It wasn’t very long ago that the prevailing mindset on how to build and shape your core was to do as many sit-ups as possible. We were led to believe that by simply working your abdominal muscles regularly, you’d eventually gain that six-pack and not even have to worry much about your diet. Thankfully, we have outgrown these erroneous approaches to ab training. Newer research over the last 15 years or so has demonstrated – and then reinforced beyond a shadow of a doubt – the truth that when it comes to abs, diet comes first. You definitely want to work your abs hard and perform a myriad of exercises instead of just performing sit-ups repeatedly. But the number one strategy when it comes to definition in the mid-section is to eat clean. Here’s a look at how to carve a great six-pack from both nutrition and exercise standpoints, all the while skipping those silly sit-ups.
Did you know that even as you gain or lose weight, the number of fat cells in your body never actually changes? Whatever number of fat cells you’re born with, that’s the number you keep your entire life. Fat cells simply increase or diminish in size. Something to think about when you’re seeking definition in your abdominals.
Getting a six-pack means you have to deal with the harsh reality that there are many sacrifices involved; none more significant than adhering to a clean diet. There are no amount of ab exercises you can do that will craft a ripped core if the food you eat is rubbish.
You must have noticed that in general, people in Europe are substantially less overweight than in the United States. There are a number of reasons for this, but clearly one that stands out is the timing of their daily meals. Europeans will have a moderate to large breakfast, their biggest meal of the day at lunch, and then a small snack of a dinner (“tea” in many countries) in the evening. This schedule falls in line with energy (caloric) requirements as the day goes on. In the United States, eating moderately all day then loading up with a huge dinner is probably the worst thing you can do for carving abs. You simply don’t have the necessary post-dinner hours to burn off all those calories. By eating more earlier in the day, you in fact rev up your metabolism for the entire day; come bed time, you avoid the risk of letting excess carbs turn to fat.
Speaking of revving up your metabolism, a great approach is to add supplementary protein (or consume it in the form of lean fish, meat, or poultry) early in the day. This not only stimulates your metabolism to help prevent fat cells from enlarging but, will also help you achieve satiety – that feeling of fullness that prevents you from overeating. Using a protein supplement, such as Bodylogix® Natural Isolate, is another great option to ensure you are meeting your protein requirements needed to build muscle.
Watch the Sodium
People are so conditioned to check the level of fat in their food products that they often neglect to check for sodium content. Nutrition labels are in fact set up so that you can monitor how much sodium you consume. Make sure to keep sodium in check because it’s a tremendous water retainer that will destroy the look of a six-pack if consumed in excess. Even those alleged “fat-free” snacks often have copious amounts of sodium which are counter-productive to your ab-sketching efforts. On a related note, be sure to drink at least four liters of water a day.
Give Nutrition its Due
According to Christine Knight, a double pro UFE fitness champion in both Figure and Fitness Model, “fit bodies are made in the kitchen; merely defined in the gym.” One rule of thumb you hear these days is that getting six-pack abs (and other really defined body parts) is based on a formula of 70 per cent nutrition and only 30 per cent training. This is a far cry from the prevailing mindset years ago that exercise was everything. With this more contemporary approach, fitness athletes of all levels have been able to get those washboards abs without doing a single sit-up.
To nail down that elusive six-pack without doing sit-ups, it’s also important to perform the correct types of exercises in the correct manner. Remember that the combination of cardio and resistance training is essential. You’ll get only so far by just doing one or the other, but together they have a synergistic effect of defining your mid-section.
HIIT the Cardio
There are few things which demonstrate that quality is far superior to quantity as when you’re training. If you really want to stoke your fat-burning, forget the notion of performing steady-state cardio for 45-60 minutes. Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or if you’re feeling energetic, do tabatas wherein you train with crazy intensity for short bursts not once, not twice, but eight times. These two approaches will keep your fat-burning revved not just while you’re exercising – but all day long.
Time your Cardio
Perform cardio early in the morning before you consume any calories. When your stores of glycogen are very low from the short-term fasting you’ve done over the preceding 12-14 hours, you’ll burn more fat for energy to help you complete the exercise. Doing cardio late in the day can cause you to become too alert when you’re just about to hit the sack.
An Array of Angles
Finally, the exercises. You may not have thought the actual moves themselves were so low of a priority, but this is the reality for the specific goal you’re trying to achieve.
In the past, when people used to perform sit-ups exclusively, they were merely hitting their abs (more so the upper region) from only one angle. As a result, you would often see people with defined but sometimes disproportionate abs. You’d need a magnifying glass to find their lower abs or obliques. So, it’s important to hit your abs from as near to a full 360-degree angle of attack as possible. A great number of fitness athletes with incredible core sections don’t even do sit-ups at all, but here are some of the most effective and popular moves you can do:
1. Crunch with Legs Extended (UPPER)
2. Decline Crunch (UPPER)
3. Hanging Knee Raise (LOWER)
4. Reverse Crunch (LOWER)
5. Oblique Knee Crunch (OBLIQUES)
6. Oblique Twist (OBLIQUES)
7. Plank (CORE)