When it comes to fitness, there are several benchmarks of success. The constantly shrinking number on the scale. The size of your biceps. Besting your personal record on the deadlift or bench press. But the one universal sign of being fit – the pinnacle of physical achievement – is the six pack. Nothing communicates dedication and fitness expertise like a six pack. We admire it on the Instagram fitness celebs with millions of followers. We idolize Hollywood’s A-list men who constantly stay in peak condition. But in our own lives, the six pack is elusive. No matter how hard we work out, how many diets we try or how many sit-ups we do, that washboard never materializes. It turns out, all these celebs are on to something. They’re working smarter, not harder. It’s time for you to abandon crunches once and for all to get your six pack.
Your Six Pack Diet
Before you step foot inside your nearest gym, it’s important to know that abs are made in the kitchen. You’ve probably seen this quote on your social media feeds. Though it’s a catchy viral phrase, it’s not folklore. The only true way to cut up your midsection is with the proper diet.
If your abs aren’t defined, it’s because they’re hiding under a significant layer of fat. You have to burn that excess fat to let them shine through. In order to do that, you have to jumpstart your metabolism. You can do this by calculating your required calories and your macronutrient intake. You understand calories but you probably aren’t familiar with macronutrients.
These are the amounts of fat, protein and carbs that you need each day to meet your goals. The manual calculations are dizzying, but luckily, there are dozens of free calculators online. All you have to do is enter your stats (i.e. height, weight, level of activity) and the calculator does the rest of the work. It’ll figure out your TDEE, also known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is the number of calories you’ll burn in each day.
To burn fat, you need to consume less than your TDEE. You’ll typically need to cut back 10-15% of those calories to make a real difference.
Once you understand the number of calories and macronutrients required to get your six pack, you need a meal plan. Preparation is key. You can’t wing it without any guidance and expect to look like a Hollywood action star. You must set yourself up for success.
Fill your fridge with lean meats like chicken breast, ground turkey and fish. Load up on fruits, salads and veggies. And be sure to power your afternoons with complex carbs like brown rice and whole wheat pasta. After your grocery trip, download a calorie tracking app like MyFitnessPal. And prepare to be honest.
Every piece of food that goes past your lips needs to be counted in the app. The great thing about MFP and other apps like it is that they track not only calories but also macros. As your day goes on, you can see how you’re progressing toward your goals and where you need to scale back to stay on track. It may sound exhaustive but it gets easier with each passing day. Furthermore, if achieving a six pack was easy, every guy would already have one.
Your Six Pack Exercise
One of the most common misconceptions about six packs is that they’re achieved through hundreds of crunches and old school sit-ups. Sure, if you want to go this route, you can. It’ll work out in the end. But what if there was an easier way? A method that emphasized quality over quantity?
Guess what? There is a better way, and it’s all about focusing on your core. Your core is much more than your abs. it involves dozens of muscles that help stabilize your body during workouts and everyday movements. This is inclusive of but not limited to your glutes and lower back muscles. To define your abs, you have to actively engage your core. There’s two ways of doing this: through targeted exercises and in every other exercise you complete.
Let’s start with the latter. Say it’s your leg day and you’re kicking off a hard workout with several sets of squats. Squats are designed to develop your legs, but they offer a great core workout as well. Every time you drop down with the barbell pushing down on your shoulders, it’s your core that pushes you back up against gravity. Keep your core engaged during this exercise. The engagement helps you avoid breaking form and causing injury. It also burns fat around your torso.
The same goes for other compound exercises like the bench press or even isolation exercises like bicep curls. Create stability for these exercises by keeping your core engaged.
If you’re not convinced that your entire workout will help your six pack, dive into a challenging core routine. The most important core target exercise is the plank. The plank involves getting your body into pushup position but resting on your elbows instead of your hands. Keep your butt lowered and core engaged. Your body should look like a straight line. Then, hold this pose for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’ll seem easy in the first few moments, but as the clock ticks on, you’ll find your abs screaming for relief.
The plank is the ultimate core exercise because it forces you to engage and hold your abs for an extended period of time. It’s a direct assault on belly fat.
Other popular core exercises include the bird dog and deadbug. The bird dog forces you to get on all fours. With your back straight, stick out your left arm and right leg simultaneously. You’ll have to stabilize yourself with your core. Then, switch sides. One of these is easy. 20 reps get brutal. The deadbug involves laying on your back and using the same alternating motion as the bird dog, except you’re laying down. Extend your right leg in front while you push out your left arm in back. As you switch sides, keep your back pinned to the floor. Throughout multiple reps, you’ll feel your abs working double time.
Achieving your six pack is about working smarter. There’s no need for a thousand crunches or a crash diet. With a little dedication and some understanding of new health principles, you can get the core you’ve always wanted.