Each person has their own specific goals for their physique, well-being, and overall health. Some of those goals may include changing the body composition, either for health benefits or aesthetics. However, what’s absolutely certain is that the majority of people simply don’t care about having a six-pack and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re one of those people who are eager to get a shredded waistline, you’ve come to the right place.
This article contains the latest findings in this area, with info backed by hundreds of studies with exact science behind them, that will help you get those shredded abs, without some false promises or magic pills that will give you a quick fix in the shortest amount of time.
The thing you call a “six-pack” is actually a muscle that runs the length of the abdomen.
The muscle we’re talking about is called “rectus abdominis”, which is the long and flat muscle which runs in a vertical line down the abdomen. It is also a part of what’s commonly known as the “core”, or the muscles comprising the body’s center.
The core muscles, including the abdominal muscles, act as stabilizers while we stand, turn our heads and neck, move the pelvis and help us do exercises or any type of intense physical activity, from fast running and jumping to cutting wood, shoveling snow, raking leaves and lifting weights. Put simply, whether you are standing still or you’re doing some kind of athletic activity, the abs play a crucial role in each of those movements.
Whether your abs will be visible or not depends on one thing only: the amount of body fat that you currently have.
Whenever you see a six-pack on someone, it has more to do with how lean he/she is, not how hard he trained. Everyone has the same muscles, including the abs. Put simply, the more fat you have covering the muscles, the less defined your muscles will be, i.e. less visible.
It’s important to note that whether your abs are visible or not, is not an indicator of how functionally strong your midsection actually is. Even though having a smaller body fat percentage is related to better health markers, having shredded abs does not necessarily mean you have greater core strength or that you are healthier than someone who doesn’t have cut and visible abs.
For the majority of people, the first thing they should do is figure out the amount of body fat they’ll need to lose.
As we already mentioned, if you want to get shredded abs you need to greatly decrease the fat later around the midsection until those abs become visible. The main problem is that for those who aren’t lean naturally or already have pretty low body fat level, they will have to lose a significant amount of body fat. It has been reported on average women in the US, have approximately 40 percent body fat and men 28 percent.
This isn’t only beyond what would normally be considered within the healthy range (which would be more around 11-22 percent for men and 22-24 percent for women), but it is also dramatically higher than the range one would need to have for a visible six-pack, which is around 10-12 percent for men and 19-22 percent for women.
Shedding the excess fat means consuming fewer calories than it’s actually required to maintain the current weight.
When you want to shed body fat, the most basic thing you need to do is create a caloric deficit, or eat fewer calories than your maintenance value, or the amount you need to consume to maintain your current weight. There are lots of calculators available on the net if you want to calculate the number of calories you need to consume on a daily basis for body re-composition. Once you get that number, you’ll need to do some trial and error to figure out if you’re eating the right amount required for your body’s basic metabolic needs plus exercising, while still losing fat at a rate which is not too fast.
For example, a 25-year old guy, whose height is 5-foot-10, weighs 190 lbs and exercises 3-5 times a week, would need to eat close to 2900 calories daily just to maintain his weight. If he wanted to lose one pound a week, providing he kept the same level of activity, he would need to eat less, which is around 1400 calories a day, sometimes even less than that, 1900 calories a day, if he wanted to lose 2 pounds a week.
You shouldn’t lose just about any weight. You should lose fat.
It’s vitally important that you keep as much of your muscle tissue as possible while losing fat, because muscle is better for the metabolism, for your health, and for the abs to have a chance of becoming visible at some point. You can calculate the amount of body fat you carry with a few different methods: using a specialized online calculator with some additional body measurements or you can try a scale which measures body fat, such as the Withings scale.
The general recommendation for the majority of the population is exercising 4-5 days a week. For a full-body strength training program, the most optimal frequency would be 3 days a week, with each training session focusing primarily on compound exercises, like deadlifts, squats, bench presses, overhead presses, chin-ups/pull-ups, rows etc., and ending it with about 10-minute high-intensity “finisher”.
Two days a week should be done for low-intensity, steady-rate cardio exercise, like rowing, running, swimming, elliptical, depending on what you enjoy doing. In the end, it would be much better if people chose a training program that they would adhere to and stick with it the long-term. If that means bodybuilding, CrossFit, street workout, Zumba or swimming, so be it, as long as you do it on a regular basis.
You will have to do some kind of training that is specific to your abs.
Along with your full-body training regimen to build muscle and reduce, you will also need to add exercises that will specifically target the abs. Even though spot-reducing has been proven to be impossible, i.e. target a specific area of your body to lose fat there, like performing crunches to lose fat around the midsection, you can actually “spot-enhance”.
It is possible to increase a muscle’s density and size to make them stand out more. You can build more developed and tighter abs. But in order to do that, in addition to getting rid of the fat that’s covering the muscle, you will also need to ab-specific movements which will really challenge and stress the abs.
However, you cannot do a thousand crunches, sit-ups and planks to get bigger abs.
If you’ve ever stumbled upon someone who’s doing hundreds of crunches and sit-ups (and we’re sure you have), then you know the exact thing you shouldn’t do if you want to get the six-pack look. Abdominal muscles are just like any other muscle, and training them should be like training any other muscle group which you want to get bigger.
What this means is stimulating your muscles with different types of workouts, where, in one session you perform more reps with a lower weight, and in another session you do fewer reps with heavier weights, which will trigger an anabolic response from your muscles, where in combination with resting and recovery will produce the most optimal environment in which your muscles your muscles will grow. Besides, doing too many reps of the same exercise over and over again increases the risk of injury and will not help you with the goal of getting a six-pack in the long-term.
Do roll-outs and pikes with a Swiss ball.
It’s been shown that ab movements which also target the shoulders or the hips are the most effective when it comes to properly stimulating the abdominals. One study showed that there are two exercises which are more effective than sit-ups or crunches in regards to how much they stimulate the abs and those exercises are the Swiss ball roll-out and pike.
You should get ready to start spending a lot of time thinking about what you eat and how to prepare your food.
If you use a precise body fat calculator and determine that you still have a long way to go before your abs start showing up, the first task will be learning the fundamentals about what you need to eat, as well as becoming really good at meal preparation.
So, if you’re one of those people who still have a lot of fat to lose, you will first need to master the fundamentals of nutrition, step by step, becoming aware of when you’re hungry and when you’re full, eating food mindfully, consuming adequate quantities of quality sources of lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fiber, drinking low-calorie beverages and many other things. Once you start mastering the basics of nutrition, you will start delving deeper into more complex components of nutrition such as macronutrient ratios, carb cycling, meal timing and much more.
This level of complexity and the attention you will need to put to details in terms of what you eat is essential to achieving an aesthetic physique, with one of its components being shredded abs. However, sometimes increasing complexity can backfire, as it can reduce consistency. Since maintaining a very low percentage of body fat requires one to stick to his/her diet almost 100% of the time, preparing your meal in advance is absolutely crucial; it will ensure that you never give in to temptation and eat something that will move you further away from your goals.
This is why a lot of people eating for a six-pack spend a lot of time shopping, weighing, cooking and portioning their food for snacks and meals. This, in turn, means less time for other things in your life and fewer opportunities to eat foods you’ll actually enjoy and drink something that’s not in your plan.
While we’re at it, be prepared to follow your diet practically always and eliminate certain foods.
For individuals with typical health goals, like being in decent cardiovascular health, getting stronger and maintaining a healthy which they’re going to be comfortable with, it is generally recommended that at least 80% of your meals match your goals. Then, make every seventh or eighth meal a cheat meal, where you don’t care about your goals and eat whatever your heart desires.
However, for people whose primary goal is getting a visible six-pack as fast as possible, the diet should be even stricter in regards to how much calories you consume, your macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) ratio, and you should stick to the diet at least 90% of the time. That means that every tenth meal will be a cheat meal, the other 9 will consist of “clean foods”.
It is also vital that you make rest and recovery your top priority, not to mention getting a quality sleep.
Many people think that muscles grow in the gym. Actually, you break your muscles in the gym. You make them grow when you are resting and recovering from training sessions when the damage made by the mechanical stress of lifting weights is being repaired. This is the main reason why it’s crucial that you take rest days to really give both your body and mind a timeout.
If you don’t do this, you will inevitably over-train and reach a plateau in your strength and muscle building progress. For optimal recovery, you need to prioritize sleep and relaxation. You can also take multiple naps during the day or a couple of extra hours of sleep instead of staying up late.
All of the things above will most definitely cause your social life to suffer.
Adhering to a strict diet 90% of the time will most definitely mean avoiding not just your favorite cocktails or snacks, but also reducing the time you spend with your friends. If we take an honest look at our social interactions that all people have on a normal basis, you will find that 90% of them are based on going out to cafes and clubs, having alcohol and food, eating dessert etc. When you do that regularly you are moving further away from your fitness goals.
The average person whose physique goals are not that ambitious or those who are recreational lifters can enjoy the food they like without hindering their muscle building or weight loss goals too much, however, if you want to reach 10-12% body fat, you cannot do that. Every day you need to be thinking about how you can maintain the caloric deficit and try to get even leaner. So, when you think about it, the sacrifices that people make where their social life suffers are not that hard to understand, considering how difficult it is to reach your physique goals.
You need to be realistic about your expectations and take into account that each body is different.
It’s important to note that the way your abs look does not depend on your body fat percentage only. Genetics also play a huge role. Some individuals tend to have denser, blockier abs and other’s abdominals have that shredded, super-cut look. Should you decide making a six-pack look your top priority, you will need to begin the journey by setting realistic expectations and remember that everybody looks different at 10% body fat.
Factor in enjoying life, food, drinks and socializing when you start deciding whether you want to get the shredded ab look.
To anyone who is even mildly interested in getting to such a low body fat percentage, you should know that this goal takes a huge amount of commitment. It is absolutely imperative that you do not skip training sessions, meal preparation will take a huge amount of time, and you must never cheat on your diet.
There will be no little excuses, like getting a piece of cake or two or just a few French fries from your friend’s Happy Meal. The bottom line is that you need to want a six-pack a lot more than you want to go out with your friends and drink beer, more than you like to eat a whole Nutella jar and more than you want to skip a training session.