Six Pack Abs: Debunking The Infomercial Myth
How hard is it to get a six pack ? The informercials might make you believe it's pretty easy. This article investigates the claims made by TV ads and shows what it really takes to get stunning abs.
I can't begin to tell you how amusing the various ab-building gadgets and videos shown on TV are. The toners, chairs, bands, balls, belts...the list of products that claim to give you a perfect set of abs in x number minutes a day just goes on an on.
These products, quite frankly, manipulate and profit off of society's fitness ignorance. They send the message that getting in shape, particularly getting washboard abs is easy. They also imply that successful body transforming is tied to specific consumer products i.e. "you have to own this product to get six-pack abs"
That couldn't be farther from the truth. Getting a six-pack is extremely hard and takes enormous amounts of discipline and commitment. In no way, shape, or form does building six-pack abs require any special product.
So how do you get a six pack then? Well assuming you are starting out overweight, here's the basic breakdown
Let's look at in each in a little further detail:
1. Cut your body fat percentage to a low level through a structured nutrition plan and aerobic exercise.
The biggest misconception when it comes to building six-pack abs is that all of you have to do is ab-exercises. This is dead wrong. What the "as-seen-on TV ads" won't tell you is that six pack ab-building is just as much about nutrition as it is about any exercise.
The truth is, that abs like any other muscle group are covered by a layer of fat. You could have the strongest, most well-defined abs in the world ever but if you're body fat percentage is high you're never going to see them.
Ab-exercises alone will not get rid of the fat over your abs. In fact, there's nothing you can do just to remove the fat that's specifically covering over your abs. Instead you have to reduce your fat levels for your entire body (Trying to remove fat in just a particular area is called "spot training" --- and it doesn't work).
It has been said that to actually see your abs, your overall body fat percentage has to be lower than 8%. If you're not there already you'll have to create a diet that consists of healthy amounts of proteins, carbohydrate and fats broken into small, frequent meals that creates a slight caloric deficit. A slight caloric deficit means a few hundred calories below your optimum "caloric maintenance level" each day (Google the term if you're not sure what yours is).
You'll then have to supplement that with intense 30-45 minutes cardio sessions a few times a week for optimum results. (My favorites are running, biking, swimming & rowing)
2. Build ab strength, size and definition through a combination of anaerobic & core stabilizing exercises
For a lot of people just cutting fat is enough for a nice six-pack to appear. Other people aren't as fortunate because their abs aren't as developed and even if they get under 8% body fat there won't be much there other than a flatter stomach.
In either case, it's a good idea to workout your abs in some fashion during your cutting phase to "maintain" whatever you have.
Once you get your body fat to a lower level you can really start focusing on building your abs with either specific ab anaerobic exercises and/or "core stabilizing" exercises.
I prefer personally to focus core stabilizing exercises. These are exercises that really require your core muscles (abs and lower back) to work hard and stabilize during the motion (For example pull-ups, power cleans, push-ups, running, rowing etc).
This works for me because I do a lot of different exercises that challenge my core intensely and uniquely. Plus this gives me the added benefit of working other muscle groups as I work my abs.
If you don't/can't create a program with enough intensity and variety to work your abs out in that manner, then you can use ab-specific exercises such as crunches, sit-ups and leg raises. Search the internet if you're having trouble coming up with an ab workout, there are millions of free ones floating around.
Remember though, abs are like any other muscle groups and should be given adequate time to rest. I recommend working your abs 2-3 times a week.
Also, here's a key point -- building ab muscles as opposed to cutting the fat over them requires you to eat more than you expend.
So in this case, after the cutting fat phase from step #1, if you really want to build and define your abs, you should adjust your diet to eat more calories (I recommend a few hundred more to start) than your optimum calorie maintenance level and increase your protein intake each day to really promote the muscular growth.
So as you can see it's not as easy the infomercials make it seem. Remember, nothing in life comes easy. Challenge yourself everyday. Create a plan to develop your six pack abs. Commit to it, be disciplined and you will succeed.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CK Clark is a fitness author, fitness advocate, and founder of http://www.bestmuscleprograms.com/ which provides updated fitness information and reviews of the top muscle building programs.