A six-pack is the ultimate sign of fitness and strength both physically and mentally because without patience, hard work and sheer determination, your chances of achieving solid washboard abs are akin to winning the lottery.
You must adhere to a strict low fat diet and do plenty of exercise, for no matter how many crunches you do, your six-pack will not become apparent until the layer of fat covering them is gone. So, with that in mind, here are 10 things you must do to make your six-pack dream a reality.
Eat small regular meals throughout the day
"For those aspiring for a chiselled mid-section, reducing body fat is vital," says Simon Jurkiw, a nutritionist from Maximuscle. "Everyone has abdominal muscles, however, most can't see them due to the layer of fat covering them.
"Small balanced meals help to regulate blood sugar levels which, in turn, minimises unnecessary insulin release, which will result in fewer food cravings and less fat storage."
Perform cardiovascular exercise
"While cardiovascular exercise is not specifically a pre-requisite for a six pack, for most, cardiovascular exercise is required to manipulate calorie levels, which helps to burn the unwanted fat from around the abs," says Jurkiw.
"The role of cardiovascular exercise in obtaining a perfect six pack is simply to increase energy expenditure," he says. "Forty-five minutes on the cross trainer will not only burn off calories, but will continue to increase the metabolism for a prolonged period after."
Don't overdo it
"The abs will be working whether you do hundreds of reps or just perform one or two," says Tony Lyons, a head personal training instructor.
"Abs are high rep muscles, so l don't see the point of going over twenty five reps. Just change the exercise or increase the intensity of each rep to add resistance."
While nutrition and exercise play fundamental roles in manipulating calorie expenditure, there are other tools available to increase the rate of fat burning, says Jurkiw.
"Nutrients such as caffeine and green tea have been shown to increase the metabolism as well as increasing the amount of fat the body uses as fuel," he says. "This is an ideal complement to a training and nutrition plan.
"An abdominal training plan should focus on all areas of the stomach, not just lots of sit-ups," says Jurkiw. A balanced abdominal training session could incorporate a circuit of:
Maintain good posture
- Sit-ups with a twist (so right elbow goes across to left knee and vice versa)
- Hanging leg raises (bring knees up to make it easier)
- Side plank
Sit-ups are the best form of exercise to help target and strengthen your mid-section, however; a lot of men fall short when executing them properly due to a lack of posture.
"You should hold your shoulders back when engaging your core workout to reap the full benefits of each sit-up," says Lyons. "You can also use a Swiss ball to practice your balance, which again will activate your core."
Shake it up a little
There's nothing fun about doing sits-ups all day, but you can help beat the boredom by including some variation into your abdominal workouts.
"Perform a variety of exercises on your abs training day so you don't get bored," says Lyons. "Change your routine around. Use a Swiss ball one day and in the following workout use a TRX suspension trainer."
Prioritise your workouts
Lyons says that while cardio workouts are vital for burning fat, they can hinder your performance throughout the rest of your gym session, simply because they make you tired.
He says: "Most people often leave their abs workout till the end of their training routine when they're possibly rushed for time or are too tired, which is why you should sometimes start your workout off with abdominal workouts."
Target the weaker areas first
Your abdominal muscles have three different sections: the upper, middle and lower abdominals. Each requires different workouts, as no singular exercise will effectively target all three. Lyons says that it's best to start work on the weaker lower abdominals first before targeting the stronger areas.
He says: "Make sure you work on the weakest part of your abs first upper, middle, lower or intercostals (the muscles between your rib and chest)," he says. "Getting the most difficult one out of the way at the start will mean you can put maximum effort into the rest of your workout."
Pick your parents wisely
"Genetics will play a role in muscle fibre distribution and fat distribution," says Jurkiw. "Some people find it easy to have washboard abs, whereas others have to work a bit harder for it. Fat storage will play an important role some are genetically predisposed to store fat around the abdominal region, whereas others will store fat in other areas.
"Clearly there isn't much you can do about that now so it's better to focus on the previous tips."