Abs on the Brain: 8 Ways to Sculpt a Six-Pack
Here’s a challenge for you … Name someone who wouldn’t want a lean midsection. That’s right. NO CAN DO. We all want to ditch the love handles and carve out a killer six-pack. The problem might just be knowing where to start and how to make it happen. But fear not, because we’ve got eight helpful tips to get you on the fast track to leaner abs.
1. Show Your Core Some TLC
It sounds obvious, but to get great abs, you’ll have to do some core-specific exercises to really build and strengthen your mid-section. We’re talking basic crunches, planks, reverse curls, oblique crunches, and other ab exercises – all of which can be done at the gym or in the comfort of your home. Because your abs are composed of slow-twitch (i.e. endurance) muscle fibers, they can be trained more frequently than muscle groups with high-twitch fibers. In other words, while you should only train your larger body parts (i.e. shoulders, chest, etc.) just once per week, you can go ahead and train your abs two to three times per week. A word to the wise: Don’t forget to balance your ab training with some lower back exercises. Why? Because your core is made up of both your abs and lower back. If you train your abs religiously but brush off your back, you’ll be at a greater risk for injury and your physique will look asymmetrical. Not pretty.
2. But … Don’t Obsess Over Crunches
Crunch all day? No way. Full-body weight training is your friend because many exercises simultaneously engage and activate your core muscles. So even when you’re not doing ab exercises per say, you’re actually giving those bad boys a workout. Picture doing a set of standing barbell curls. As you squeeze that loaded barbell in toward your chest, your abs and lower back will be working hard to hold your trunk in position. In this way, strengthening your whole body is good for your six-pack. You’ll also want to trade some crunch time for some fat-burning cardio. After all, what’s the point of building great abs if they’re hidden under a layer of blubber? The important thing is to be strategic about your cardio. And that, my friends, is what we’re going to hit on next …
3. Be Smart About Your Cardio
Here’s the deal. Research shows that the most effective fat-burning strategy is a one-two approach of weightlifting and high-intensity interval training – or H.I.I.T. for short. If you thought you could get away with a slow stroll on the treadmill for an hour and a half, you’ve come to the wrong place. (Who has the time for that, anyways?). With H.I.I.T., the idea is to perform a combination of brief, high-intensity bursts of cardio exercise, followed by equal or longer periods of rest. Using our treadmill example, that might mean 30 seconds of all-out sprinting, followed by a minute or two of slow walking or jogging, and then back to the all-out sprint. Do this for just 10 to 20 minutes, and your H.I.I.T. session is done. Not only will you spend less time in the gym; you’ll prime your body for increased fat loss to show off those big, beautiful abs.
4. Drink Up
You know water is important for your overall health. Still, maybe you’ve shied away from drinking the recommended 10 cups of water per day for fear of looking bloated. After all, why would you want to guzzle up and balloon out? In reality, drinking water helps boost your metabolism, promote fat loss, and cleanse your body of waste. It also helps suppress appetite, which is why nutritionists recommend drinking water whenever you get that urge to hit the snack cupboard. Drinking more water can even help your body stop retaining water. That means so long excess water weight, hello tighter stomach. Make sure to load up on H20 first thing in the morning, when your body needs serious rehydration after a long slumber. If plain old water doesn’t do it for you, add some fresh berries, lemon, mint, or whatever else gets you drinkin’.
5. Watch What You Eat
This might seem like another tip from Captain Obvious, but it bears repeating. Unless you’re like that genetic freak from university who could pound back pizza and beer every night and STILL have a six-pack, you’re going to have to clean up your diet. That means high-quality protein at every meal – aim for one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day – plus moderate amounts of complex carbs, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. (If you’re looking for specific nutritional advice, stay tuned for the launch of the Lean Body Coaching program later this year!). Meanwhile, beware of foods with high levels of sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and other nutritional evils, like sodium. You’d expect sodium in chips and other salty snacks, but it can rear its ugly head in other surprising places, such as cereal, packaged cakes, and donuts. Too much sodium equals too much tummy bloat!
6. Get Packin’
Cleaning up your diet might seem daunting. After all, you’re a busy gal who may not always have time to cook. And women aren’t the only ones who have food cravings, right? Don’t worry, preparation is half the battle. If you always have a high-protein shake or bar with you, you’ll be less likely to make any sudden U-turns into your favorite fast-food drive-through. The more you stay on track with healthy eating, the leaner you’ll get – allowing your chiseled abs to surface!
7. Know it Won’t Happen Overnight
Anybody who tells you that you’ll be flaunting a new six-pack in a week is lying to you. And let’s be honest here … Losing belly fat isn’t always fun. It requires time, hard work, and dedication. Nobody says, “Today I’d rather do a grueling ab workout than hang out with my friends and wolf down pizza.” Or maybe you do say that. If so, kudos to you. But for most of us, getting a six-pack will require some serious mental fortitude. When temptations arise to skip the gym or cheat on your diet, remind yourself of the end goal: a rock-hard six-pack! If you keep that vision in your mind and take small steps every day, it will happen. A perfectly etched six-pack is always worth the pain!
8. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain
Once you get your leaner abs (we know you will!), make sure to take good care of them. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are – now is not the time to coast! Make sure to stay on track while soaking in every glorious minute of your new, six-pack glory.
About the Author
Nicole Kepic is a freelance copywriter who specializes in health, wellness, and lifestyle writing. She has also had articles published in a variety of fitness and bodybuilding magazines. When she’s not busy writing for her clients, Nicole is either keeping active with her family, curling up with a great mystery novel, or dreaming of her next sunny vacation. To learn more, visit www.nicolekepic.com