The Truth About Your Abs

When it comes to aesthetics, the six pack is the Bentley of our physiques. No one really needs it, but, honestly, who doesn’t want a six pack? Despite this desire, it’s a rare site. But here’s how you can join that exclusive group.

One of the most troubling issues I see daily as a personal trainer is the lack of success of people around me. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way. For the most part, I see hard-working people chasing their goals. It’s a lack of knowledge, rather than effort.

First, understand that having muscle isn’t the whole story if the goal is to look good naked. You must be lean enough to see the muscle definition. For more visible abs, it’s simple – lose body fat. Where the fat exists is different for each individual and will vary based on genetics and fat distribution. Males are more prone to store fat around the midsection, while females tend to store fat around their hips. This generalization will not be true for some.

One of the biggest myths to date is the concept of spot reducing fat. I hear it all the time – “I don’t want to lose weight, just tone up my abs.”

The truth is, when an individual begins to lose body fat, they will not be able to control where it comes off. This means that spending 30 minutes on crunches does very little besides inefficiently burning calories.

You’re not “toning” anything. You’re not losing abdominal fat. You certainly aren’t stimulating muscle growth.

If someone wants more muscle in their legs, they don’t perform 100 repetition leg extensions. They squat heavy weights. Why would your abs be any different?

Ultimately, obtaining the Holy Grail six pack is a product of low body fat percentage. This means controlling your diet and monitoring caloric input and output.

What’s the best way to train your abs? It’s not a magical formula. Pick a couple exercises and do them two or three times a week at 8-15 repetitions per set. Always strive to use progressively more resistance. It’s no different than other resistance training.

Don’t worry about getting “bulky” abs. This area isn’t capable of the type of growth seen in larger muscles. Training this way will give them that “pop” when low levels of body fat are reached.

So skip the ab class and invest your time more wisely. Proper resistance training is the way to go. More muscle leads to an increase in metabolic rate. This means you burn more calories sitting on your ass (literally) than you would without it.

Combine this with high-intensity cardio work for efficient caloric expenditure. Last, remember to keep a close eye on your diet, and your six pack will inch closer each day.

Don’t be coaxed into “six-pack in 15 minutes or less” infomercials that promise stunning results with little time and effort. The secret is there is no secret – just hard work and discipline.

Notes: for a video discussion check out Joe DeFranco