First, a disclaimer: six-pack abs are not the secret to endless happiness. Single-digit body fat will not make all your wildest dreams come true.
And even if visible abs were the Holy Grail, some people’s genetic makeup makes them difficult to achieve.
In short, don’t pin all your hopes on a washboard midriff.
Ask 100 men what part of their body they would most like to improve, and most will likely point to their stomachs.
The six-pack remains a highly coveted physical attribute – even though, it must be said, visible abs have no functional benefit.
But if you’re still after those abdominals, the days of endless sit-ups are long gone. Instead, cardio, calorie control and smart training are your tickets to toned.
How To Get Six Pack Abs
1. Burn Body Fat
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how smart you train in the gym, because you’ll never have visible abs if you’re not as disciplined in the kitchen.
And if trimming down is the goal, it all comes down to one simple equation: calories in vs. calories out.
Maintain a slight (emphasis on the slight) calorie deficit for a few weeks or more and you will reduce body fat.
While individual calorie needs vary greatly (work yours out using a calorie calculator), four to five meals per day is optimal: the regular intake of macro and micronutrients ensuring continual muscle protein synthesis and keeping your metabolism burning through the food you eat.
One study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity also found that eating on small plates can trick your brain into feeling more full.
2. Keep Up the Cardio
High-intensity interval training is the time-efficient method for fat loss, but lower intensity cardio can be just as effective.
It all comes back to calorie burn and what form of training you can stick to.
If lung-busting burpee sessions are your thing, great; but if you’re more of a steady-paced jogger, that also works – as long as you’re consistent.
3. Work the Angles
Your abs, like all muscle groups, need to be worked through different angles to recruit as many muscle fibres as possible.
Include exercises that require your torso or legs to move not just up and down or back and forth, but also side to side and resisting spinal movement (e.g planks and hollow body holds), to work all the muscles that make up your abdominals.
The more you ask your abs to do, the greater the benefit.
4. Ramp Up the Resistance
Using your own bodyweight is the best place to start, but once your abs can comfortably manage your weight you need to add in progressions – one of which is adding more load.
Once you feel that, say, a Russian twist is too easy, it’s time to increase the workload by holding a dumbbell or weight plate. Start light and increase the extra weight gradually.
5. Stay Tight
When you train your abs you need to ensure there’s tension in your entire core – to recruit more muscle fibres and also to protect your spine – before starting the set.
Fully contract your abs at the top of each rep, and lower slowly and under complete control.
For static holds, keep your core tight throughout (as if bracing to be punched in the stomach).