-ups and crunches!” I hear you shout.
Yes, but those are “isolation” exercises. They only target one specific muscle and do almost nothing to help you with the bigger issue of burning off the fat that is hiding your Abs.
You can’t “spot-reduce” fat in one location on your body. You need to reduce your overall body fat percentage to remove that curtain hiding your Abs.
Isolation exercises have their place in workouts, don’t get us wrong, but the misconception is that they should be your bread and butter. They should not.
We’ve explained that the biggest challenge of having well-defined Abs (and a well-defined body in general) is being lean, with a low body fat percentage.
Now let’s discuss how your workouts can complement your improved nutritional habits.
MORE MUSCLES CHURNING = MORE FAT BURNING
If you’ve looked at the workout regimen of someone with a remarkable body, like Henry Cavill training for his Superman movie roles, you’ll notice it largely consists of exercises that engage multiple muscle groups at the same time. They don’t isolate specific “desirable” muscles.
Yet he’s, well…Superman.
These are ‘compound exercises’.
They maximise muscle activation and energy consumption in the shortest possible time frame. Examples are squats, deadlifts and bench presses.
They are great muscle-building exercises. They are also far more effective in burning off body fat and removing the layer of subcutaneous fat hiding your Abs, because they engage several of your muscles in consuming energy at the same time.
Moreover, squats and deadlifts engage and train your core, leading at the same time to stronger and better toned Abs. It’s a win-win!
The TL;DR is:
Focus your workouts on activities that maximise the impact of the time you spend in the gym, by engaging as many muscle groups and burning as much energy and fat as possible in the same exercise. Isolation exercises like crunches and sit-ups do not consume much energy at all, and can be saved for the end of your workout.
10% Abdominal Isolation – The Home Stretch
With good nutrition and fat-burning compound exercises, you will start to look and feel better. Fast forward 16 weeks, and you should notice a significant difference in your midsection.
Now you can focus on isolation exercises for your abs (sit-ups, jack-knives crunches and more) will make your now visible Abs more muscular and defined than if you were to do them without changing to your diet and workout.
With little subcutaneous fat hiding them from view, this is when focused training of your Abs has more impact on their tone. Like any other muscle in your body, the more they are trained, the more defined your Abs become.
More good news: you don’t have to dedicate an entire workout to your Abs exercises!
These exercises are simple and do not consume much time or energy. A lot of bodybuilders only spend an extra 10 to 15 minutes on them at the end of their workout after they’ve finished their compound exercises, as “remedial” time to do isolation work like sit-ups.
The TL;DR is:
Abdominal exercises are good at any point, and have their place. However, when it comes to visibility of six-packs they are not as important as well-informed nutrition and workout regimens. They add onto the hard work you’ve already done by making what is already good and now at last visible, even better.
You CAN do it, you just need the right guidance to get there!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a nice six-pack to impress yourself, your partner or the crowd at the next pool party. Don’t be shy to dream! An impressive six-pack is one of the most universally desired bodily features, especially for men.
Our FENIX expert coaches use proven evidence-based, scientific techniques to guide you through your awesome Abs transformation process safely and sustainably.
If you’re ready to start your Abs transformation book a FENIX free consultation with free Fit3D body composition scan worth $99 now!
This article was contributed by Nick Langton, winner of Manhunt Singapore 2018 and Best Model Singapore (Male) in the same year while studying Engineering at NUS. Having bagged both titles, this fitness enthusiast knows what it takes to achieve washboard abs.
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