It’s summer, the beach is the place to be, and naturally, you’re looking to get yourself a six-pack. You work out at the gym, make what seem like the right food choices and yet those abdominal muscles refuse to show.
Although you can head online to check out the best abdominal rollers (opens in a new tab) or pencil in 1,000 lunchtime crunches, why not take a moment to review the key steps to achieving true abdominal contentment?
We sought advice from Claire Baseley, a licensed nutritionist with a background in biological sciences.
Claire is a highly qualified and award-winning Registered Nutritionist with a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford, an MSc in Human Nutrition from the University of Sheffield and 20 years of experience in the food industry and the public service.
What is a six-pack?
A six-pack is the popular term given to our rectus abdominis muscles. Although we all have these muscles, seeing them requires that we have a low enough body fat percentage for them to become visible. This is an important point to consider because, although we know that physical exercise contributes to overall health, low fat mass does not necessarily mean optimal health.
As Baseley says, “It’s important to emphasize that a visible six-pack is not a sign of health. While well-defined abs are often considered the holy grail of peak fitness, Baseley, who has a background in sports nutrition, warns that “particularly in women, a visible six-pack can mean the opposite. Body fat levels may need to be so low that it affects the female menstrual cycle and some women may miss their periods while striving to get a six pack.This is a clear sign that health is being negatively affected for an aesthetic.
How can you get a six pack?
If you’re going down the path, the process is basically twofold: your abdominal muscles will need to be trained to make them bigger and stronger, thereby increasing their visibility. Body fat should also be reduced to low levels.
Get rid of stomach
There are several ways to approach a reduction in body fat, but it comes down to achieving a calorie deficit. (opens in a new tab) (consume fewer calories than your body needs). “Athletes typically consume fewer calories than needed to maintain weight,” Baseley says, “along with a high-protein diet, potentially up to 2g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. “. Combined with increased physical activity, this causes the body to lose fat while preserving lean tissue.
It is a delicate balancing act and should be approached with caution. “Health must be considered at all times,” says Baseley. “A varied and balanced diet should be consumed to ensure that no nutritional deficiencies result from this approach,” she says.
Given the extreme measures required to get a six-pack, it’s worth first taking the time to determine if this is the right approach for you. “A body fat reduction diet can be very strict,” says Baseley, “especially one that has the goal of extremely reducing body fat. social and uninspiring and it can also negatively affect mental health and body image.
Some of the best exercises for building core strength and abs aren’t the ones that necessarily come to mind. “Doing a bunch of sit-ups and crunches will probably only strain the rectus abdominis muscle,” says Ryan McLean, personal trainer and fitness coach specializing in strength and conditioning. “To develop muscles to their full potential, I would recommend working on big compound lifts, such as the deadlift, back squat, overhead press, sled pushes, pull-ups, clean, snatch.
“All of these compound exercises are full body movements that require your core to be engaged to perform them properly. Most of my clients are offended when I say they don’t need to do those 5-10 minutes of abs at the end because they have already lifted and engaged their core muscles enough with the big compound lifts.
How often should you train for optimal effects? Four times a week, according to McLean, is the perfect balance between effort and recovery.
What are the best exercises for six packs?
The best exercises to get a six pack are also helpful for all of us to improve our core strength, a fundamental part of any fitness journey. For more tips, read our article on “how to get a stronger core (opens in a new tab).’
Your core muscles (opens in a new tab) act as the foundation of your body, providing mobility, strength and balance while promoting good posture. Planks, mountain climbers, crunches, reverse crunches, Russian twists, dead bugs, and leg raises are all solid ways to build your core, although they aren’t as effective as larger compound exercises. that work a lot of muscles and yet provide similar benefits to the heart.
Consider other options: “Pilates classes are ideal because they not only target the rectus abdominis, but also the surrounding abdominal and gluteal muscles, which are all part of the core. It’s not as simple as doing a few sit-ups,” says Baseley.
As with any part of the body, focusing too much on these ‘mirror muscles’ will create weaknesses elsewhere, which means a balanced approach is essential. “Speak to a trained expert for advice on a balanced abdominal program,” says Baseley.
How long will it take to get a six pack?
When it comes to losing body fat, it is advisable to take it slow. Not only is it generally considered safer to lose weight at a slow pace, but it’s also a more sustainable approach and studies, like this one published in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. (opens in a new tab) – suggest this is the most effective way to retain that all-important lean tissue that will build your abdominal muscles.
As for when you can expect to see those abdominal muscles for the first time, the answer depends on a number of factors, including your body composition, workout regimen, and nutritional intake. “Getting a six-pack will take the time it takes to lose body fat around the abdominal area in a healthy way and it will depend on how much body fat you have to start with,” says Baseley.
Baseley says the route to getting abs is far more important than the destination, stating that you should never “aim to lose more than a pound a week.” She also stresses the importance of carefully considering the wider implications beyond getting a six-pack: “Ask yourself if a six-pack is really what you want,” she says.
Considering that regular food and weight monitoring are deemed important for successful weight loss, it’s easy to see how aiming for a six-pack could become a disruptive goal for other parts of your life.
“Is it worth sacrificing your physical and mental health for an aesthetic that most people will never see?” Baseley asks. The answer is perhaps the best place to start when you’re considering embarking on the quest for a six-pack.