Getting a six pack is a reward for your training and a sign that your healthy eating is paying dividends. It’s not just for the camera, though: having strong abs helps stabilise your core, and can increase your gains in other exercises too. Intense exercise and careful eating are at the core of great abdominal muscle definition, but you need to stay focused on what really counts.
Tip 1: Strengthen the core
You won’t be able to build impressive abs unless you get to work on a system that can support their growth – that means giving your core muscles a regular test and helping to build strength in your spine to support. Planking involves stabilising these muscles; it’s basically a push-up without the pushing. Rest your forearms on an aerobic step and bring your knees off the floor; hold this position for 30-60 seconds and keep your tummy tucked in and your bottom down. Focus on other key ab exercises such as jack-knifing and crunches – you can use an exercise ball to maintain the best form.
Tip 2: Keep up the cardio
One half of the fat-burning process comes from intense cardiovascular exercise; don’t overdo it though as this could make your body burn the calories you need to build muscle rather than just burning the fat. We recommend swimming or running as good cardio exercises; that way your whole body gets the chance to contribute to the fat-burning effort. Limit it to two half-hour sessions per week to give you the chance to rest up and get ready for more resistance training.
Tip 3: Cut out the junk
Lowering the amount of fatty foods you eat will prevent your body from having to store it anywhere; you can’t target your abs with exercises to burn the fat as it’s not nearly as efficient as some good cardio. It’s important to load up on protein so that your body has something to sculpt those abs with too; try lean meats for main meals, and snacking on nuts and seeds. Dairy is also a good source of protein – but obviously opt for the skimmed milk! A good supplement like a protein bar will also serve as an excellent snack for your goal.
Tip 4: Make crunches count
Crunches are great for getting a six pack and they’re better for your back compared to a full sit up. You can save a lot of the stress on your spine by only lifting the upper part of your back from the floor and a crunch will still work your abs just as effectively. You can use the Swiss ball to sit on, but make sure you are lying fully back and looking up at the ceiling when you start – many people sit too far forward.
Tip 5: Nail the plank
Use a mirror to check your form when planking, because it’s easy to let it slip. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles, with your hips not breaking the flow. If you want to progress, don’t add weights: try losing one of your points of contact with the floor. The plank is all about building core strength and stability, so make yourself unstable by lifting one foot from the ground. Swap over every ten seconds to really work the abs.
Tip 6: Burn stored fat
Drop your calorie intake. But not too much, just enough to trigger your body into using some stored fat as energy. A 500-cal a day reduction should be enough as long as you remember to eat regularly, taking in plenty of protein and water.
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