Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A hard lesson about six-pack abs

As a personal trainer, I get this question a lot. A whole lot! It's the number one question, next to I need to lose 10 pounds. The reality of six-pack abs is, it's not possible for many of us. It ain't easy! Is it possible? Yes. The question is, are you willing to do the hard work.

If you think you can do 300 crunches a day and enjoy flat abs and a super hot six-pack, sorry to tell you the truth of the matter. It ain't happening! Ab exercises are not the number one thing you need for flat abs. It requires hard work, commitment, dedication, and something you may not have any control over: genetics.

Abdominal muscles consist of three layers. The very deepest layer is the transverse abdominal, which acts as the body's girdle, providing support and stability and plays a critical role in exhalation. Next is the rectus abdominal, which flexes the spine. Closest to the surface are the internals and external obliques which turn the trunk and provide the body with rotation and lateral movement. ALL of these muscles must be incorporated into an effective ab training program.

First, you have to drop your body fat, which will decrease the layer of fat around your abdominal. To do this you must:

1) Do regular cardio exercise. This includes, walking, jogging, biking, dancing, swimming or any other cardio activity, just make sure you are consistently doing it.

2) Strength training the ENTIRE body. Don't just focus on working the abs. Treat the abs like any other muscle. You wouldn't do 50 dumbbell curls, would you, so why do 50 crunches??

3) Have a healthy, low-calorie diet. This includes eliminating breads, pasta and high-sugar foods. Eat whole foods and stay away from processed food.

You must get all three of these, especially your diet, right on a consistent basis in order to get even close to flat abs. Now listen to this, because I'm about to burst some people's bubble: even after doing all the above and you still don't have flat abs, don't be surprised. Many of us will never see the six-pack abs because:

*The body fat level required to get flat abs is lower than you can sustain with your current lifestyle/schedule

*The body fat level required is lower than healthy for your body to function.

This is why fitness athletes sometimes follow very strict diets for only a "limited" amount of time. They CANNOT sustain the lower body fat and be considered healthy. The body fat is drastically too low, and for women, can even interrupt menstrual cycles. Many times when you see a model on the cover of a magazine with six packs glistening, it's a result of some extreme elements like dehydration, carb-depleting, or cutting weight like pro wrestlers and boxers do.

The goal to get flat abs may:

*Require more exercise than your schedule will allow and more than you can mentally handle.

*Require more attention to your diet than you're willing/able to expend.

*Require more strict adherence to diet and exercise than you have time or energy to spare.

*May not be in your genetic cards.

So do you give up? Don't give up on exercising and living a healthier life, but maybe giving up on the ideal six-pack abs is exactly what you need to make your life better. Ask yourself these questions.

Do I really want flat abs?  Am I willing to work as hard as I need to get them?

If I will work that hard, am I willing to accept that it still may not happen, even if I do everything right?

If I did get six-pack abs, what will that change in my life?

What will flat abs actually do for me?  What would happen if I let go of this ideal and focused on other goals?
For me, I have tried to achieve six-pack abs with the hundreds of crunches myth. Now that I am a lot smarter about it, I want to ATTEMPT to get them the correct way. I am open to the belief that I may not achieve them, but I will NEVER SAY NEVER. Not until I have given it all I've got.

Here are my abs right now. I have a long, long way to go!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for breaking down the whole "six pack" thing. Makes perfect sense.