How to Reveal Your Abdominals
A simple guide to developing great six pack abs
Many people regularly bust their guts doing sit-ups and crunches with one goal in mind: a washboard 6 pack stomach. Unfortunately, the washboard abs look has more to do with the absence of belly fat than with well-developed stomach muscles - don't waste your time attempting to trim the inches from your waist by simply crunching them away. Instead, use these simple tips to strip away the fat and reveal your six pack:
For your abs to be visible, you have to start by getting rid of the fat. This is done simply by burning more calories than you take in. If you cut your calorie intake by 250-500 calories per day, this should promote a gradual fat loss of around 1-2lbs per week, and you will be on your way to the ultimate 6 pack in no time.
Many people fail to realise the importance of protein when trying to get lean and develop great abs. To get the lean, defined look, your muscles need between 0.8 - 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. So, a 70kg man should aim for 56 - 140 grams of protein per day. Protein feeds your muscles the essential fuel they need to help recover after a tough workout in the gym. Find it hard to eat all that protein?
Although too much fat isn't healthy, some fat in your diet is essential to developing those great abs. High-fat, cold-water fish such as salmon or mackerel are rich in the long-chain Omega 3 fats which are essential to good health. Foods like avocados, nuts and olive oil contain primarily monounsaturated fat, which is another type of 'good' fat, and should be eaten on a regular basis.
Once your protein and fat intake is taken care of, the next step is to adjust carbohydrate intake. Cut back on high sugar foods such as cakes, confectionary bars, and sugary drinks and replace them with more fruits, vegetables and fibre-rich foods. This will help you strip away fat faster, and allow you to start to develop the 6pack abs you are after.
Eat little and often
Grazing (eating little and often) rather than gorging (eating 2-3 big meals) throughout the day takes the edge off hunger so you eat less at meals and help shed the belly. One popular approach is to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and for convenience protein supplements are ideal as a mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon snack.
When you cut back on your calorie intake, there's a risk that you'll lose the ab muscle as well as fat. That's why it's vital to do some form of resistance training 2-3 days per week. Resistance training will help you keep the muscle that you've worked so hard to build. Stick to heavy compound lifts such as the deadlift, squat, bench press and shoulder press. Try to get in and out of the gym within 60 minutes, and follow your workout with a protein-rich food or supplement. This will allow you to quickly and effectively develop your 6 pack abs and begin to get the toned look you are after.
Cardio is the traditional and best 'fat burning' exercise, but it's important to do it correctly to promote fat burning while preserving muscle. Perform one of these workouts 2-4 times per week. Low intensity cardio (such as jogging or cycling) should be performed at 70-75% of your maximum heart rate for 30-60 minutes. If you're very fit, you may want to try high intensity interval training (HIIT), such as 10 x 100m sprints separated by 2 minutes of brisk walking. HIIT increases calorie expenditure after exercise and is also a great way to boost your cardiovascular fitness. Make sure to sandwich your HIIT workouts between a 5-10 minute warm up and cool down session.
As well as stripping away the fat, you also need to build the abdominal muscles to get the 6 pack definition. The best way to do this is to train your abs 2-3 times per week, using basic crunches, planks, reverse curls and oblique crunches. Do 2-3 sets per exercise, 8-15 repetitions per set (using extra resistance where necessary to make the load challenging).