As a personal trainer, I have a high volume of clients who come to me seeking help with shrinking and toning their midsections to achieve a flat stomach or six-pack. During my training sessions, I also find that there are many misconceptions about what is needed to achieve the perfect six-pack. This article has everything you need to know about how to little your middle. I promise I’m telling the ABSolute truth!
Before we begin, I must address this personal trainer pet peeve: do NOT refer to a six-pack, flat stomach or “washboard effect” as having abs. Do not make wishful statements such as, “I wish I had abs,” because you do! “Abs” is an abbreviation for your abdominal muscles, which we all have. If you don’t, please seek medical attention ASAP! Now, carry on…
Goodbye fat, hello flat.
Abdominal training is essentially simple. Abdominal muscles are covered by a layer of protective fat. In order to reveal your abdominal muscles, you must shed the layer of excess fat that is covering them. But how does all of this work? Keep reading.
Six-Packs are made in the kitchen.
A clean diet is the single most important factor when it comes to achieving healthy goals. No matter how much time you spend in the gym, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. The good news is that you can eat your way to a flat tummy! Again, exposing your abs is all about removing excess fat. This is done by ensuring that you maintain a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume. This is not done by eating baby portions, having Wheat Thins for dinner or skipping meals. Maintaining a caloric deficit consists of counting calories, making healthy food choices and eating clean. Seek a diet that is low in carbs, sufficient in protein and limited to healthy fats. A lot of dieting is using common sense and disciplining yourself to make consciously healthy choices. Example: Apples = abs. Fried Food = fat. If you are not sure how to stock your fridge for an ab-tastic diet, speak with a dietitian who can provide you with specific advice.
It takes two to Tango.
When it comes to your exercise regimen, focus on two things: cardio + strength. Cardio is your best friend when it comes to shedding fat, especially high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT training and other explosive cardio allow your body to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. (Burning more calories = burning more fat!) However, in order to achieve the “washboard effect,” you will need a little help from cardio’s partner in crime: strength training. Strength training does exactly what its name implies—builds strength. (Mythbuster: Going crazy with crunches will not help you burn more calories, because they are a strength training exercise.) Performing strength training exercises will help strengthen and tighten your core muscles, while building the traditional six-pack aesthetic we all know and love.
Save the drama for your mama.
Your genetics play a big role in your body’s ability to achieve a particular look. Your body type and where you store fat (or if you store fat) are key factors in achieving your goal. Variations in genetics also explain why your midsection will not look exactly like your favorite celebrity or fitness trainer. The simple fact is that certain body types must work harder than others when it comes to their waistline. And unfortunately, only mom and dad have control over your genetics. So yes, you do get it from your mama but you can shape what your mama gave ya.
Puberty doesn’t just suck as a teen.
Your body is filled with hormones, and depending on your sensitivity to an imbalance, it can directly affect your results in the gym. For example, people with higher levels of testosterone are able to build muscle mass easier. (These are usually males.) Your highest levels of hormones are developed during puberty and constantly change throughout your life. But don’t stress! High levels of stress produce excess amounts of the cortisol chemical, which directly influences fat storage around your waistline. Higher levels of cortisol allow your body to store stomach fat easier. If you find that you have a severe hormonal imbalance that is affecting your health, speak with a physician to find hormonal supplement solutions. Just like genetics, your hormone levels are not entirely in your control, but they should be taken into consideration.
Waist trainer are a waste.
Waist training devices (corsets, sweat wraps, saran wrap) are a seriously harmful fitness trend with no real benefits. These devices apply pressure to your abdominal area and dehydrate your body by causing you to lose water weight through a surplus of sweat. The “effect” of the waist trainer ultimately backfires as you have to replenish your body with even more fluids to replace those that were lost. This, in turn, can lead to over drinking and gaining back the water weight, if not more. In addition to major dehydration, the severe compression of the waist trainer can affect your ability to breathe, and in the worst-case scenario they can damage internal organs. So if you wonder why you aren’t seeing results from your waist trainer, it is because it doesn’t work.
Only the tooth fairy comes overnight.
The diet and exercise process for uncovering your abs will require persistence and dedication. Unlike the tooth fairy, a perfectly chiseled six-pack will not appear overnight. The human body needs weeks of dedication in order to adapt towards the goals that you are trying to achieve. Also remember that every body is different and there is no time limit in which your six-pack should appear. Stay disciplined and consistent in your training in order to achieve the results you desire.
If you have been struggling with how to little your middle, take these tips into consideration. Understanding the factors that influence your personal growth are important to your fitness success.
And that’s the ABSolute truth!
Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker