When people join a gym, start a workout routine, alter their diet, with a goal of losing weight, one of the most desired attributes to achieve is the fabled “6 pack” abs. People spend small fortunes on fad diets that have limited if any long term effectiveness and on electrical impulse devices that independent studies have shown have little actual effect on developing abs as well as a whole host of gimmicks that are designed to part desperate people from their cash. This desperation has been taken to the extreme where people have gone under the knife to achieve their desired physique and gain ABS! Paying thousands to have surgeons carve and sculpt the fat on their core to achieve the “6 pack look”
So why do people desire ABS?
Traditionally those who have a 6 pack are seen as people who are physically in their prime, representing the alphas of their sex. They are usually people who are athletic and active, and are perceived as not being lazy. Attractive qualities in an individual, this translates often in making a person more appealing to the opposite sex, compared with how people traditionally perceive those who are overweight, as being (though not necessarily are), lazy and gluttonous with little self control, which are usually undesirable traits and make a person appear less attractive.
From my own experience of being overweight, to earning the physique i have now, i have noticed a marked increase in attention from people compared to when i was overweight, which i believe emphasises the point, that abs are desired mostly because they make an individual more desirable! In a society that is increasingly putting more and more pressure on people to look a certain way, it is understandable where the desperation of people comes from to achieve toned and defined looking abs.
So what are the ABS?
The Abs are the common name given to a group of muscles that make up the anterior part of our core/trunk and can be broken down into several areas that come together to make the Abdominals. These are broken down and shown in the following image, and are:
Rectus abdominis ( the muscles that are seen as the 6 pack)
Transverse abdominis (muscles that go horizontally underneath the rectus abdominis)
Internal obliques (along the abdominis)
External obliques (over the internal obliques)
These muscles all work together to give your core strength and stability, to help keep your body upright, and help keep your body strong and stable during periods of physical exertion, it training in a gym, running, walking and just about any other physical activity you can think of. So it does pay to have this area developed!
So What Do People Do Wrong?
The simple answer is they simply overtrain the area! They may work their abs every single day, which is a big no no. Overworking an area of the body causes the muscle fibres to constantly tear and not give them time to repair, this hinders muscle development and can actually lead to and cause injury!
People often just simply focus too much on their core giving no attention to the rest of their body. Again this won’t work for a number of reasons. Which i will list:
For your abs to show you must reduce your body fat to a certain level - traditionally around or below 10% body fat. (thought this can vary greatly from one individual to another)
Not training the rest of your body reduces how your efficiently your body can burn fat
Diet eating at a caloric surplus or eating an unhealthy diet in general, can cause your metabolism to slow, causing the body to store fat, and reduce its ability to burn fat, making it much more difficult to see the abs as they are hidden under that layer of guttural fat.
Working the core too much, as said before this can hinder muscle development, and lead to injury rather than growth.
So What Should You Do?
Here is the secret! We ALL have a six pack, i do , you do, your parents, friends and family does.. Everyone has one! But how do we get them to reveal themselves? There are a number of factors that when they come together can help a person to achieve a defined core and get those 6 pack abs and i will list them here:
First diet - simple as it sounds if you eat in a healthy way, and at a caloric deficit, your body will lose weight and burn fat, as it tries to maintain your body's functions and provide you with energy. Eating the right foods is the key though being healthy and clever in your diet will help raise metabolism and speed up the process.
Train all of your body!- The more you you develop your ALL of your body, the more fuel your body will burn. Your body is a hungry machine, and the more muscle you develop the hungrier the machine, and therefore the more fat/fuel you will burn.
Low intensity cardio - periods of low intensity cardio help the body to burn fat stores rather than attacking and catabolizing muscle, which would reduce muscle mass and therefore reduce fat burning efficiency.
Train your core - just not too much! 2-4 exercises at a max of 3 times a week is MORE than enough to adequately train the core. To emphasise the core and make it appear more defined it still benefits to work the muscles there.
So Why Should We Really Train Abs
There are more benefits to training Abs than achieving 6 pack abs, in fact i would argue that training abs should have nothing to do with achieving a 6 pack. Training the core give the body added strength and stability during physical activity. This means that the stronger it is, the more you can train the rest of your body, which while allow you develop more muscle! Which in turns helps you burn more fat.
Think of it like this, if a tree has a skinny trunk, and big branches, on a windy day, that tree will sway, and maybe even snap! This is because under excess weight it is unstable! Now if the tree has a thicker stronger trunk, it can support those heavy branches and is more stable. So on another windy day it wouldn't sway or snap as it can handle the added weight. There is a reason another name for your torso is the “trunk” of your body because it follows the same principle. Its purpose its to keep your body upright, strong and stable. If you want to develop your body properly then it is an absolute necessity to train your core properly.