We all have abs. There, we said it.
That’s right; every single person in the world has that elusive abs that we’re all chasing. The difference is, for a lot of us at least, these abs are hidden under layers of belly fat.
When we put it like that, the problem actually sounds quite easy to resolve. Simply strip away the fat, and the 6-pack will ripple through. Naturally, it’s not quite as simple, but there are steps you can take to get that 6-pack that’s featured on all of the fitness magazines.
Ready to get started? Here goes…
What is a 6-pack?
Firstly, let’s get into a basic description of what a 6-pack really is. Obviously, we know it’s those six abdominal muscles rippling through the skin, but there’s actually an equation which will always add up to a 6-pack.
If you have reduced body fat, and enlarged abdominal muscles, your 6-pack will become visible. That’s all it takes.
Unfortunately, putting the above equation into practice is much harder that most of us think.
The problem most of us face…
The former, visceral fat, is the stuff which surrounds the organs. If you are the guy who boasts a bulging beer gut, this type of fat is probably responsible for it.
Alarmingly, it’s also the type of fat which has been associated with umpteen dangerous conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is the hardest type of fat to shed.
Then, we move onto the subcutaneous fat. This can be found right under the skin and if you pinch yourself, you’re most likely picking up some of this fat.
If you happen to have more of this fat, it’s actually good news. There are fewer health problems associated with subcutaneous fat, while it’s also much easier to lose.
If you can reduce both of these fats, you will immediately make your abs much more visible. To put specific figures on it, the ideal body fat percentage is between 10% and 12% for guys.
If you can get down to this level, your abs will be much more visible.
What causes body fat?
The answer to this question should be fairly obvious; diet is a major contributing factor to body fat. If your diet is full of sugar and generally fatty foods – you’re well on your way to disguising those abs which are hiding beneath all of your fat.
However, there are other reasons which perhaps don’t garner as much attention. Most of you will probably understand that a lack of exercise is often to blame, but stress, sleep deprivation and alcohol are others.
If you can fine-tune your lifestyle to address these issues, you can reduce your belly fat and give your abs more of a chance of shining through.
How can we reduce our body fat levels?
Bearing the above in mind, it’s quite easy to put together a plan that will help you reduce the dreaded belly fat. We’d recommend splitting this into four sections, as follows:
Address your diet
Firstly, your diet needs some serious work if you are looking to cut your belly fat. This is one of the biggest contributors to your overhanging waist, so let’s get started.
You need to cut down as many bad sources of fat as possible. At this point it’s worth mentioning that there are two types of fat; good and bad.
The former covers things like oily fish, nuts and olive oil – all of these substances are great for your body. However, the bad fats, with fried foods being the perfect example, need eradicating immediately.
Elsewhere, you should be looking to cut out sugary foods for the same reason, while alcohol consumption needs to be limited. It has been found that alcohol can decrease the amount of fat we burn so naturally, this needs addressing (the “beer belly” term has been coined for a reason, after all).
Fine-tune your sleeping patterns
This is one area which is often overlooked, which is surprising as it is so important in maintaining a healthy level of body fat.
If you are the type of guy who doesn’t hit the pillow for long enough, there’s a good chance it’s going to affect your diet. You are much more likely to overeat and the knock-on effect is, well, obvious.
Additionally, expect your metabolism to fall by up to 40% if you don’t get enough shut-eye. This means your body can’t process foods nearly as efficiently and again, you’re piling on a lot more belly fat.
If you can’t get between six and eight hours of sleep a night, you’re in trouble.
Burning away calories
As well as controlling your belly fat with your diet, cardiovascular exercise is another sure-fat way to trim it. Again, this should go without saying, but simple exercises can cause some mammoth losses.
For example, if you were to cycle for 90 minutes, you’d immediately burn 1,000 calories. Or, for those of you who might want to participate in something slightly less strenuous, simple jump roping can burn 11 calories a minute.
Some activities, such as running, can boost your metabolism by almost 14 times which mean they have a long-term effect on your belly loss potential.
Work the area you are targeting
Last but not least – don’t forget the abs themselves. If you happen to have a lot of body fat, typically over 25%, it’s probably worth saving these exercises until you have cut it down a little as the returns will not be worthwhile. Remember, spot fat loss is a myth.
However, for everyone else, it’s time to get to work. Try hanging leg raises, decline crunches or even use an ab roller – anything to build the muscle in the right place and try and make those abs replace the dreaded fat.
You should be looking to progress and change the weights you use over time. Most guys who successfully work their abs will do so at least two or three times a week to allow them to recover properly.
6-Pack myths debunked
Now you have your plan, it’s time to look at four of the common myths that blight those of you who are looking to build a 6-pack. In short, you just shouldn’t believe everything you read…
“The best way to burn fat is to plough through cardio exercises”
It sounds sensible, and this is probably the reason it has accumulated so much traction over the years. However, long cardio sessions aren’t necessarily going to burn all of your fat over time.
Muscles contain a lot of energy stores and after a while, the body will start to use these. It means that your muscles will start to burn away before your fat, which obviously isn’t the approach you are looking for.
The best tip? Short bursts of cardio, with your heart rate somewhere between 80% and 90%.
“Crunches alone will slash the belly fat”
Life would be so much easier if one type of exercise would solve a problem, but it’s just not going to happen.
While it’s obviously good to concentrate on crunches, this type of exercise won’t reduce the belly fat that covers your abdominals. Ultimately, you’ll have a stronger core, but it will be hidden by the fat.
“Diuretics are the answer to a 6-pack”
Something that can temporary hide your abs is water. It means that some people believe diuretics can relieve this water retention and your abs will therefore shine through.
Unfortunately, this is a short-term solution – and not one that is going to create a permanent 6-pack.
You can try however colon cleansing, as you can see much better results.
“The best abdominal exercise is crunches”
They are the most well-known abdominal exercise out there, but crunches aren’t actually the most effective.
Instead, you need to be exerting more pressure on your core, with leg raises and kneeling cable crunches being a couple of examples which will make a much bigger difference.