“What can I do to flatten out my stomach/get a six pack?”.
This question plagues me like…well, the plague. Almost every time I speak with people about what I do, mention that I am into fitness, or just anytime people ask me what I do at the gym, I run into this question.
It seems like there is an overwhelming consensus by about 95% of people in America that their bodies look just fine, but that they need to “lose their belly”, “flatten their stomach”, or just “get a set of washboard abs”, and while the fantasy of changing very little or nothing about our diet, lifestyle, or fitness routine and just simply adding in some special crunches 3 days a week or drinking some cucumber infused water sounds nice, it just isn’t realistic to expect rock hard abs doing things this way.
People often expect to get maximal results for minimal effort, and I can’t blame them, I do to!
The same trait of human beings that birthed innovations like the airplane, automobile, and personal computer, is the same trait that leads people to gorge themselves on fast food, skip the gym, and expect that 15 minutes of cardio 2 days per week and some sit ups will make them look like Arnold or Beyonce.
Humankind’s desire to innovate and make things easier can also cause us to seek maximal results with as little effort as possible; this often makes us a sucker for the easy way out, the magic pill, the “secret trick that the fitness industry doesn’t want you to know about”. We are used to things having an easy solution: if the carpet is dirty you buy a vacuum cleaner and clean it, but short of maybe liposuction surgery or dangerous medical grade weight loss pills you aren’t ever going to get the abs of your dreams with some quick solution.
Ripped abs and toned stomach come from a mixture of hard work, genetics, diet, time, and dedication. Period. So what factors affect those washboard abs that we can’t control?
Many people ask me if there are any ab exercises that they can use to take away their belly fat and get more defined abdominal muscle, and to this I usually try to dance around the subject trying not to piss anyone off.
The truth is your body stores fat in different places due to some factors like your: age, hormones, gender, and genetics.
Some people are born with bigger legs and a small waste, others have huge arms and big belly naturally. Your genetics determine where you tend to primarily store fat, and for some people your body’s go to spot just happens to be the stomach. Does that mean you can never have 6 pack abs? No, but it does mean that you will have to achieve a much lower body fat percentage overall to reduce your fat enough in your stomach for your abs to show.
Factors that affect fat storage include your genetics, your gender (women tend to store fat differently than men due to hormonal differences, and women usually carry a higher average body fat percentage than men), your hormones (pregnant women or women after pregnancy store fat differently, and people under high amounts of stress also produce more cortisol that will lead to more fat being stored around your midsection), and your age (older folks don’t have the same hormone and fitness levels as younger folks, so it is harder for someone middle aged to get those washboard abs)
Again, do any of these factors mean that it is impossible to get washboard abs or a slim and toned stomach? NO! But, it does mean that a middle aged woman who naturally stores fat around her midsection and is chronically stressed is going to have work much harder than a 23 year old male athlete has to work to get washboard abs.
No matter who you are, and no matter what situation you are in I can promise that getting a six-pack or s super flat and toned stomach isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work; it involves watching what you eat, doing cardio, living a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep, avoiding stress, and doing strength training.
Unless you are one of the very select few people with a VERY fast metabolism that gets abs due to a naturally very low body fat percentage you need to understand that you are just going to have to work hard to get the stomach that you want.
What factors can we control?
When it comes to getting that six pack that you have always wanted, it isn’t impossible, but the real question is “How bad do you want it, and how much are you willing to sacrifice to have it?” There are 60 year old men with washboard abs, and while a few of them might be taking a little something extra from the MD to get their test levels up a bit, they are certainly doing a lot of hard work too.
If you want to get those toned six pack abs or slim stomach, then you need to make diet changes, exercise changes, and probably stress management changes as well.
I won’t go into the full details here, but if you want those abs of our dreams, it isn’t going to happen with a few exercises or a little bit of cardio, you are going to have to take the right steps to lower your body fat percentage to a level where your abs will show.
No matter how strong your stomach muscles are, no matter how much you run, no matter how little you eat, as long as there is excess fat over your abdominal muscles you are never going to see those muscles, so the trick is to strengthen your core and reduce your total body fat.
You don’t need a special crash diet or a magic pill, just making some minor changes to your diet can contribute to your goals. Cut out some of your carbs, eat more protein, eat more healthy fats, and eat more fiber and vegetables: these types of actions can help contribute to that perfect waist. Generally try to eat less, especially on days where you don’t exercise, and try to snack more.
Exercise to get the abs you want should include full body strength training, ab specific training, and cardio vascular training. Total body workouts will strengthen your entire body, and muscles to your frame (thereby raising your metabolism), and it will also help to burn fat. Ab specific training will strengthen your abs and help increase the muscle tone of those muscle hidden underneath that extra pooch of fat. Cardiovascular training will just speed along the process by helping you to burn excess fat stored all over your body.
Sorry, there is no shortcut to ripped, 6 pack abs. Those abs are hidden under body fat that can only be removed by hard work and a proper diet
If you want an instant fix for your midsection problems, then I recommend lipo-suction, because that is about the only thing that is going to work instantly, but be warned, without the right habits, that fat will come right back after surgery.
Spot reduction (the idea that you can work one body part or area and burn fat in that area) is a myth, the body just doesn’t work that way. When you perform exercise your body burns fat evenly throughout the entire body, but your genetics will dictate where you burn fat first. That means if you tend to store all of your excess fat around your midsection, you will need to lower your body fat percentage more to see those hidden abdominal muscles.
I wish I had some magic advice that you have never heard before, but hey, maybe the truth is that magic advice that you have never heard before. I hope you get what you are after, and I promise if you are willing to do some serious hard work and make some serious sacrifice you can get the abs that you are dreaming of. The real question is “How much are you willing to do to get those abs, and how important are they to you?”
If you want to stay inspired on your road to that dream stomach of yours make sure to follow MakeYourBestSelf on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and if you want 1-on-1 help getting those abs check out my personal-coaching packages.
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