- Six-pack abs are even harder to achieve than you think
- The Truth About Six-Pack Abs
- What It Really Takes To Get Rid Of Your Gut
- Ab Training: 6 Reasons Your Abs Aren’t Showing
- BodyFit Plus
- What comes with BodyFit Plus?
- My Six Pack Journey — How I went from Fat to Ripped in 6 months
- Understanding Your Body
- What I did
- Is It Harder for Women to Get Six-Pack Abs?
- Generally, is it harder for women to get six-pack abs in comparison to men?
- What are some common myths around getting a six-pack?
- What are the most effective ab exercises for a strong core?
- Why So Few People Can Get A Six-Pack
- The Required Elements for a Set of Six-Pack Abs
- Free Guide: Skip Breakfast, Get a Six Pack
- People Are Lazy
- Broken Focus
- No Goals
- No Programming
- No Tracking
- Too Much Rigidity
- Too Soon, Not Enough Muscle Mass
- About the Author
- Bell C, et al. “High Energy Flux Mediates the Tonically Augmented Beta-adrenergic Support of Resting Metabolic Rate in Habitually Exercising Older Adults.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinol Metabolism 89 (2004): 3573-3578. Print.
- Buccholz, AC, and DA Schoeller. “Is a Calorie a Calorie?” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79 (2004): 8999-9069. Print.
- Bullough RC, et al. “Interaction of Acute Changes in Exercise Energy Expenditure and Energy Intake on Resting Metabolic Rate.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61 (1995):473-481. Print.
- Gotan MI, et al. “Effects of Increased Energy Intake and/or Physical Activity on Energy Expenditure in Young Healthy Men.” Journal of Applied Physiology 77 (1994): 366-372. Print.
- Helms, Eric R, Alan A Aragon, and Peter J Fitschen. “Evidence-based Recommendations for Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation: Nutrition and Supplementation.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2014): 11-20. Print.
- Johannsen, Darcy L., Nicolas D. Knuth, Robert Huizenga, Jennifer C. Rood, Eric Ravussin, and Kevin D. Hall. “Metabolic Slowing with Massive Weight Loss despite Preservation of Fat-Free Mass.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 97.7 (2012): 2489-496. Print.
- Stiegler P and A Cunliffe. “The Role of Diet and Exercise for the Maintenance of Fat-Free Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate During Weight Loss.” Sports Medicine 36 (2006): 239-262. Print.
- Stob NR, et al. “Thermic Effect of Food and Beta-adrenergic Thermogenic Responsiveness in Habitually Exercising and Sedentary Healthy Adult Humans.” Journal of Applied Physiology 103 (2007): 616-622. Print.
- Is It Harder For Women To Get Abs Than Men?
- How Long Does It Take to Get Abs?
- How Long Does it Take to Get Abs for an Average Joe?
- Why Is It So Hard to Get Abs?
- How Much Weight Do You Need to Lose for Visible Abs?
- How Fast Should You Lose Weight?
- So How Long Does it Take to Get Abs?
- What Workouts Can Help You to Get Abs?
Six-pack abs are even harder to achieve than you think
The internet is a bottomless pit of pictures that can instil body envy in even the most confident person. But as one Instagram influencer is eager to point out, getting that enviable body can be a long and arduous journey.
WATCH BELOW: The latest fitness trend: beer and yoga
1:55 The latest fitness trend: beer and yoga The latest fitness trend: beer and yoga
Cassandra Olholm, an Australian influencer, trainer and nutritionist recently posted a before and after shot of her abs, showing a flat but undefined belly in one shot and a super defined six-pack in the other. The kicker: she said it took her five years to get the six-pack.
The former competitive runner started doing CrossFit five years ago, which is when she began to hone her strength and build her remarkable core. But, she says, while it can be achieved with a lot of resolve and determination, the problem is that most people think they can sculpt abs in two weeks thus setting unrealistic goals for themselves.
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“The hard truth is that it will take time, it will take energy, sweat, tears and maybe even a little blood,” she wrote.
How to get six-pack abs
The primary obstacle to unveiling abdominal definition is, unsurprisingly, fat.
READ MORE: How to get abs without doing traditional ab exercises
“If you have fat covering your abs, you’re not going to see a six-pack, and as a result, it’s a not a realistic goal for most people,” says Kathleen Trotter, personal trainer and author of Finding Your Fit. “There are so many factors that make it hard to get a six-pack.”
For a visible, defined six-pack, men need to whittle down to six to nine per cent body fat, while women need to be in the 16 to 19 per cent range. (This is considerably lower than the recommended 15 to 20 per cent and 20 to 25 per cent, respectively.)
What’s worse, the older you are, the harder it is to achieve — and that’s even harder if you’re a woman. Trotter says women naturally hold on to more fat because it’s needed for reproduction. Once you add in the fact that women have more catabolic hormones, which break down lean tissue, and tend to experience sleep disturbance and elevated stress levels in menopause, it makes having a six-pack all but an unattainable dream.
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But it may not even be a necessary one, Trotter says.
“A six-pack is an aesthetic goal, not a health one. You can have a strong core, which will help you with balance and posture, and stave off injury, without seeing a six-pack.”
It’s not that women or men of a certain age can’t achieve it (young men have an exponentially easier time of getting a six-pack), but it takes a lot of commitment and hard work.
READ MORE: Can you target ‘problem areas’ with your workout?
It starts with nutrition. Trotter says you need to limit sugar consumption as much as possible, eat lots of lean protein and fibre, limit alcohol and processed foods, and drink lots of water. In terms of exercise, she says to focus on strength and interval training that works the large muscle groups by doing exercises like deadlifts, lunges and pullups. Finally, you need to focus on decreasing stress while increasing your amount of sleep, since stress triggers the cortisol hormone which affects where you hold your weight.
“It’s almost impossible to say how long it will take to see results because it’s based on so many variables,” she says. “A fit 18-year-old boy could see results in as little as two weeks, but a who is stressed, doesn’t sleep and is 40 pounds overweight is going to take much longer — a year or even more.”
That’s not to say it’s unattainable; it’s just really hard. Even Olholm, who is 27 and a fitness professional, admits it’s a tough goal to achieve.
“To be brutally honest it comes down to the combination of two things — hard work and consistency,” she wrote. “It’s not easy.”
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The Truth About Six-Pack Abs
What It Really Takes To Get Rid Of Your Gut
March 8, 2012 Share Tweet Flip 0 Shares
I am amazed that naturally skinny people even exist. Think about it. For most of human history, we’ve lived on the edge of starvation. The only plentiful thing was famine, especially in the winter. Our Stone Age ancestors spent all summer hunting and gathering everything they could shovel into their root and berry holes in an attempt to add enough body fat to survive the coming lean times.
Natural selection favored those who could easily gain and store fat, and wouldn’t lose it quickly. People without these genetic tendencies got Darwined long ago. If you’re alive today, it’s because your long lost ancestors were able to store fat for the times when there was nothing to eat and the body had to eat itself to survive.
Hopefully that gives you some context about living in an era in which we complain if the drive-through window is closed. We’re inundated with rapid fat-loss scams. How many times have you seen an ad or article proclaim “Lose (insert ridiculously high number) pounds of fat in only (insert stupidly short number) of days.” And those “amazing” before and after photos? Yeah, check this video out.
The more fat you lose, the slower your metabolism gets
I’m not saying impressive physical transformations aren’t possible — they are. I know because I’ve done it. But they are neither quick nor easy. The fact is, if you’re carrying around extra poundage, it’s because you’re genetically programmed to. When you try to lose it, your body will fight you. Your body still thinks it’s the Stone Age. Your body doesn’t know there is a grocery store just down the road. The more fat you lose, the slower your metabolism gets. What’s more, if you’re upping activity levels to achieve fat loss goals, know that this makes your body more efficient. Yes, you burn lots of calories while active, but while at rest it begins to burn fewer calories. There is also the fact as your body becomes lighter you simply have less to carry around with you on everyday tasks, which will also burn fewer calories.
For me, in that “before” picture, I weighed 200. I lost about 50 pounds of fat and gained around 20 pounds of muscle, so my current weight is 170. Even for mundane things like climbing stairs or walking or doing housework, it’s like I un-shouldered a 30-pound pack of lard. It makes moving around a lot easier, and because it’s easier, it burns fewer calories. And that extra 20 pounds of muscles isn’t boosting my metabolism much. That’s a myth.
Fat Loss Slows Down When You’re About To See Abs
Add to this the fact that when fat stores get low, your body begins to hate you. This study shows that the less body fat you have, the less it will burn. When you begin to get lean enough that you can almost see your abs, fat loss slows to a crawl. That period of time between a “hint of abdominal definition” and “hey, I can see my abs” is maddeningly long. If you’re 20 pounds away from six-pack abs, the first 10 won’t be that hard to lose. The next five will suck. The final five will make you want to climb a high tower with a sniper rifle.
Let’s get one thing straight: For the vast majority of people, the journey to six-pack abs is long and tortuous. Hell, as you can see from the photo on my website, I got to the “four-pack” stage and decided that was good enough. Mind you, I’m in my 40s; most guys in my age group are working toward their first heart attack.
The Truth About Six-Pack Abs
There is no quick, and there is no easy. This is a hard slog of lots of intense exercise and dietary deprivation. Junk food and booze need to be dramatically cut, and you may develop something akin to an obsessive-compulsive disorder about caloric balance. And then, finally, when you achieve your desired abdominal definition, you must sustain the lifestyle that got you there in order to sustain the abs.
So why would you want to do this? Sometimes I ask myself that question. I don’t think you’ll get laid more. Hell, it actually removes some padding down there and may result in complaints. Unless you live near a beach, it’s not like there are lots of opportunities to show them off. And you want to know something? Showing them off gets old fast. At first you may notice admiring glances here and there, but then you stop noticing them. My wife never says anything about my abs anymore. They’re just kind of there.
So why do I strive to sustain mine? One reason: I like the way they look. Me. I get a kick out of seeing them in the mirror. Yeah, I know that’s stupid and shallow, but it’s what pushes me. If you decide that you’re willing to do what it takes to attain and sustain abdominal definition, then you need to find your why. And, most important, you must be patient. They will come eventually.
Ab Training: 6 Reasons Your Abs Aren’t Showing
Ancient Greeks and Romans viewed visible abs as a symbol of health, strength, and physical fitness. Statues of Zeus, Poseidon, and Heracles are complete with perfect six-packs—a nod to the immortal perfection and strength of the gods.
In today’s Internet culture, having a great torso may not be supernatural, but it still evokes the same symbol of prestige. Who didn’t run immediately to the gym after watching the movie “300?” I know I did.
As awesome as having a six-pack is, building one is not easy. If you’ve been crunching away after every workout and are still not seeing results, you’re probably committing one or more of these mistakes. Here are six reasons you’re not seeing etched abdominals, and what to do about them!
1. You Have Too Much Body Fat Covering Your Abdominal Wall
Strong abs aren’t the most important component of a visible six-pack; low body fat is. If you have too much subcutaneous body fat covering your abdominal area, then no matter how many hours of crunches or leg raises you do, you won’t be able to see your six-pack.
The most effective action toward achieving those ripped abs is to clean up your diet. When it comes to your abs, training can only get you so far. You need a smart meal plan to lower your body fat percentage and uncover your abs; otherwise, all your hard work in the gym will count for naught. So put down that Taco Bell quesadilla and make a healthier choice. Try some of our tasty, healthy recipes!
You need a smart meal plan to lower your body fat and uncover your abs.
2. Your Abdominal Exercises Aren’t Diverse
Most people see abs as the little hard boxes in the middle of their torso, but the muscle system is actually far more complex. Your abdominal wall is built of the rectus abdominus (the six-pack), internal and external obliques that run along the sides of your rectus abdominus, and the transverse abdominus which lies beneath the internal oblique. I also like to include the serratus anterior because, if you can see the muscles on the top of your rib cage, you look like a bodybuilder.
These muscles help the torso flex, extend, and rotate. Most importantly, the muscles also help the torso stay stable against flexion, extension, and rotation. If you only train them to flex by doing endless crunches, you won’t activate each of the muscles in ways in which they can grow. Like any other muscle in the body, the abdominals need to be trained from various angles and dimensions so they can really pop!
To better address your midsection, vary your exercises so you work each of the ways your abdominal wall functions. Try planks, suitcase deadlifts, and dead bugs.
Here’s an example of an ab workout comprising diverse exercises:
Ab Workout Example Note: Rest for 90 seconds between sets. 1 3 sets, 30-60 sec (If you can complete all 3 sets for 60 seconds, add a plate onto your back)+ 4 more exercises
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3. You Aren’t Training Heavy Enough
Lately, there has been this weird hype that your abs need to be trained with a ridiculously high amounts of reps. Some people go crazy and do more than 500 reps in a workout. If you are training your abs for a high-endurance, abdominal-specific sport, then rep away. To get your abs to grow, however, you need to stimulate them just like any other muscle group in your body. Would you perform 500 reps of biceps curls in one workout for maximum growth? Probably not.
Start training your abs with some weight so they can develop like your other muscle groups, and vary the rep ranges each time you train them. For instance, in one workout, perform all bodyweight exercises with a rep range of 15-30; during your next abdominal training day, lower the rep range to 8-12 and use a heavier resistance by adding a plate to your floor-based moves or knocking out some cable crunches. Increase the difficulty as you progress.
4. You Try To Crunch Away The Fat
Let me be clear: You cannot lose body fat in specific areas of your body by training that body part more often. If someone ever tells you that you’ll lose your gut by performing abdominal exercises, slap that person in the face and then explain to him or her that it’s impossible to control where body fat comes off your body. The only way to strip the fat from your abs is by slowly and gradually burning it off from your entire body through cardio, nutrition, and resistance training.
Unfortunately, abdominal fat is usually the last bit to come off and the first to come back. The tenacity with which abdominal fat wants to cling to your belly can make dieting and exercise discouraging. The key is consistency. It may take months or even years to uncover your abs, but if you stick to being smart in the kitchen, you’ll eventually see results.
The only way to strip the fat from your abs is by slowly and gradually burning it off from your entire body through cardio, nutrition, and resistance training.
5. You Train Your Abs Every Day
This is a touchy subject because many fitness and physique athletes do train their abs every day at the end of their workouts. However, they’ve been building their abs for years, and what works for fitness professionals may not always be the best approach for you.
Because you actually activate your abs doing many other exercises like squats, deadlifts, military presses, etc., it’s best to give your core a break during the week. Even though you might not be directly training your abs, they still get stimulation during your compound lifts.
For best results, do direct abdominal training 2-3 times per week. As your abs evolve and get stronger, you can shorten the duration of your abs workout and include them in your workouts every other day.
6. You Frequently Change Your Diet
Many, many people go through crash diets and pre-contest nutrition plans in order for their abs to show. However, once they’re done with their contest season or diet, they start eating junk food, stop performing cardio, and say goodbye to their six-packs. Say goodbye to crash diets, “dirty bulking,” and nutritional inconsistency instead.
Like I said before, consistency is the most important piece of the six-pack puzzle. You need to make fitness a lifestyle. If you consistently eat clean and stay intense in the gym, you’ll have abs for much longer than a few weeks. Being lean year-round means you can snap all the selfies you want—even if it’s not contest season!
My Six Pack Journey — How I went from Fat to Ripped in 6 months
Shreyans ShethFollow Jun 15, 2018 · 25 min read
Officially featured in GQIndia, Top 5 most upvoted on r/progresspics on May 12, 2018 — 4 months progress
It was December 2017, I was fresh out of college and didn’t exactly look my best. I had been a chubby kid all my life but never quite got down to understanding why. My eating habits were like everyone else’s around me, I had a normal life and was busy studying books and working on computers to ‘get ahead’ in life.
While I’d done fairly well for myself, I ended up sacrificing several aspects of my life during my technical pursuits, especially fitness and healthy living. Being an aggressive and determined individual by nature, I decided to make a change which was long due. After 6 months of consistent:
- Clean Nutrition and Calorie Counting
- High Volume, Intense Lifting Routines
- Cardio and Callisthenics Circuits
- Ungodly amounts of YouTube videos, self doubt, sweat and tears
I brought about an incredible change in my life.
Standing at 5’8, I went from being fat and overweight at 87kg (190lbs) to being lean and ripped at 65kg (143lbs) with 10% bodyfat.
I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, record athletic measurements and no words can really describe the way I feel when I look at myself in the mirror — It’s beyond exhilarating.
Here are some after photos, clicked mostly in May and early June.
At the beach and before training Some post workout shots where I look swole! In regular attire
I’ve had several friends ask me what I did and what they could do to get fit so I decided to nail down everything in this detailed article. I’ve also tried to bust a lot of ‘six pack myths’ in the process by backing them up with scientific explanations and relevant links wherever possible. Whether you’re fat, skinny or somewhere in the middle, I’m sure you’ll manage to takeaway something after reading this!
Understanding Your Body
- Humans are typically said to be categorised into 3 broad body types.
- Ectomorph — That skinny, lanky friend of yours that can get away with eating anything and everything. They have a narrower frame and find it hard to gain fat as well as muscle thanks to their crazy metabolisms.
- Endomorph — Bulkier and broader frame, typically a roundish-pear shaped body. They find it very easy to gain fat, especially around the belly area and stay that way. Not too hard to build muscle. I classify myself as an endomorph.
- Mesomorph — Ah, the mythical mesomorph. They fall in between these 2 categories and ‘naturally’ have somewhat the ideal looking physique for their genders. Apparently, they lose fat easily, gain muscle easily and don’t really have to stress much about their foods either. In my opinion, perfect mesomorphs don’t really exist. Rather, they are built.
- The ‘skinny fat’ problem — A lot of individuals suffer from the ‘skinny fat’ fat syndrome. They look seemingly normal, don’t have much fat on their face, arms or elsewhere but have a noticeable tummy. This happens when you have relatively low amount of muscle mass and a high percentage of fat. If you’re skinny fat, you probably eat a lot of carbohydrates (broadly, just ‘not so healthy’ food), very little protein and maintain a sedentary lifestyle. The fix is to maintain a caloric deficit, keep a high protein intake and focus on a body recomposition, which is exactly what I did. I’ll be explaining and describing everything in detail through the course of this article.
- BMI vs Body Fat Percentage- Body Mass Index or BMI calculates your ideal weight in relation to your height. This isn’t a great way of determining whether someone is healthy because it completely ignores how much muscle an individual holds. A better alternative is determining your Body Fat Percentage -BFP and then take a cue from your BMI as to how healthy you are. Here’s a visual comparison of how different body fat percentages look like. You can get your BFP measured by a Bio-electrical Impedance Scale found at gyms or at a nutritionist’s clinic.
Like I mentioned earlier, I never quite knew why I looked a certain way. Body types are determined by your genetics and that’s something you can do very little about. Some people can eat bad foods all the time and get away with it, others can’t (college is the perfect time to observe this phenomenon). The only way I could deal with this was to embrace my features, understand my body tendencies and eat as well as train accordingly.
Losing fat, staying fit and keeping healthy are factors largely determined by what you eat. It’s about 70% of the equation. I’ve tried to cover every detail regarding my nutrition here.
- Caloric Deficit — To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit (eat less). Every individual has a Total Daily Expenditure Value which is basically the number of calories (energy) your body needs daily to maintain it’s current weight. You need to consume lesser calories than your TDEE to be in a caloric deficit so your body can ideally tap into that stored fat for the extra energy it needs. Aim to lose anywhere between 2 to 5kgs a month. Anything more than that and you’re most definitely losing precious muscle.
- Protein — The building block of muscle and that mystical term for most beginners. If you don’t consume enough protein while staying in a caloric deficit, you’re going to lose a lot of muscle mass along with that fat, drastically reducing your TDEE. More muscle means you can get away with eating more because muscles store glycogen which in turn give you energy. Also, more muscle makes you look more fab. Ever wondered why those people who go on a crash diet and lose a lot of weight gain it all back when they return to their old eating habits? Now you know!
- Body Recomposition — This essentially refers to losing body fat and building muscle at the same time. Now, conventional wisdom dictates that you cannot do both at the same time . This however, is not entirely true. You can lose fat and build muscle at the same time if you are in a positive nitrogen balance (I just take this to be sufficient protein intake) OR you’ve never trained with weights before. When you first start lifting, your body is not used to the amount of wear and tear (shock) resistance training causes to your muscles. Because of this, your body amps up it’s testosterone (muscle building hormone) production to make sure it can keep up, resulting in some awesome newbie gains. These are highly accelerated periods of muscle growth right after you start training. It’s often said that the muscle you gain during your first 1–2 years of training is more than all of the muscle you can pack on in subsequent years combined. Seeing these quick gains is great as it’s extremely satisfying and motivating as a newbie.
- Carbs and Glycemic Index (GI)— Short for the term ‘carbohydrates’, carbs are basically the fuel (again, energy) your body runs on. Bread, Roti, Rice, Sugar and even Vegetables are all forms of carbs. Most normal food we eat typically have some carbs in them. Now if you eat too many carbs, they get stored as fat. You want consume just enough carbs to get by and simultaneously assist your muscle tissues to grow through food. The solution is to eat ‘good carbs’ or low Glycemic Index foods (veggies, brown rice, oats, quinoa). The Glycemic Index(GI) is a scale that measures how close a food is to sugar. The lower the GI for that food, the longer it takes to digest, you remain full for longer, it releases energy slowly and doesn’t spike your insulin and blood sugar levels drastically, thus not hindering fat loss much. As a rule of thumb, low-GI foods are good foods while high-GI foods aren’t.
- Fats —Fats get a bad rep. Fats are actually required for the normal and healthy functioning of your body. They key is to consume healthy fats from sources such as almonds and walnuts without going overboard. If your fat levels are low, it’s going to affect the testosterone levels in your body, affecting your gains. Also, if you completely eliminate fats from your food, your body starts converting all your carbs into fat and we all know where that ends up!
The combination of Carbs, Fats and Proteins is termed as macros (short for macro-nutrients).
The key is to feed your body the right amount of macros to meet your goals and nutrition requirements.
What I did
I focused on a body re-composition while switching to nutrition I could stick with long term. I’m not a fan of the word diet because it implies something short term. This was a change I intended on making permanently.
I absolutely despise the idea of a ketogenic diet because that’s something most of us can’t subscribe to for life. There are other popular diets besides keto like paleo and atkins that also demonize carbs and tell you that they make you fat. In my opinion, more food in general (which will invariably have more carbs) makes you fat, not carbs. Carbs are the basic fuel your body needs to function.
The key is knowing which, when and how many carbs to consume.
The following principles make up my present day nutrition habits.
- Avoiding all forms of sugar, refined flour and fried food — The obvious first step to living healthy. Sugar and Refined Flour (maida) have a very high Glycemic Index and no nutritional value while Fried foods are super high in fat and incredibly calorie dense (even small portions are super high in calories).
- Intermittent Fasting(IF) — Basically, skip breakfast and have only water/black coffee till lunch. In IF, you don’t eat for a period of 16 hours, typically skipping one major meal. You avoid spiking your insulin levels, your HGH is elevated and allow your body to tap into fat for energy. It also allows you to have a larger lunch and dinner, keeping you full longer for the rest of the day. IF is also shown to have various health benefits and is completely safe. Fun fact, even Terry Crews from the TV show ‘Brooklyn nine nine’ follows IF to stay ripped at 49. I followed IF for the first 3 months when I worked out in the evening. I also skip breakfast on treat days so I can eat a whole lot of food that evening!
- Restricting Roti and Rice intake — Rice and Roti, two staple elements of a typical Indian diet are both forms of ‘fast carbs’ — meaning they have a high Glycemic Index. They instantly spike your blood sugar levels and give you energy, which when not used quickly is stored as fat. Fast carbs in general tend to make you feel hungrier which results in overeating and subsequent weight gain (see carb crash). You want to severely restrict eating them and all their derivatives (poha, idli, dosa) in the earlier parts of your day while consuming them only in your pre-workout, post-workout or dinner. Consuming them before workouts gives you the energy to perform and consuming them after means you’re restoring muscle glycogen, refuelling your body and maintaining some sanity. Unfortunately, a typical Indian meal is rather high in carbs and very low in protein. No, lentils (dal/sambar) are not enough protein for you. Infact, they barely qualify. Nearly every other country’s staple food is centred around a source of protein (typically meat) along with some carbs on the side. In India, it’s the other way round. My theory is that this is the reason most folks fall under the ‘skinny fat’ category. It’s all due to imbalanced nutrition.
- Maintaining a high protein intake —Maintaining a super high protein intake is imperative to ensure your body has enough to preserve existing muscle, ideally build more and also prevent muscle breakdown for energy while in a caloric deficit. I stuck to around 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to ensure I allowed my body to not only preserve but grow muscle as well. For me, this came around to 130–140gms of protein a day.
- Carb cycling — I followed a form of carb cycling where I would have low carbs, moderate fat and high protein on Cardio Days (Tue and Thu) and moderate carbs, low fat, high protein on Weight Training Days (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat). I’ll explain why. On cardio days, you want your body to utilise as much energy as it can in the form of fat to burn without providing it extra energy from carbs. On weight training days, you need to have enough energy to push hard at the gym, replenish your muscles and providing them the food they need to grow.
- Calorie Counting — I count my calories to make sure I’m on track everyday. I highly recommend the HealthifyMe app. They have an excellent database of food and dishes that you can select and track calories for. They also provide the exact macro breakdown for foods with a day-wise and week-wise analysis of your nutrition. I averaged out between 1500–1600 calories on Cardio Days and 1800–1900 calories on Weight Training Days.
- Supplementation — It’s hard to get all your macros from food, especially while staying in a caloric deficit. More food means more calories, buying more ingredients, more cooking and lot many issues that you don’t really want to deal with on a daily basis. Supplements are called so because they are meant to supplement your nutrition and lifestyle, not act as a substitute. It’s imperative to find a fine line between the two for yourself and use them judiciously. I use the following supplements and have linked them to the exact brand, product and place I purchased them from. I am not paid to promote anything I’ve mentioned here. My sole motive is to tell you what I used and how it could possibly help you too.
Supplements I used
- Whey Protein — Yes, it’s completely safe to consume good quality whey protein AND necessary in my opinion because they are quickly digested after a heavy workout, repair your muscles, help them grow stronger and allow you to push even harder at the gym the next day. The Indian market is flooded with fake supplements that contain dangerous chemicals and steroids which is where the fear of consuming them stems from. There have been reports where retailers on popular E-commerce websites have been accused on selling fake supplements. I recommend buying supplements from trusted brands and nutrition stores even if you have to pay a premium. I currently use Ultimate Nutrition ProStar 100% Whey Protein purchased from Nutrabay or Healthkart. If you’re just starting out and looking for a decent, cheaper option, try MuscleBlaze Whey Protein purchased from Healthkart. I used this for my second month of training after which I switched to my present one. I did not consume any whey protein during my first month of training but tried to get in as much protein as I could through food.
- Omega-3 Fish Oil Tablets — I don’t really eat a lot of fish and Omega 3 has various benefits for your skin, overall health and even lifting. I use St.Botanica Fish oil capsules purchased from Amazon.
- Multivitamin Tablets — When you’re eating less, you’re likely taking in lesser vitamin and nutrients than required. My doctor recommended I take these regardless so I went ahead and bought them without much thought. I use MuscleBlaze MB-Vite Multivitamins purchased from Amazon.
- Caffeine Pills — I bought into the fad and purchased fat burners. Don’t use them if you workout in the evening because you wont be able to sleep all night and that’s going to cost you some gains. I barely used these in the first 3 months and then regularly for the next 2 (with the sole motive of finishing them). I didn’t really notice any significant difference as far as fat loss was concerned but I’ve noticed more intensity and focus in my workouts thanks to the high caffeine content. While I don’t wholeheartedly recommend them, use them alternately and only for morning workouts if you purchase them. A cup of black coffee is a far more natural and preferable alternative.
Here’s what my meals look liked. I worked out in the evening for the first 3 months, morning for the next 2 (as I moved to a different city) and then back to evening again. It’s only the timing of the meals that changes, the macros and daily calories remained pretty much the same.If you’re based out of Mumbai, I highly recommend HealthOnPlate’s services.
(If you’re a vegetarian, there’s something for you a little later!)
- Pre-Workout — ½ scoop of Whey. This ensures you don’t lose muscle mass during your workout. On Cardio days, I consume nothing else but on Weight Training days, I have 1 slice of brown bread spread with Unsweetened, Natural Peanut Butter topped with 1 banana. It’s a solid combination of complex carbs and fruit sugar to fuel your workout.
- Post-Workout — 1 scoop of whey protein on all days.
- Breakfast (9.30AM) — If you workout in the evening, nothing (IF). If you workout in the morning and it’s your cardio day, still nothing. On weight training days, 1 serving of Steel Cut Oats (why they’re better than regular oats) and skimmed milk, topped with some nuts and cinnamon powder. It’s imperative you replenish your muscle glycogen with some carbs post workout. I would usually cook 5–6 servings of oats on the weekend and store them in the refrigerator, using them through the week.
- Lunch (1.30PM) — Around 250 grams of Roasted Chicken or Chicken Pieces with little curry along with a lot of veggies consisting of greens, carrots, broccoli and everything good. I spruce up this dish by sprinkling a seasoning made from a mix of chia seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds . Of course, there’s the occasional salad dressing and tandoori chicken. Here’s what lunch would look like on a normal day.
Roasted chicken with some eggplant and other veggies
- Evening Snacks (5.00PM) —1 scoop whey protein, 5 almonds, 3 walnuts. If it’s cardio day I mix a spoonful of peanut butter with my protein shake for some extra fat that satiates my hunger. I also keep a couple of reasonably priced Sugar Free Protein Bars in my bag in the rare cases when my hunger gets really bad or if I couldn’t manage a proper meal. There are some really expensive ones out there and while I’ve indulged in a few of them, the ones I linked to give me the best bang for buck and are also incredibly tasty.
- Dinner (9.15PM) — Vegetables sautéed in different masalas with some tomato curry, paprika seasoning and curd. Add different sauces from time to time for extra flavour. I load up on veggies while trying to get as many different colours on the plate as I can. For me, these usually are Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Beet Root and Zucchini along with regular ones like Spinach, carrots and cucumber. For weight training days, you want to introduce some carbs into your dinner. Initially, I stuck to Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice but now occasionally have Roti, Rice, Brown Bread and even Pasta. On cardio days, I would add a cube of cheese or some paneer.
Here are 2 screenshots, my daily macro counts on cardio days followed by muscle training days. Remember, your requirements may be drastically different depending on your weight, height, body type etc.
Society’s obsession with flat tummies has psychological consequences too. “We want to control our feelings, so we make our bellies hard, trying to ‘keep it together,'” says yoga teacher and physical therapist Judith Lasater, Ph.D., author of Living Your Yoga. Soft bellies appear vulnerable; abs of steel don’t. But the traditional military posture of attention—chest out, belly ina—not only makes soldiers appear hard and invulnerable, it also foils their independence. Soldiers are supposed to follow orders, not intuition. Yogis may be warriors too, but we want to shed armoring. Tension interferes when trying to access the deeper wisdom that rests in the belly. As yogis, we require a supple abdomen in which we can sense the stillness of our being.
The Benefits of Healthy Abdominals
“We’re a culture afraid of the belly,” laments Lasater. In our societal obsession with abdominal minimalism, we often lose sight of the true nature of this crucial part of the body. Abdominal muscles assist breathing, align the pelvis, flex and rotate the trunk, keep the torso erect, support the lumbar spine, and hold in the organs of digestion. The crunch-obsessed fitness buffs are partly right, though: Strong, toned muscles at the core of your body support good health. But that does not mean we should cultivate a permanent navel cramp, hold our breath, and stand like soldiers on parade. Take a look at the Buddha, perhaps the world’s best-known yogi. In many paintings and statues, he doesn’t have “abs of steel.” Yogis know that chronically tight abdominals aren’t any healthier than chronically tight hamstrings or back muscles. Yoga can help you develop the perfect balance of abdominal strength, suppleness, relaxation, and awareness.
Of course, different yoga teachers approach abdominal exercise in different ways. Some approach the belly primarily through sensory exploration, helping us become sensitive to all the layers of muscles and organs; others use standing poses, employing the arms and legs to strengthen the abdominals in their function as stabilizers for the limbs. Still others stress motion, emphasizing that the value of abdominal muscles lies in their ability to move and change shape. But all of the yoga teachers I spoke to highlighted four themes in common: (1) Movement springs from the body’s center of gravity just below the navel; (2) asanas train this core to act as a stable base and fluid source of movement; (3) abdominal muscles should be toned but not tense; (4) the first step in abdominal fitness requires learning to sense this core, becoming familiar with it from the inside.
See also7 Poses for Core Strength
The Anatomy of Your Core
A basic knowledge of the belly’s anatomy can help us approach core work with a more accurate mental map. So let’s peel away the layers and see what lies under the skin.
Abdominal skin differs from much of the skin covering the rest of the body. It has a subcutaneous tissue that loves to hoard fat. It can store up to several inches. Those fat-free torsos you see in advertisements are possible for less than 10 percent of the population. You have to have really thin skin to show muscle, explains Richard Cotton, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, and this takes more than diligent exercise; it takes the right genetics.
You have to be young too. Once fat cells accumulate around your torso, they don’t disappear. You can starve them; they’ll shrink. But they will always be there, endeavoring to fill up. Too much belly fat—we all know—is unhealthy. But working too hard to eliminate fat can also cause serious problems. Women can suffer estrogen depletion, bone weakness, and fractures. “A few millimeters of fat over those muscles don’t matter,” Cotton says. Most adults, including distance runners and people of optimal health, carry a slight spare tire around their middles.
Instead of obsessing about fat, we’d do better to focus deeper. Right under the skin, a sturdy wall of four paired muscles stretches over our internal organs. On the surface, the straplike rectus abdominus extends along the front, from pubic bone to sternum. On either side, a thin but powerful muscle, called the external oblique, courses diagonally from the ribs to the rectus, forming a “V” when viewed from the front. Running perpendicular to the external obliques, the internal obliques lie just below. These two pairs of muscles work in concert, rotating the trunk and flexing it diagonally. The innermost layer of abdominal muscle, the transversus, runs horizontally, wrapping the torso like a corset. You flex this muscle to pull in your belly. The sinewy, three-ply sheath formed by the transversus and the obliques provides a strong, expandable support; it protects the viscera and provides compression that aids elimination and a housing flexible enough for diaphragmatic breathing.
You can exercise all of these muscles with yoga. For example, when you raise your legs and torso in Navasana, you’re contracting the rectus abdominus, drawing your sternum toward the pubic bone. Holding postures like Navasana helps invigorate this muscle isometrically, toning your abdomen without compromising flexibility. You engage the upper portion of the rectus when you flex your torso forward while keeping your legs stable, as in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). Conversely, you engage the lower portion of this muscle by raising your legs while maintaining a stable torso, as in Urdhva Prasarita Padasana. To keep the rectus not just strong but flexible as well, it’s important to combine contraction exercises with complementary stretching postures like Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) or Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). A strong, responsive rectus will protect your lower back and allow you to sit up with ease. But don’t overdo it. Overworking this muscle can not only compromise your backbends, it can actually bunch up your torso and flatten the natural curve of your lumbar spine.
Rotational exercises like Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose) engage the internal and external obliques, key muscles for developing a firm abdominal wall. These muscles also stabilize the spine while rotating the trunk and pelvis. For example, when you kick a ball, the obliques rotate your pelvis. When you throw a ball, the obliques pull your shoulder around. In asana practice you can exercise the obliques by either holding the shoulders steady while rotating the trunk, as in Jathara Parivartanasana, or rotating the shoulders while keeping the legs steady, as in Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose). These muscles also stabilize your vertebrae to maintain spinal alignment when you lift a heavy weight. When toned well, the diagonal muscle fibers of the internal and external obliques form a powerful, interlacing network that draws in the abdomen. As you engage the obliques in asana practice, imagine yourself cinching up the strings of a corset, drawing from the sides to flatten the front.
The transversus abdominus also plays an important role in maintaining a toned abdominal wall. You engage this muscle when coughing, sneezing, or exhaling forcibly. Unlike the other three abdominal muscles, the transversus doesn’t move your spine. Perhaps the most effective means of exercising it entails working with the breath. Pranayama practices involving forceful exhalations, like Kapalabhati and Bhastrika (called by a variety of English names, including Breath of Fire, Skull Shining, and Bellows Breath) provide an excellent workout for the deep transversus.
To feel this muscle contract, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly, and place your fingers on your sides, just below the rib cage. Now cough and feel the muscles under your fingers contracting forcefully. To contract this muscle even further, try this: Rest your hands on your thighs. Take a full breath, then exhale completely while contracting your abdomen to expel the last bit of air from your lungs. Then, without drawing in any new air, begin counting aloud: One, two…etc. You will experience your transversus cinching around your waist tightly, like a belt. Before the lack of oxygen becomes uncomfortable, relax your abdominals and allow the air to draw in slowly. This important classic yoga exercise is called Uddiyana Bandha (Upward Abdominal Lock). As you begin to grasp it, you can try further traditional exercises like Agni Sara Dhauti (Cleansing through Fire) and Nauli (Abdominal Churning), which are used to massage the abdominal organs.
Breath and Your Abdominals
People who work with the breath—singers and woodwind musicians, for instance—know it’s connected to the belly. Your diaphragm lies at the base of your lungs, directly over your liver and stomach. When your diaphragm contracts, it moves these organs out of its way, pushing your belly out slightly. If you breathe primarily by using the muscles of your rib cage, without taking advantage of the diaphragm’s power, you’re limiting your breath to accessory muscle groups too weak and inefficient to fill
your lungs completely. But if your abdominal muscles don’t release, your diaphragm can’t descend fully. That’s why yogis balance abdominal strength with flexibility.
Keep in mind that deep, diaphragmatic breathing does not entail pushing your belly out deliberately. Full belly breathing just requires a naturally alternating engagement and release. To assure deep diaphragmatic breathing, first engage the abdomen in a complete exhalation, then allow your lungs to fill up naturally, relaxing the abdomen but not pushing it outward.
This fluid interplay of abdominal muscles and lungs provides an excellent focus for a meditation that you can use to complete your abdominal work. Lying on your back in Savasana (Corpse Pose), breathe slowly and deliberately, sensing the strength of your inner core as your obliques and deep transversus muscles compress to expel the air from your lungs completely. Then enjoy the flow of oxygen that fills your chest as these muscles release, creating space for prana to stream into your heart like water flowing into a basin. After a few minutes, allow your breath to resume its natural pattern. Observe it without criticism or effort. Imagine your abdominal cavity as the fluid container of your deepest wisdom and feel the energy at your navel radiating throughout your body.
See alsoPrana In the Belly: 4 Steps to a Healthy Core + Digestive System
The Sacred Importance of Your Core
Our center of gravity lies just below the navel, a spot many yoga teachers call the “power center.” The source of our vitality, the abdomen is a sacred space in our bodies, so we would do well to shift from criticizing how it looks to respecting how it feels. Ana Forrest, owner and primary teacher at Forrest Yoga Circle in Los Angeles, says she’s observed that as people begin to sense and move from their lower torso, over time they experience a surge in creativity and sexuality.
Throughout the world’s healing and mystical traditions, the belly is seen as an important center of energy and consciousness. Tantra yoga sometimes represents the navel as the home of rajas, or solar energy. In Tantric practice, the yogi stirs up rajas in the belly by using the breath, helping to create a divine body endowed with paranormal powers. You’ve probably noticed that many of India’s great spiritual adepts sport prodigious bellies. These tremendous tummies are thought to be full of prana. Hence, Indian artists often depict their deities with a paunch.
In China, the gentle art of tai chi emphasizes the lower abdomen as a reservoir for energy. Tai chi teacher Kenneth Cohen, author of The Way of Qigong, explains that it’s possible to strengthen the abdominals by learning how to compact qi (prana) into the belly. “From the Chinese viewpoint, the belly is considered the dan tian or ‘field of the elixir,’ where you plant the seeds of long life and wisdom,” Cohen explains.
If you’re skeptical of all this esoteric anatomy, consider the work of Michael Gershon, M.D. “You have more nerve cells in the gut than you do in the combined remainder of the peripheral nervous system,” Gershon claims. Gershon, who chairs the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, says he’s quite sure that our thoughts and emotions are influenced by the gut.
Gershon came to this unorthodox conclusion through meticulous research on serotonin, an important brain chemical that also
functions in the bowel. Operating independently from the brain, a huge nervous system that Gershon has dubbed the “second brain” works silently in the abdomen. Gershon explains that this gut brain, properly known as the enteric nervous system, doesn’t “think” in the cognitive sense—but it constantly affects our thinking. “If there isn’t smoothness and bliss going up to the brain in the head from the one in the gut, the brain in the head can’t function,” Gershon says.
So the next time you’re critically eyeing your stomach, you might consider instead saying a reverent Namaste to your power center and home of your gut instincts. And you can also help cultivate the belly bliss Gershon recommends by employing an integrated approach to abdominal work, combining somatic and energetic awareness with asana and pranayama.
See alsoBaptiste Yoga: 10 Poses for Strong Abs
Is It Harder for Women to Get Six-Pack Abs?
A defined six-pack isn’t necessarily the same thing as a strong core. But, the quest for envy-inducing abdominals can lead to longer workouts and cleaner diets. (Of course, it’s important to also focus on maintaining a healthy attitude toward food, exercise, and body image along the way.)
If you’re set on toning your midsection toward that chiseled six-pack, know that it may be a little harder than you think. We asked experts to answer common questions about women developing six-pack abs, and which moves to prioritize for optimal core strength.
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Generally, is it harder for women to get six-pack abs in comparison to men?
“Not necessarily,” explains Aaptiv Trainer Amanda Butler. “There are numerous body types, and it also depends on your genetics. Some people naturally have a lean and athletic build, while others have to work a bit harder. Lowering your body fat is key for popping out that six-pack. However, for women in general, your body fat needs to be about 20 percent or higher to remain fertile and have regular menstrual cycles. A man can dip down to as low as six percent and still be considered ‘healthy.’”
Even though it may be more challenging for some women to achieve the look of six-pack abs, says Personal Trainer Adnan Munye, everyone has abs—it just depends on how much body fat is covering them. Since men tend to have lower body fat than women, he notes, it can be easier to see their abs in the first place.
What are some common myths around getting a six-pack?
According to Shea Sanderson, founder and head coach of Body Language Wellness in Chicago, the biggest myth is that you need to do a ton of crunches to get a six-pack. “Sure, you need to do functional core exercises, but the focus should be on your diet if you want them to really pop,” she says. As Munye puts it, abs are indeed made in the kitchen.
Another big myth is that a six-pack automatically equals good health. “Having a six-pack does not necessarily equate to being healthy, having a strong core, having confidence, or being happy,” Butler reinforces. “In most cases, it’s because of having a very low body fat percentage, which usually means extreme dieting and exercising.”
What are the most effective ab exercises for a strong core?
Instead of traditional ab exercises, Butler advises engaging your core throughout any strength workout—from push-ups to barbell deadlifts to single leg or shoulder presses. “Literally every exercise I do, I breathe with the movement (exhale on the effort), which engages my core,” she continues. “Learning to breathe properly as you exercise is key. Core stabilization exercises are also great to do, such as a single leg deadlift, performing bicep curls standing on one leg, side plank with torso rotations, or pistol squats.”
If core engagement seems confusing, says Munye, imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach, and you’re flexing your abs to stop it—that’s exactly what “engaging your core” feels like.
Think about functionality.
“As for what exercises to do for core strength, I always encourage my clients to view it from a functional standpoint,” says Sanderson. “What does your core do? It stabilizes, rotates, as well as flexes and extends your spine. Examples of those exercises would be planks for stabilization, cable chops for rotation, Pilates roll-ups for flexion, and supermans for extension. If you want exercises to increase your core’s functional movements, either ask a trainer or search online for ‘core stabilization/rotation exercises’ or ‘spinal flexion/extension exercises.’ That way, you’re not only building the muscle and strength, you’re doing it in a way that your body can use to support you and protect you from injury.”
Munye seconds big compound exercises, like squats and deadlifts, since your core is fully engaged. For specific ab workouts, he suggests planks and bicycle ab crunches. “Leg lifts are another way to develop and strengthen your lower abs,” he says. “While lying on your back, keep your legs straight with your hands under your butt. Together, lift your legs up to a 45-degree angle and lower back down with control, stopping just before your feet touch the ground. Do ten to 12 repetitions.”
Listen to your body!
Above all, says Sanderson, don’t go overboard—twice a week of functional core movement is plenty. Then, take a holistic approach.
“My advice is to first ditch what the models of magazine covers look like. Focus on your own journey,” concludes Butler. “Pay attention to your lifestyle habits: what are you eating? What are you drinking? How do you manage stress? Are you getting enough sleep? How often do you exercise? Are you only in one lane of fitness? For example, if you only run, incorporate strength training to your routine. Mix it up! Literally focus on your core during your workouts, don’t tune out to the music, and pay attention to your body. Add in challenging core exercises that you like to do and be patient! Building a strong core takes time, dedication, and consistency.”
Achieving six-pack abs isn’t as difficult as it’s often perceived (or marketed) to be. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cryptic information and dodgy mindsets out there, and it means I see countless people make really simple mistakes.
Luckily, these mistakes are easy to fix. Incorporate the below advice into your abdominal workout and that all-important washboard stomach needn’t be a pain in the belly to achieve…
1. Poor Exercise Selection
A common observation I’ve made over the course of my career is that most men focus incessantly on just a handful of well known abdominal exercises. The abdominal crunch and sit-up are the most commonly used ab exercises among beginners, yet they are inefficient and even potentially dangerous. Both of these exercises flex the spine at its weakest point. Abs are designed to brace the spine, not crunch it – every small crunch you do becomes an ingredient in a recipe for back trouble.
Solution: Drop these spine crunching exercises and focus on movements that work the abdominals in their natural bracing position. I’m not saying crunches don’t work, but there are far better exercises for your abs that just happen to be safer too. Planks offer a great abdominal workout with a multitude of variations. Swiss ball rollouts are another great alternative. Personally, I like to focus on cable rotations, which give my abs a functional workout while allowing me to increase weight load as I gain in strength.
2. No Progression
It’s a curious fact about ab workouts that men very rarely increase the intensity with which they work the muscles. Get a man to bench press over the course of a couple of weeks and he’ll inevitably start trying to display his strength by lifting more and more. Yet the same man will do the same abdominal workout for weeks on end.
I think the general assumption is that all the abs really need are a few crunches. Wrong! Your body will adapt to the exercise after just a few sessions, which means thereafter they’ll do little to nothing for you. Your abs require just as hard a workout as any other muscle group, so stop short-changing them with a tired, unchallenging workout regime.
Solution: Periodically progress your abdominal exercises for greater demand. Most popular exercises can be progressed in a number of ways. If you really want to fire up your abdominal workout, venture onto a suspension trainer: the scope for progression here is immense. You don’t know abdominal muscle ache until you’ve woken up the day after suspended pikes on a TRX!
3. Training too Frequently
Why So Few People Can Get A Six-Pack
Getting six-pack abs is not a complicated process.
You don’t need to time your protein intake 32 minutes and 30 seconds after your workouts. You certainly don’t need a complicated training program with 25 different exercises for your abs, and five different squat variations.
And yet it goes a bit beyond eating less and exercising more. At some point, your body fights against you and an increasing number of obstacles arise.
Let’s see why most people can’t overcome these obstacles and reach the holy grail of six-pack abs.
The Required Elements for a Set of Six-Pack Abs
Being skinny from birth is an advantage, but sporting six-pack abs while the rest of your body looks weak doesn’t count.
You have to be able to show some muscle on your frame. You don’t have to look like a bodybuilder, but you should at least look like someone who lifts.
This is where it gets tricky. Being skinny is easy for a lot of people. The problem is that gaining some muscle requires them to eat more food and abandon the six-pack for a while. It’s getting back there while keeping all their muscle that is difficult.
Also, some people can’t see their abs, despite being lean. There can be two explanations for that. Either their ab muscles are not big enough, meaning that they should do more direct work on their abs, or the genetic shape of their abs is not ideal. In both cases, the right direct exercises for the abs (read: not crunches) will make them show earlier.
Showing six-pack abs requires you to have a low level of body fat. Image courtesy of The Lean Lunch Box.
Finally, showing six-pack abs requires you to have a low level of body fat. Some people will show abs at around 12% body fat, and some people will need to get below 10% just to get a two-pack. Life is unfair, I know, but I didn’t make the rules.
Now, we know for sure that a decent six-pack is the result of more muscle mass, and less body fat. You can’t increase muscle mass and decrease body fat at the same time, except in a few specific circumstances which I won’t get into here. In theory, it is still pretty simple. Gain more muscle by eating more and training slightly out of your comfort zone. Lose the fat by eating a bit less and still training out of your comfort zone. If it’s so simple, why do so few people succeed?
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People Are Lazy
Don’t get me wrong, getting six-pack abs is no walk in the park, but someone who puts in the work can get there without driving themselves crazy.
Consistency is extremely important; perhaps more important than training hard and eating perfectly for three days and letting yourself go for two.
Human nature makes us resistant to change, but when you want to improve your body, there are things that have to change. Getting a six-pack requires a bit of diet planning and a lot of consistency. Depending on your level of body fat, getting down to the right level can take 12 weeks, which is a long time to spend in a caloric deficit.
Because of our resistance to change and our fear of the unknown, we tend to lose sight of what we really want.
Suddenly, our vision becomes blurred, which makes it harder to stick to a plan. So many people start cutting and think they are losing muscle mass after two weeks so they go back to bulking.
Rest assured guys, it’s unlikely. Muscle loss is more likely to happen at lower-levels of body fat.
The truth is, physique transformation can be frustrating. While the final result is often satisfactory, there will be times when you ask yourself if it is worth it.
For the guy who wants to be muscular, it can seem counterintuitive to go through a six to twelve-week fat loss phase. The dude will often think he looks flat, especially if he is used to seeing himself in a bulking phase, when his muscles are full of glycogen.
The thing is, nothing reveals muscles better than low body fat levels. I encourage anybody with a decent amount of muscle mass who hasn’t tried to get below 10 percent body fat to give it a go. That level is where you’re going to look more muscular than before, despite going through periods asking yourself if you’re flatter.
Not setting goals is a major mistake people make when starting a fat loss phase.
And I’m not talking about telling yourself “I want to lose fat,” because that’s the same as saying “I want to be rich.” You must have a deadline, and it must be specific, otherwise it’s just a dream.
You must have a deadline, and it must be specific, otherwise it’s just a dream. Image courtesy of NOCPH.
Think about it. You wouldn’t take your car and start driving without knowing where you are going. That’s the same thing. Everything you are going to do and every choice you are going to make depends on your goal and how much time you have to achieve it.
Make sure your goal is realistic, even if it’s ambitious. You can set a goal of getting down to 5 to 6 percent body fat, but just make sure to give yourself enough time to get there. As a rule of thumb, a loss of one percentage point of body fat per week is possible until you get down to 10 percent body fat. I still suggest going slower than that, but if you tend to lose fat quickly, it’s possible.
If your goal is to get below that, which is necessary for most people who want to see their abs, it’s best to give yourself two weeks to lose one percentage point of body fat.
Once your realistic goal is set, you can start a realistic program.
Too many people try to improvise. And while you could probably get away with winging it if you diet for three weeks, you need a program if you want to make it all the way.
In the gym, the amount of work you do must gradually increase. This means you need a realistic plan to increase your work capacity over time without burning out. And in case you’re wondering, I am not one of those who will tell you to train less because you are in a caloric deficit. This is a concept I still don’t get. Research has shown that if your caloric deficit comes more from your activity than your diet, you retain more muscle mass.
In the kitchen, you need to make sure you have an idea of how many calories you are taking in. So many people have no clue. They will say things like “I eat well,” or better yet “I eat clean, but I can’t understand why I’m not losing fat.”
It’s simple, eating clean doesn’t cut it. You need to be in a caloric deficit. Eating clean and choosing nutritious foods is great, but your body is smart enough to make you eat what it needs to fulfill its energy needs. Make sure to have a few diet templates of a typical day in a caloric deficit so that you can recognize when you are eating too much.
And of course, if there is one thing you should keep in mind, it’s that you can never be sure your plan is working unless you track your results.
Let’s face it, calorie counting is inaccurate. Labels are not 100 percent correct. With training, you can never be sure to hit maximal recoverable volume all the time.
Let’s face it, calorie counting is inaccurate. Labels are not 100 percent correct. Image courtesy of Mamas Health.
The best way to know that your plan is working is to track your results and see whether you are on schedule (hence the deadline) or not. One week of plateau is nothing to worry about because fat loss is not linear, but after two weeks you can start looking for calories you probably forgot.
Tracking allows you to know whether you need to change your plan or not. Don’t be married to a plan. If it isn’t working anymore, you will have to change a few things. But you also can’t use tracking as an excuse to make stupid decisions like suddenly throwing in an hour of cardio every day. You may just have to remove 200 more calories from your diet. A lot of people fail because they change too much.
Too Much Rigidity
If we look at people who want six-pack abs and the small proportion of them who succeed, it can seem like an impossible task.
And yet people who follow a plan and are consistent with it do succeed. Others simply drop the plan altogether. That is when we can start looking at flexibility.
Getting six-pack abs is not rocket science. Consistency is more important than perfection and to be consistent, you need your plan to allow you to live a little. You don’t have to sacrifice your social life, piss off your wife every day, and eat the same damn food at every meal to lose fat.
If your plan is too rigid, your likelihood of giving up will increase. With a flexible plan, you will be more likely to be consistent and focused when you have to be. That means your diet should be as varied as you can make it. As long as you are getting enough protein and vegetables, it is more important to stay at a certain caloric target than trying to eat “clean foods” all the time.
Make sure to include the foods you love in your diet. This is why you should stay away from extremes like “gluten and dairy free,” very low-carb diets, low-fat diets, and the likes. In fact, if your diet has a name, you are probably doing it wrong.
Too Soon, Not Enough Muscle Mass
Finally, as I have said before, six pack abs are unimpressive on a skinny body.
You need an appreciable amount of muscle mass for several reasons. Your metabolism will be higher if you have more muscle, which will allow you to cut on more calories than if you are skinny. Also, you will look ten times better.
You will look ten times better with an appreciable amount of muscle mass. Image courtesy of Muscle and Fitness.
The problem with cutting when you don’t have enough muscle mass is that towards the end, you are going to look like an anorexic and you will have to eat very little food. In the first two years of lifting, take a slow approach to mass building so you don’t accumulate too much body fat. Do small cuts to maintain a rather lean physique, but don’t go for the single-digit body fat numbers if you are not ready.
Dieting for a long period of time has its consequences. Your metabolism will take a hit, no matter how many sneaky tricks you use. If you are not careful, you will put fat back on, plus extra. A study on rats showed that after a fat cell has shrunk, it multiplies before it gets back to its original size. And your satiety levels are restored when your fat cells go back to their original size unfortunately. This is probably why most people who diet get fat again at record speed.
Of course, you can avoid these effects with a proper follow-up and methods such as reverse dieting, but bear in mind that your body doesn’t like to be starved for extended periods of time, which is why you shouldn’t do it too often, and certainly not too soon.
There is also the illusion of looking muscular on a bulk because your muscles are full of glycogen. Always assume it’s not enough. Too many people end up disappointed because they haven’t built up enough muscle. So if you’re quite lean already, it is often a good idea to put on a few more pounds before starting to cut.
If it was easy, everyone would do it. Getting six-pack abs is not that complicated, but it takes a few qualities that sadly, many people lack. They can all be overcome if you want it badly enough. I guess that’s the difference between the dreamers and the players.
About the Author
Anthony Dexmier is a strength coach in the South of France. He enjoys deadlifting, kettlebells and Olympic lifting, despite a genetic predisposition for endurance sports. He helps people eat and train better both online and at the gym and his special areas of interests are prehab, rehab, strength and nutrition.
Is It Harder For Women To Get Abs Than Men?
Abs are the ultimate sign of hard work and dedication. We all want visible abs, men and women alike.
Is it harder for women to get visible abs?
For most, yes.
Before we dive into WHY getting abs can be so frustratingly hard for women, let’s clear up some way too common myths about getting abs:
You don’t get abs by doing thousands of crunches.
You don’t get abs by doing hours of cardio.
You get abs through:
Calorie deficit (very important)
Training abs properly (less important)
Patience (so very important)
For more on how to diet AND train to get shredded abs, check out this blog. So anyways, what makes all this harder for women than men?
To function properly, we need a certain amount of “essential fat”. Essential fat is necessary for our bodies to function normally. Women require more essential fat than men, both for proper hormonal function and as a stockpile of energy in the event of pregnancy.
Normal body function can be disrupted when dropping below 15% for women, and below 5% for men. For optimal health, body fat ranges of 18-30% are recommended for women and 15-25% for men.
So, women naturally hold onto more body fat than men. They need more, just to function properly. Getting visible abs requires reducing body fat to very low levels. See the issue here?
For women, dieting down to extremely low levels of body fat can often lead to a variety of hormonal issues, such as loss of a normal menstrual cycle.
Harder To Build Muscle
Carrying more muscle increases your metabolic rate. Because of its positive effect on the metabolism, more muscle makes it easier to get lean. The leaner you are, the more your abs will show.
Certain hormones are crucial to muscle growth. The especially famous hormone testosterone is one of the primary drivers of muscle growth.
Women (usually) have drastically lower levels of the hormone testosterone than men, which makes building the same amount of muscle as men harder.
What’s A Girl To Do?
So, maybe a bit harder for women to get there abs to show up. But, it’s definitely still doable.
- Train your abs with resistance. This will grow your ab muscles thicker, making them visible at higher body fat percentages. For a full ab training program, again .
- Women have been told that super high-rep, light weight, pink dumbbell isolation work is the way to get toned. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Focus on getting stronger at compound movements in primarily the 5-15 rep range.
- Women’s drastically higher estrogen levels are actually super helpful for muscle recovery/preventing muscle loss. This means women can handle more training volume (sets X reps X weight) than men. Full body training sessions are usually the way to go.
How Long Does It Take to Get Abs?
If you start your fat loss now, how long will it take for you get abs? What is the best way to get abs as quickly as possible?
I would say, be patient. If you are average now, it will take you 12 to 16 weeks to get abs. If you are overweight or obese, stick to a good plan for 6 months to a year to have visible abs.
Abs (rectus abdominis) are the primary indication of being in good shape. You can build muscle or lose weight, but without getting six-pack abs, you are not in great shape yet. Once you start a program, how long does it take to get abs?
If you are like me, you want to plan everything up front, and planning to get in shape is no different. One of the main factors to be successful is to have a realistic goal. If your goal is to get a sexy midsection, it is worth to know how long it takes to get abs.
Having realistic but challenging expectations is very important when you embark upon your body transformation journey. In this blog post, I will explain exactly how long it will take to get abs. Furthermore, you will get answers to these common questions:
Can everyone get abs?
Why is it so hard to get abs?
How much weight do you need to lose to see your abs?
How long should your transformation take?
What workouts will help you get abs?
How Long Does it Take to Get Abs for an Average Joe?
Abs are sexy. Every guy wants to have abs, but only a select few actually have them. Well, technically, everyone has them, but they are either too weak to be visible or hiding under a layer of fat tissue. For most people, it is both.
Everyone has abdominal muscles. Just like biceps and pectoral muscles, abs need to be strengthened to grow and be visible under the skin.
Doing crunches won’t help unless you lose fat. You might have heard the saying, “abs are made in the kitchen.” It is half true. You need to watch what you eat to get down to low body fat percentages, but if you ignored your abs for so long, they wouldn’t be visible when you get there.
However, no matter how much you work on your abs, you won’t see them until you get rid of the fat tissue covering your abs.
Think about your biceps. They are there, but unless you work them out, they won’t look impressive.
So for everyone, it will take as long as you burn the fat off to get abs
Why Is It So Hard to Get Abs?
In an interview, Chris Pratt said having abs is like “an orchid that blooms and dies on the same day.”
Unless you are a fitness model, an athlete, or a fitness junkie, you won’t have abs all the time. You see the pictures of guys with abs online. Most of those guys don’t look like that 90% of the time. Including me!
It takes a unique process to get ready for the photoshoots. You take the pictures, and you are done.
To have popping abs, you need to get below 10% body fat.
Unless you are a genetic freak, your body does not like to be under 10% body fat. Your body will act just like your mother. It will think you are starving, and it will throw everything it has at you to get some food in your belly. No matter how long it takes to get abs, if you really want to have abs year-round, you are going to have to have real dedication and discipline to keep those abs. At this level, there is no room for error.
How Much Weight Do You Need to Lose for Visible Abs?
To see your abs flexing, in good lighting, you need to be around 12% body fat. To have popping abs that are visible from a distance, you need to be below 10% body fat. If you already know your body fat percentage, use the following calculator to see how much fat you need to lose to get down to 10% body fat.
How Fast Should You Lose Weight?
Now that you know how much fat you need to lose to get abs, how fast should you lose this weight? Should you go as aggressive as possible and get there as quickly as possible? Should you not worry about the numbers and just eat healthily, exercise, and let nature take care of it? I would recommend a diligent and calculated approach to get there.
There are only 2 days between these pictures…
Weight loss is never linear. If you weigh yourself every day and create a chart, it will be all over the place.
During my weight loss process, there were many weeks that I didn’t lose any weight 10 days in a row, and then I lost 3 pounds overnight. They call this the whoosh effect, and there are some theories out there why this happens. It is beyond the scope of this blog post, so I will write another blog post about this. But you also need to avoid weight loss plateaus. The bottom line is, think long term, and don’t worry about daily weight fluctuations.
My rule is, don’t change anything until you don’t lose weight 2 weeks in a row!
The rate of your weight loss should be a maximum of 1% of your total weight per week. A 25-30% calorie deficit is enough to achieve this. Anything more aggressive than this will give you short term results, but it will negatively affect your metabolism and sabotage your long term goals. Once you go below a certain number of calories, going lower won’t be possible without dangerous health effects.
You should eat the highest number of calories possible that will allow you to lose weight. If you can increase your calories and still lose weight, you should do it every week. Up until the point where you don’t lose weight 2 weeks in a row.
So How Long Does it Take to Get Abs?
So based on everything you just learned, how long will it take YOU to get abs?
Ideally, your transformation would take as long as it takes to reach your goals. However, slow changes may be discouraging, and they will mentally and physically be hard.
Depending on your starting point, it may take anywhere from 12 weeks to a year to reach your goals.
12 weeks is a reasonable time frame to plan your transformation. It is enough time to get significant changes in your body, and it is not too long that will wear you down.
If 12 weeks is not enough to get where you want to be, plan another 12-week time block. You can take a week off and enjoy to get yourself mentally ready for your next transformation. It took me two 12-week cycles to get from 230 lbs to 183 lbs. Between the two periods, I enjoyed a lovely Christmas, where I ate whatever I wanted and barely moved for a week.
What Workouts Can Help You to Get Abs?
Even though abdominal and core workouts are the best way to strengthen and grow your abs, as I mentioned before, you will need to get rid of the fat layer to make your abs visible. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying ignore your ab workouts. You should work out your core at least once a week.
However, heavy, compound workouts are the best bang for your buck. Heavy, compound lifts such as squat and deadlift will help you burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Furthermore, they will increase your muscle mass, which means you will burn more calories even in your sleep.
Cardio exercises such as running, cycling, and rowing will also help you burn calories during the workout. Cardio exercises are like working a job with an hourly wage, whereas strength training is like having a passive income. At your job, you only make money when you are actually working; but your investments bring you money in your sleep.
How long it will take you to get abs depends on where your starting point is. However, the most important thing is to be smart and consistent. Every day will bring you a day closer to your goals, and you should do your part to reach your goals every day.
- Assess your starting point.
- Set realistic yet aggressive goals.
- Calculate your fat loss target.
- Calculate your calorie needs.
- Create a 25-30% deficit.
- Lose 1% of your weight/week.
About Post Author
Serdar Tuncali is a science-based fitness enthusiast. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Pharmacy and a Master’s of Science in Clinical Research Management. He works at Mayo Clinic as a Sr. Research Technologist and authored several publications in top scientific journals.