Six-pack abs are won both inside and outside the gym. Training is a must, but more importantly, what you do in the kitchen is going to make or break you. Breaking it down into simpler terms, the ONLY way to achieve a six-pack is to reduce your total amount of body fat by expending more calories than are consumed. In order to see your abs at all, you need under 10% body fat. To see them with great detail, you need to get your body fat down to 7% or under. That means, first and foremost, healthy eating and proper training.
The main point I’m trying to get across is that you can develop quite the incredible core by performing tough workouts including gut-wrenching ab routines, but that six-pack is going to remain hidden under a pile of fat unless you shred yourself up to reveal those hard-earned striations. It takes hard work in the gym, but even more discipline outside of the gym when you are taking in your macro-nutrients for the day.
It is unfortunate to think that companies are constantly coming out with all these infomercials and gimmicks that purposefully deceive viewers. With items such as the “ab-roller” and the machine that sends electromagnetic pulses through wires to “stimulate your abdominals”, misconceptions, like six-pack abs can appear overnight, run rampant. These machines and the advertisements that market them are falsities. Don’t fall victim to these gimmicks (that’s all they are) and do realize that abs do not appear instantly. It takes hard work. Once you understand this concept and reality, then half your battle is over. You’re not going to develop abs while watching television. You’re not going to fall asleep with a gut and wake up with a chiseled midsection. You’ve got to train your abs hard to develop a strong core that will contain ripples in the muscles. Then and only then will a defined set of abs emerge.
Here are very simple yet essential steps to follow for a shredded six-pack:
Step #1: “You Are What You Eat”
Here is something you should live by: “abs are made in the kitchen.” Learn it, live it, love it. You need to start thinking healthy all of the time. There are many approaches to eating healthy but a main focus is on the frequent consumption of small meals along with plenty of cold water (not soda, not juice) throughout the day. Eating more frequent meals speeds up your metabolism to extraordinary levels, which directly correlates to more calories being burned and less fat covering your abs. Eating 2-3 heavy meals a day will attribute to fat storage as when you wait past 4 hours to eat, your body cannibalizes itself, breaking down its muscle to feed itself. Then, it notes to itself that you starved for that long, so it’s going to store any fat it has to provide energy for the day.
Typically many people stuff their faces at dinner time because they’ve waited so long to eat since their last meal. You end up consuming a ton of calories per meal (more so than you need), and the excess calories get stored as fat. So we can see how the buildup occurs. You eat breakfast and store fat because your body is trained to store it for energy because you won’t be fed for 6 hours. Even if you burned 90% of those calories throughout that time, you still have a net gain of bodyfat of 10% of those calories you consumed at breakfast. This occurs with each and every meal, where there is a buildup of bodyfat little by little and happens while your muscles break down.
However, this will not occur if and when you spread your meals out throughout the day into smaller meals. First and foremost, when consuming 6-7 frequent meals in a day, you actually consume less total calories throughout the day than if you ate 3 large meals. Why is this so? In the beginning stages, you don’t develop the hunger so you don’t overeat. You eat just enough. How does this contribute to fat burning? When eating every 2 hours, your body knows that food is coming readily so it says to itself: “I can burn this energy now and use it as readily available energy because I will be fed soon”. Your body has no purpose to store on fat, because it is provided with the fuel it needs to function. It doesn’t require conservation, because it has no apparent threat of starvation. It provides reason to use the food as energy and trains your body not to store any body fat, while holding onto your muscle mass, which is inherently going to burn up more and more calories for sustainability.
Did you know that eating breakfast within 30 minutes after you wakeup in the morning can actually speed up your metabolism by 20-30%?
Proper timing when to consume certain nutrients is vital to your abdomen. How your body looks can be directly attributed to how you eat. Hence, the phrase: “you are what you eat”. This phrase could not be any more true. I suggest to you that 80% of the way you look comes from what you eat and not how you train. You can train for hours and hours a day, even more so than an Olympian, but if you don’t feed your body the proper amount of nutrients at the right times of the day, then you are going to look like you’ve never lifted a weight in your life. Proper nutrition throughout the day is a must where you consume healthy and natural foods like lean meats, eggs, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Start out with a large breakfast and then consume something every two hours. Do not gorge or reach for something like pizza or a cheese steak sandwich, have a healthy dish like grilled chicken on whole wheat bread with mustard instead. Get the point? You need to decrease your carbohydrate intake gradually throughout the day until you are consuming practically zero carbs for your last couple of meals in the day. Breakfast should contain the most amount of carbohydrates and each successive meal should contain less and less.
When and what to eat
Proper nutrition before and after your workout is necessary as well. Consume whey protein 30 minutes before your lifting workout with a handful of some fruit like apricots. 30 minutes after your workout, consume fast-digesting carbs and more whey protein. This will keep you lean and refuel your muscles with glycogen so they can repair properly and come back stronger, bigger and leaner. An hour your post workout food, consume a full healthy meal with lots of protein, low glycemic-index carbohydrates, healthy fats and key nutrients. Make sure to follow the same nutrition rules when strictly performing cardiovascular exercise except your post-workout meal should not contain carbs. By just consuming whey protein after cardio, you will halt muscle breakdown, however, the fat burning process will continue at full-throttle.
Also, water is essential for muscle growth and fat burning. You need to make sure you are hydrated throughout the day. Remember that water does not mean juice or soda. Even the diet sodas and other drinks are bad for you and will increase body fat. Sweeteners from diet drink signal to your body that sugar is coming so your body acts accordingly. Drink regular chilled unflavored bottled water. The body approximately consists of 75% water and always needs water to transport nutrients for proper muscle growth and body function.
Furthermore, remember to incorporate some cheating every so often. Every 5-6 days, you should double your carb intake throughout the day. Eat the same kinds of foods, just eat more of them. So eat twice the amount of oatmeal you ordinarily eat in the morning and so forth. When you eat low carb throughout the week, your body uses up all of its glycogen and resorts to fat burning. However, if you remain in this low-carb state for too long, your body will adapt and resort to the fat and protein you eat for energy opposed to the fat on your love handles. However, when you switch it up and provide your body with a lot of macronutrients like carbs, your body senses that it is out of the low-carb diet stage and begins to rev up its metabolism again in an attempt to burn off more fat. Also, every 20 meals you have (so if you have 7 meals a day, then every 3-4 days) incorporate a cheat meal, where you can eat anything you want. This is going to increase your morale and provide you with incentive to get through the week since you have something to look forward to. The only rule is the food can’t be fried and it can’t be a liquid drink like soda. Liquids are easily digestible and require minimal effort from your body to break down the nutrients. Implement this rule properly and it will work to your advantage. You want to train your body to be a machine that burns fat and builds muscle like clockwork.
Step #2: Weightlifting is a Must!
Any time you spend in the gym must be done with the utmost intensity if you want to develop the physique you’ve always dreamed of. Be motivated every single day to most effectively and efficiently make use of your time at the gym. The main focus of your workout should be on the incorporation of compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, power cleans, hang cleans, clean and jerks, dumbbell lunges, bench presses, etc. Those that require multiple muscle groups will activate your entire body and torch body fat. You burn a tremendous amount of calories stabilizing both yourself and the weight.
free weights over machines, standing over sitting
Your core is activated at all times when you do compound movements. Bodybuilders rarely train their abs during the offseason, mainly because they have been worked so hard during these compound exercises that there is no immediate need to bring out any more detail than what they have already developed.
Anytime there is an option between an exercise with a machine or free weights, choose the free weights. Free weights activate your stabilizer muscles , including your core, and increase the amount of calories expended throughout an exercise. Also, choose to stand rather than sit while performing an exercise. Instead of doing seated dumbbell curls, perform standing dumbbell curls. You burn tremendous amounts more of calories stabilizing yourself when standing upright than when seated. Think about it- when you stand your body is supporting your own weight plus the weights you are holding, whereas when you sit the bench is providing stability for you and the weights you are using.
Think critically when you are working out and really analyze the situation presented before you. Think to yourself: “Which exercises are going to provide the most benefit in terms of stimulation to my muscles and which are going to burn the most calories?”. Moreover, do not shy away from heavy weights. Deviate from the high rep ripped theory. It is a falsity and common misconception. Lifting heavy weights is going to activate more muscles and going to burn more calories than you can imagine. Far after the exercise is over, when you lift heavy weights, your body’s elevated metabolic rate will force your body to continue to burn calories and fat. The lower the intensity, the less calories you will burn when the workout is over. Keep that in mind. You should be incorporating heavy weights and moderate weights throughout your entire workout. Furthermore, remember to add intensity sets like drop sets, strip sets, supersets, burnouts, forced reps, and such to elevate your muscle building and fat burning efforts.
Step #3: Abs Are a Muscle
Focus on resistance abdominal training a few days a week. In other words, you need to train intensely with heavy weight and resistance against your abs. Training your abs with heavy weight will enable your abs to grow and press up against your skin. Doing hundreds of sit-ups or crunches does not equate to heavy resistance and will ultimately be ineffective. Whether you like to believe it or not, your abs respond effectively better to heavier weights and lower reps than higher reps. So instead of doing your 100 sit-up routine (which if done properly with a slow and controlled motion while squeezing the muscle and holding the contraction at the top, even Jack LaLanne in his prime couldn’t do), make sure you implement a program that requires intense stimulation with weights. If done properly, you should only be able to do a few reps per exercise because of the intense burn you should feel. Try to shoot for circuit sets of slow reps, making sure to always contract and squeeze your abs throughout the session. To ensure adequate training (not too little and overdoing it), you should train abs 2-3 times a week intensely. The abs are a set of muscles that recovers quickly, but you don’t want to overdo it. Don’t train them for too long or every day. You don’t want to train abs while they are still recovering. You wouldn’t train your chest that way, so why train your abs that way? Anything more than a few days a week will run you into the risk of over training, which will hinder precious muscle growth.
Step #4: Don’t Neglect the Cardio
You must do cardiovascular training. It is a necessary part of the whole equation. Regardless of what you think weightlifting is not enough. Nothing beats an intense cardiovascular training session in terms of burning calories. Make sure you perform cardio 3-4 times a week, but only in 20 minute intense sessions. If you are training hard with weights, that should be a cardio session in itself (not doing a set, waiting 3 minutes, doing another set, but performing 40 gut-wrenching sets containing heavy weight in under an hour). So when you focus on pure cardio it should be of high intensity interval training sessions. Perform sprints combined with jogs to recover. For instance, sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then jog for 45 seconds, then sprint again and so forth. You can also do about 80% of your max sprint for a minute, and then 40% of your max in the form for the rest of a run. The possibilities are endless as long as they are intense and diverse. It is suggested that cardio sessions be completed in the morning or directly after your workout. These are the times when glycogen levels are low, so your body will burn fat rather than use the energy from the food you consumed. Also, if you have proper protein intake throughout the day you will maintain your muscle mass. If you perform cardio in the morning, make sure to have whey protein directly after to halt muscle breakdown and to continue the fat burning process, then have a full meal an hour later. If you perform cardio directly after weightlifting, make sure you have whey protein with carbs directly after (disregarding the aforementioned cardio only rule where you just consume protein).
Step #5: Put in Some Extra Effort
Move around a lot. Doing little tasks around the day where you are constantly active is going to help you burn off that extra fat. Doing things like the laundry, cleaning around the house, and making the bed requires extra effort that will burn a tremendous amount of calories throughout the day and will cut into your fat cells like you wouldn’t believe. Constantly fidgeting and moving burns up a tremendous amount of fat and will get your abs glimmering in no time.
Step #6: Implement Proper Supplementation
You need to incorporate proper supplementation. Besides whey protein, get a multivitamin. This is going to help convert your food into energy and will help with the daily metabolic functions of life. Also, look to incorporate Citrimax plus Chromium Picolinate. This supplement does wonders before ingesting a large meal with lots of carbohydrates. If you are going to take this, make sure you only take the recommended serving and don’t take it with every meal.
Step #7: Stay Motivated
Best of luck on your endeavors to getting a ripped body. Stay motivated and keep your eye on the prize. It may not come overnight, but great things take time to develop. Stay focused and stay on track, because one day your abs will appear. When I was younger, I always used to justify to myself that abs were just not a part of my genetics and that they were too hard to develop (they were for skinny kids). However, with a great deal of work applied to the goal, I can now say I have developed a nice set of abs that others do envy. Soon, others will recognize your achievements and it will really grab their attention and by extension, provide you with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Follow and take these steps very seriously and you will see results in your midsection.