Everybody wants to lose belly fat and get six pack abs – but only a small percentage of us end up with them.
People are confused about how to do it.
What are the best abs workouts?
Are crunches, hanging leg raises and the plank position the answer?
Is your time better spent burning off the fat that’s covering your abs on the treadmill?
Or are abs really made in the kitchen?
In this article, you are going to find out.
What Works for What?
Your abdominal muscles are just like any other muscle group. They need to be exercised in order to get stronger and tighter. This is especially important because the abdominal wall forms an integral part of your core, which is your body’s power base. Doing exercises that work your abs through all of their ranges of movement will allow you to build up that power base, a strong core.
But doing core exercise routines that are ab specific will not give you sixpack abs. The only way to reveal your abs is to get your body fat percentage down. And because you cannot spot reduce body-fat, doing targeted ab exercises will not achieve that. So, if you only do targeted ab exercises, you will have strong abdominals that are covered with a layer of fat.
In order to get visible abs, you need to get your body fat percentage down around 13% or lower. And to do that, you have got to focus on what you put into your mouth.
You’ve no doubt heard the saying that abs are made in the kitchen. While it’s along the right lines, it is not strictly true; abs are made on the gym floor, as we’ve seen, but they are revealed in the kitchen.
We said earlier that the abs are like other muscle groups. That’s true but there is something unique about our abs – they are covered in a layer of fat. And what is fat – latent energy in the form of stored calories. To get rid of them, you need to create a caloric deficit by using up more calories than you consume each day.
While working your abs will burn calories, it won’t burn enough of them to get rid of your abdominal fat. The reality is that you cannot out-train a bad diet. Food is just too calorie dense, while exercise does not burn enough calories to counter it.
In order to lose body fat, you need to reduce your caloric intake. If you cut back by 500 calories per day below your daily caloric maintenance level, which is quite realistic for most people, then you will have reduced your intake by 3,500 calories in a week. That is how many calories there are in a pound of fat, meaning that you should lose a pound over the course of that week. A portion of that fat will come off your stomach area.
Eating for Abs
Of course, revealing your abs is not just about cutting back on calories. The types of calories you eat are also important. To create a lean, muscular physique with visible abs, you need to follow a high protein diet that is moderate in fats and low in carbohydrates.
As the mainstay of your diet, protein gives your body the material with which to build muscle. It also has a satiating effect, filling you up quicker than any of the other macronutrients. In addition, protein has the highest thermic value, which means that it takes more energy to consume a protein than a fat or a carb.
The combination of these three effects makes protein your best friend when it comes to getting lean. You should aim to consume one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, spread over 5 or 6 meals throughout the day.
You also need to prioritize healthy fats in your diet. These should include avocado, macadamia oil, walnuts, almonds and fatty fish. These fats will help you to get rid of stored body fat, while also improving your mental functioning.
Cutting back on processed carbohydrates is one of the most important things you can do in order to bring out definition in your abdominals. Sugar laden carb foods will make you fat, so limit yourself to fibrous carbs if you are serious about getting shredded.
What About Cardio?
So, how does cardio exercise fit into the ab equation. Because cardio burns more calories than targeted ab exercise, it will help you to burn off the extra calories. That is why you should include some form of cardio to help you to rid your body of those calories to help lose belly fat fast. A mixture of slow, steady state cardio and high intensity interval training is the best way to go.
The Ab Exercises
So, what does an effective ab routine look like?
As mentioned earlier, you need to be working your abs through every range of motion in order to hit the upper and lower ab muscles and intercostals. That means that more than the old standbys of crunches and planks are needed for a truly effective abdominal routine to get well defined abs.
Here’s a great little routine that you can utilize 2-3 times per week to make your abs stronger, tighter and more functional . . .
#1 The Otis Up
For the start position, lie flat, sit on the floor and lower yourself on your back holding a single dumbbell above your chest. Now use only the strength of your abs to bring your upper body up to around a 45-degree angle to the floor. Make sure that the dumbbell remains in a line with your body and do not use momentum. Lower and repeat.
#2 Bar Walk
Stand with an empty Olympic barbell held overhead. Begin taking steps forward, resisting the natural sideways movement of the bar. Use the contractile force of your obliques to keep the bar steady.
Go forward and back ten paces.
#3 Medicine Ball Throw.
Position yourself in front of a wall, holding a medicine ball to one side, with arms straight at arm’s length. Use all of your might to hurl the ball against the wall. Catch the ball on the rebound without it causing any recoil of your body. This will require keeping your abs as tight as possible.
#4 Eccentric Leg Raise
Extend your arms from a bar and then engage your core, hinge your legs up toward the bar. There should be no momentum whatsoever as you raise your hips and raise your legs, with the entire movement happening at the pelvis.
Come up as high as you can and then concentrate on lowering your legs as slowly as possible.
|Exercise||Sets / Reps|
|Otis Up||3 x 10 (each side)|
|Bar Walk||3 x 10 steps|
|Medicine Ball Throw||3 x 10 (each side)|
|Eccentric Leg Raise||3 x 10|
Try these out and you will be surprised by the results and you can do them as part of your home workout. There are exercise out there that work the abs and core muscle, whether it is the oblique crunch, reverse crunch, mountain climber exercise, hardstyle plank or using the battle rope and stability ball. We have given you the most effective.
Technique is important to target the correct muscles and avoid injury. If you are unsure use a personal trainer for a few sessions who can check your form (for example you form is correct throughout the movement – if you should be bending your knees, if your starting position and repeat is good, your feet are off the floor sufficiently, if you brace your core correctly, are your arms extended etc.)
Then you can push yourself with confidence.