Six-pack abs are the goal of people the world over. Sure, we all want six-pack abs, but how do we go about getting them?
I'm sure you've seen all those ads promising to show you how to get a great looking set of six-pack abs, complete with convincing "before and after" photos.
Well folks, it's time to get real! You may have heard this many times before, but until you really believe it deep down in your heart and soul, it's worth repeating:
No amount of strange exercises or wacky machines will magically reveal your abs. The only proven way to be able to showcase your abs is to lose the thick layer of fat covering them!
And the only way to effectively do this is by using a strict regimen of consistent dieting and cardiovascular exercise.
All those unusual leg twisting, body contorting exercises are no more effective than simple crunches at producing those coveted six-pack abs!
I have a favorite saying: "Six-pack abs are produced in the kitchen, not in the gym!"
The problem is that mentally, most people agree with that, but emotionally it simply doesn't click. I know this is true because every day I see people doing marathon abdominal workout sessions.
They do four or five different abdominal exercises. They seem to think the more they do, the more defined their abs will become.
They attempt to target the upper, lower, inner and outer, left, and right abdominal muscles. They repeat hundreds of weighted side bends trying to eliminate their love handles.
Well here's a news flash for you: It won't work! It's impossible to spot reduce! You can't simply pick and choose the areas that you would like to trim down, and do exercises that work only those areas and expect the fat to just magically melt away in those areas.
The human body doesn't work that way. The only way to trim down in certain key areas is by lowering your total body fat levels.
It's quite interesting and amusing to watch sometimes. People have the proper motivation, but they're doing the wrong things.
If they expended just half the energy maintaining a proper diet as they do performing rep after rep of those boring exercises, they would already have their six-pack abs!
Developing a great set abs is really pretty simple, and successful ab development can be boiled down to a just few simple steps:
Contraction is everything when working on your abs. Your abs work like an accordion, not a hinge. So when doing crunches, you must concentrate on "squeezing together" rather than moving your body upwards. This will maximize your muscle tension.
- Eat the right kinds of foods. If you have a lot of excess weight, your abs won't show no matter how much you work out. But once your body fat falls below 8% for men, or 14% for women, your abs will begin to show through.
Your meals need to consist of a high protein intake, moderate fat, and moderate levels of complex carbohydrates. You must eliminate all excess simple sugars and reduce your dairy intake.
To slim down you must consume fewer calories. You need to create a small caloric deficit. In other words, you have to use up more calories than you take in from your meals. This way, your body is forced to get the extra calories it needs from your stored fat reserves.
But keep in mind that if you reduce your calories too drastically, your body may simply decide to use muscle tissue for energy! This is why many people who trim down too fast look so soft.
- Begin exercising aerobically. Do some form of cardio exercise at least 3 times a week.
It makes no difference what you do (walking, running, cycling, etc), as long as it keeps your heart rate elevated for at least half an hour. This will elevate your metabolism and cause your body to burn more calories.
- Work out your abs only 2-3 times a week. The abdominals should be exercised just like any other part of your body. Training them more than two or three times a week is unnecessary, and more is not better!
I usually perform only two different abdominal exercises: crunches and reverse crunches. That's it!
You need to concentrate on contracting your abdominal muscles as tight as you can, which causes them to fatigue faster. It doesn't matter how many reps you do. The only thing that matters is how well you contract your abdominal muscles.
If you have to do 100 crunches before your abs begin to burn, then you're just wasting your time. Your abs should be fatigued after only 20-25 reps. If they aren't, you need to add some moderate weights to your exercise and work on contracting your abs tightly for each rep.
Don't concentrate too much on "how many" reps you can do. Instead, focus on "how hard" you can contract your abdominal muscles. Again, contraction is the key to getting those six-pack abs!
Contrary to popular belief, full sit-ups or leg raises do not give your abdominals the best workout. In fact, these exercises mostly work your hip flexor muscles a lot more than your abs!
Remember, the most effective exercises for working towards your six-pack abs involve a "scrunching" type contraction, similar to an accordion.
Recommended exercises for developing six-pack abs:
That's it. Nothing "magical", just "smart" training and dieting is all that's required for getting your set of six-pack abs!
- Crunches - Lie flat on the floor, knees bent, and legs about 1-2 feet apart. Alternatively, you can place your lower legs up on a chair or bench. You can either rest your hands behind your head or crossed on top of your chest.
Raise your shoulders up a few inches off of the floor, then stop when you achieve maximum ab contraction. Exhale as you curl up, then inhale as you slowly lower yourself back onto the floor.
The goal of crunches is to curl your upper torso forward, moving your ribcage toward your pelvis. Keep the rest of your body still and don't sit all the way up.
If you get a sore neck from doing these exercises, you simply need to work on relaxing your neck muscles. Keep your hands and neck well relaxed. They need not and should not be involved in performing the exercises.
Don't use a jerking motion. It should be smooth and controlled. Work for maximum contraction and feel the burn.
Two or three times a week, do four sets of 20-25 slow reps, with a hard contraction at the top of the motion. Take a 90 second rest between each set.
- Reverse crunches - These are similar to leg raises, except that you're on an inclined bench and you need to keep your knees bent.
Lie on your back on the bench and grab the top of the bench. The object of this great exercise is to pull your pelvis up and towards your rib cage by contracting your abdominal muscles. Exhale as you are crunching up, and then slowly lower your legs while inhaling.
You won't be able to do too very many of these exercises, so be sure to make them count! Try to contract your abs as much as possible at the top of the movement.
As before, don't "swing" into position. The motion should be very smooth and controlled. Also, don't allow yourself to slip too far down the bench or you'll be out of the correct position.
Two or three times a week, do four sets of 15-20 reps (or as many as you can do) with a hard contraction at the top of the motion. Take a 90 second rest between each set.
About the author:
Anthony Ellis is a renowned fitness expert.
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