Six-Pack abs. They’re what women drool over, and what men envy. It’s perhaps the most sought after body part by both sexes and is something that everyone strives to get. But it’s easier said than done. In fact, at the beginning of every year, tons of people set ‘Getting a six-pack’ as there New Year’s Resolution. But if you look at the number of people in general who actually achieve their goal it’s actually only about 8%.
Why is this?
The reason is simple: Getting a six-pack takes work! Most people don’t realize this and a few weeks into their diet and workout they’ve given up, only to gain back the weight they already lost. Getting ripped abs requires not only working on the boy through diet and exercise, but through hard work and discipline. Whether this is getting up early to get your workout in or not going out and getting ice cream, you’re going to have to cut back somewhere.
If you do have this willpower and desire, then a six pack is definitely achievable. Read below to learn the formula for how to get ripped abs.
We’re going to start with diet because as they say, ‘Abs are made in the kitchen.’ As with bodybuilding, diet is the most important factor in getting your desired physique. Most people envision that getting a six-pack comes from doing endless situps, but this just isn’t the case. You see, everyone has a set of abdominal muscles. And even on the skinniest guys they can be fairly pronounced. This is why losing fat is your #1 goal to getting a six pack.
A good way to measure the fat around your belly is by measuring your waist ad body fat percentage. Measuring your waist is a good way to directly track changes around your belly. Checking your body fat percentage is also helpful because it gives you an overall idea of how your body is reacting to your diet. In terms of body fat, abdominals really start to ‘pop’ at 10%- make that your long-term goal.
The only problem that arises is that when you cut too much weight too fast, you can end up losing muscle as well. This is why it’s essentially to keep hitting the gym and have a solid ab workout, but we’ll get to that below. As far as diet goes, carbs are the enemy! Okay, they’re not entirely evil, and do play an important physiological role, but they’re often the culprit of belly fat.
Your first step to getting your diet in check should be cutting out carbohydrates. But where? The easiest place to start is by getting rid of all the junk food in your house: Chips, ice cream, soda etc. You get the picture. Not only is this food empty calories that’s adding inches to your waistline, but its totally devoid of nutrients.
Instead, start filling up on vegetables. This will keep you feel and is nutritious. But we can’t get rid of carbs entirely as they play a major role in the functioning of the body. The best solution is to eat carbs at strategic points throughout the day. The best times to do this are both before and after your workout.
For example, if you prefer to workout in mid-morning, then you should eat most of your carbs at breakfast and lunch, working out between the two meals. This is effective because the carbs you eat at breakfast are used to fuel your workout, and the carbs at lunch are used to replenish the body. After lunch, however, your carb intake will be low for the rest of the day.
The rest of your calories should come from protein and fat. For protein it’s really hard to go wrong— eggs, meat, fish fowl, legumes, and quality protein powder are all great choices. Your fat intake will come from animal products like meat and eggs, but also from oils and nuts.
A good rule of thumb to get ripped abs is to consume 12x your bodyweight in calories. For example, a 180 lb. man would consume 2,160 calories per day. How this is divided up in terms of meal timing is up to you.
Some experts say that small meals are best; others say three squares a day is the way to go. But the best meal plan is the one that you can stick with. Consistency is above all else the most important factor here, so only set up a diet that is conducive to your schedule.
It’s important to have a basic anatomy lesson before diving into the ab workouts. The reason for this is that when most people think of abs, they just think f the ‘rectus abdominus’, which are the six (or eight) muscles along your stomach (i.e. the six pack). What ends up happening is that people only do exercises that target these muscles. This ends up causing some imbalances and a lackluster midsection.
For example, look at ‘The Situation’ from Jersey Shore:
Notice how his abs are like an island with no surround definition? The reason for this is that he never developed other core muscles, like the obliques or serratus.
Hitting all these muscles makes for a total core workout, and will contribute to great looking, ripped abs down the road. Combine that with a great diet to get low-body fat and you’ll have a pair of washboard abs.
Here comes the fun part. Okay… it’s not that fun because torching your abs on a regular basis can be brutal. Knowing that you’re going to have a sculpted six pack is what keeps you motivated. Setting up an abdominal workout can be tricky. There are tons of (if not too many) ab exercises out there. Plus, because of the unique physiological structure of the abs, there are debates as to how to best stimulate them.
Fortunately, we’ve done the research for you. The best approach to ab training is to get plenty of variety. That way you cover all your bases. For example, you can train your abs ‘heavy’ by doing cable crunches with the whole stack of a cable machine. You can also do planks that hit your abs for a longer duration. Also, you need to make sure that you’re hitting the full spectrum of the core anatomy.
Here are some of the awesome exercises for the abdominals:
Like we just mentioned, the cable crunch is a great ab exercise because it allows for heavy loading of the ab muscles. Another great aspect of this exercise is that it targets the entire set of abdominals. Perform the exercise by kneeling in front a of a cable pulley with a rope attachment. Positon yourself upright while positioning the rope attachment behind your head. Then ‘crunch’, by moving your head to the floor— that’s one rep.
Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
A classic core exercise. This mainly targets the ‘lower abs’, but also hits the oblique exercises. It’s an exercise most people can perform and has varying degrees of difficulty. Start by getting in the ‘chair’ with your arms on the handles and back against the pads. Then bring your knees up, together, until they reach your chest. If you want to make the exercises harder, keep your legs straight.
Hanging Leg Raise
This is quite similar to the captain’s chair, except you’re hanging from a bar. This requires you to stabilize yourself more using core muscles.
Doing planks is a great finisher for core workouts. It forces you to eke out every last bit of energy you have left. Planks target the whole core, but the way you perform it will target one section more directly than another. For example, a traditional plank with forearms on the floor and laying straight targets the abs. If you want to hit your obliques, then you do a ‘side plank’; that is you use one arm to support yourself, and another straight into the sky, while keeping yourself upright and perpendicular to the floor.
The debate about how often to train abs is a heated one. Think about this: Some experts say to train abs 6 days a week, but only to train other body parts once a week— how do they explain that? Although the structure and function of the abdominals is somewhat different from the rest of the body, it doesn’t mean that they should be trained totally different manner. Yes, the abs are a smaller muscle than say the quads, but 6 days a week is still probably too much.
The best bet is to train your abs 2 to 3 times a week. This allows for a good amount of frequency, but also allows for plenty of rest. As far as how to position these workouts, make sure to give yourself 1 to 2 days of rest between the workouts. For example, you could train abs Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And it really doesn’t matter if you train them with the upper or lower body, even by themself is fine!
One of the great things about ab training is that bodyweight exercises make for a great workout. But if you really want to get your abs shredded, then you’re going to need some additional help.
There are plenty of machines at the gym that your abs, but they’re not really worth investing in for yourself. Rather, you should invest in some smaller budget items like these:
Perfect Fitness Crunch
Tons of people perform crunches and situps for abs— but did you know they can be stressful on the body? It’s a result of poor form which can easily be solved with the Perfect Fitness Crunch. It allows you to perform crunches correctly and comfortably. It eliminates any strain on the head and neck and is perfect for any level of fitness.
Inred Dual Ab Wheel – Fitness Roller
The Inred ab-wheel is an excellent piece of equipment as it offers a different dimension from traditional ab training. The reason for this is that most ab exercises are targeted for high reps. The ab roller however allows you to hit the abdominals for low-reps (e.g. 6-12).
Start on your knees and roll out until you’re lying as straight as you can go. The end goal is to do a full rollout standing, but that will take quite some time to achieve.
Valeo Medicine Ball
The classic medicine ball is a staple in any workout program. Because resistance is the key to making progress in the gym, using a medicine ball helps you go beyond just typical bodyweight crunches.
Medicine balls, like this one by Valeo, come in a variety of weights. Based on your level of fitness, choose the one most conducive to your goals.
Now that you have all this information, it’s time to put together a comprehensive workout. Give this one a try 2 to 3 times a week:
- 3 sets of Cable Crunches for 8-12 reps
- 2 sets of Hanging Leg Raises for 12-15 reps
- 1 set each off regular and side planks for as long as you can hold it
Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.
A great way to keep yourself motivated is to set a date that you want to achieve your goal. By having a firm, physical deadline you’re going to be much more motivated.
Something you may want to consider is planning a vacation to the beach. The purpose for this is that you’re essentially locking yourself into a date, and because you know you’ll be strutting your stuff around shirtless you’ll have that burning desire to get shredded.
Now you have all the pieces of the puzzle laid out for you. Start by planning your workouts and getting a meal plan that will keep you on track.
Follow it to a T and track your progress over the next few weeks. If you’re not losing fat, then cut calories, especially carbohydrates, even more. Once you’ve reached your desired body fat, and feel that your abdominals aren’t as muscular as you’d like, increase the volume and frequency of your ab workouts. Continue this formula until you have the shredded six-pack that you’ve always wanted.