Hey guys, Team EHP here to take you through some of my favorite core strength exercises and what it requires to achieve those six-pack abs. You can type that 'six-pack abs' into your search engine, and you’ll get about thirty million hits, all offering advice on how to gain the fitness holy of holies. Pills, potions, exercise routines, workout devices, abs belts and waist wraps—clearly six-pack abs are a hot topic but, also for many people, seemingly elusive.
As well as looking good and enhancing your overall health, well-developed midsection muscles are also essential for the health of your spine. Your abdominal muscles support your back and reduce the load on passive structures such as your intervertebral discs and spinal ligaments. Acting like a natural weight lifting belt or old fashioned whale-bone girdle, the muscles of your midsection stabilize your spine and keep it correctly aligned when you sit, stand and move.
But how do you get that elusive six-pack? Now that’s a good question! It’s not as simple as banging out a few crunches every day. Otherwise, everyone who went to the gym would have one. Rather, developing six-pack abs requires a multi-pronged approach.
TRAINING & EXERCISE
In an effort to reveal their six-packs, a lot of exercisers make some heinous training mistakes. They do set after set of ineffectual exercises in the vain hope that they can spot reduce fat from their abdominals. Sadly, not even 100 crunches every day will help you lose fat and expose your abs.
QUICK 30 MINUTE CORE WORKOUT
This abs building training session will help reveal your new, chiseled midsection. It’s short but doesn’t let that fool you; combined with an appropriate diet, it’ll help you shed fat fast to unveil those hidden abs muscles. Do this workout in place of your normal cardio, 1-2 times a week.
DIETING & HEALTHY EATING
If you are serious about revealing your abs, you need to be serious about your diet too. It really doesn’t matter how hard you work your abs, if they are covered in a layer of fat, no one will ever see them! The leaner you are, the more easily your abs will shine through which means your diet is critical.
For your abs to become visible, you will need to reduce your body fat percentage—the amount of your weight that is made of fat — to the following levels:
Men – 8-11% | Women – 14-17%
There are lots of dietary approaches you can use to lose fat and get lean, and almost all of them work. The trick is finding one you can live with; not just for a day or a week but for months at a time, or until you are lean enough for your abs to be revealed.
Whichever diet you follow, it’s vital that it creates a caloric deficit. This means that you end up consuming a little less food that your body needs. To meet this caloric deficit, your body will have no choice but to burn stored fat for fuel and, as your fat stores decrease, your abs will emerge. If you don't see the progress you think your training efforts deserve, it’s probably your diet that is at fault. However, if your diet is good, and you create the necessary caloric deficit, you should find that abs start to show and your okay two-pack slowly metamorphoses into an amazing six-pack.
DIFFERENT DIETARY SOLUTIONS
The low carb diet
The ketogenic diet
Cutting out sugar and processed foods
Eating smaller portions
The 'If-It-Fits-Your-Macros' diet
The meal replacement shake diet
Providing your diet produces the necessary caloric deficit, and you can stick to it for as long as it takes to reach your leanness goal, it will work!
7 KEY THINGS TO CONSIDER
Your abs are like any other muscle group – they need to be trained hard but infrequently if you want them to become stronger and harder. In the same way you wouldn’t do hundreds of reps of biceps curls, nor should you do hundreds of reps of abs per workout.
1) TRAIN FOR STRENGTH
Strong abs are good abs, and that means you need to work your abs with intensity. Look for ways to make your chosen abs exercises harder other than just doing more reps. Longer levers, using weight, and using an unstable surface are all good options. If you can do more than 20-reps per set, your abs exercise is too easy to be effective.
2) TRAIN IN MULTIPLE PLANES OF MOTION
Most people focus almost exclusively on spinal flexion exercises. This is understandable when you consider that is the primary function of the rectus abdominus, the muscle you are trying to reveal. However, there are several other muscles that make up your midsection that are worthy of your attention. You don’t need to know the names of these muscles, but you can work them all if you include the following categories of movement in your abs workouts:
Flexion 1 – lifting your shoulders off the floor
Flexion 2 – lifting your hips off the floor
Lateral flexion – bending to the side
3) PRACTICE MAXIMAL CONTRACTION
The next time you do any abs exercise, make it more effective by contracting your abs as hard as you can midway through each and every rep. This will make the exercise more demanding and also reduce the number of reps you need to perform. A two-second mid-rep contraction will change the entire feel of whatever exercise you are performing and, tomorrow, you’ll be rewarded with some deep muscle soreness.
4) FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING
One of the lesser-known functions of your abs is compressing your abdominal contents to help with a forceful exhalation. Blow out as though you were trying to inflate a balloon and you should feel your abs contract. Make use of this phenomenon by exhaling as you contract your abs and inhaling as you relax. Combined with tip number three, this will ensure each rep you perform is as productive as possible.
5) TRAIN YOUR ENTIRE BODY AND NOT JUST YOUR ABS
It’s very hard to develop strong, hard abs in isolation; your body is a complex unit made up of over 200 bones and more than 600 muscles, and it’s virtually impossible to preferentially target just one part of your body. Even if your abs are your priority, make sure you train all your other major muscles too.
6) USE, BUT DON’T ABUSE CARDIO
Cardio will help you shed fat and reveal your abs, but too much could delay the process and even undo your best efforts. Too much cardio can kill muscle growth and, for your abs to be visible, they need to be strong and muscular. 20-30 minutes two or three times per week should be sufficient, and if you feel you need to do more than this, your diet needs an overhaul. For best results, do interval training or, better still, use the workout at the end of this article.
7) EMBRACE INDIRECT ABS EXERCISES
Direct abs exercises such as sit ups and planks are okay, but they are a lot like trying to build your legs with leg extensions and leg curls when, in fact, it’s squats and deadlifts that work best. Indirect abs exercises expose your abs to more load and tend to produce better muscle-building results while burning more calories – critical for fat loss and revealing your abs to the world.
Good options include:
Sled pushing and pulling
Single arm farmer’s and waiter’s walks
Heavy bag work
Medicine ball throws
Single arm, standing, overhead presses
One arm push-ups and dumbbell bench presses