You already have one. Would you believe me if I said that? Everyone has a 6 pack. Just for some people it’s visible and for others it’s not. In fact, some of the people I train who are heavily overweight have bigger 6 pack muscles than people who are lean and skinny.
The most important point to make here is that the abdominals are made up of several muscles. Most fundamentally these muscles are the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus and obliques. The rectus abdominus is the 6 pack muscle at the front of the trunk, the transverse abdominus sits beneath the rectus and is like the body’s natural corset, and the obliques are the muscles that run down the side of the body. All are important for protecting the organs that reside underneath.
Everyone has a 6-pack. Whether it’s visible or not, it’s there.... If you want your abs to be visible, it’s all about fat loss.
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Image 1: Everyone has a 6 pack!
In addition to protection, the abdominals are important for movement. The rectus abdominus allows your body to bend and flex forward, with the main purpose for most people being to get out of bed. The transverse abdominus allows the body to brace and this is super important because it stabilises the body and creates a strong foundation for all movement, sort of like a house made out of concrete or steel as opposed to sticks and straw. Thos little pigs learnt that the hard way. Finally, the obliques allow the body to rotate, twist, and flex to the side. Most people who want a 6-pack, also want those lines down the sides. That’s the cherry on top for the sign of a good body.
So how does the rectus abdominus get that “pack” look? The rectus is more than just 6 little lumps making you look good in swimwear. In fact, the “6-pack” is actually an “8-pack”. The rectus abdominus is one big muscle running vertically and divided into 8 sections by connective tissue, giving the appearance of the “pack”. This connective tissue is called the tendinous intersections. Some people even have an extra line of tendinous intersection, giving them a 10-pack. This is genetic and you’ll need to have an extremely low level of body fat for it to show up.
Regardless of how many lines of connective tissue you have, there is a rectus abdominus in there, whether you can see it now or not. The key to making it show is not in doing bulk sit-ups and crunches. Crunches help strengthen the rectus but if the main purpose of the rectus is only to get out of bed super fast, why do them? You don’t need to do a lot of crunches to strengthen the rectus and doing them won’t make a big difference to making your abs show. If you just want your six, eight or (if you’re lucky enough) ten pack to show, there are other aspects of health and fitness you need to focus on.
Image 2: The abdominal muscles that make up your 6 (or 8, or even 10!) pack
How to Get a 6 Pack
It’s a common saying in weight loss but it’s just as important in getting a 6-pack — nutrition is 80% of the solution. That’s because essentially, that’s what getting a 6-pack is — reducing your body fat. Eliminating take-away foods from your diet and eating lots of wholesome and nourishing foods like your veggies will help to reduce body fat. Give your body what it wants and needs — healthy fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. This encourages your body to use fat as an energy source.
As a species, we eat a lot of food. The human race in Western civilisation typically doesn’t need to eat as much as it does. Apart from reducing the total number of calories you eat in a day, fasting has many additional benefits to your health. Fasting causes insulin levels drop in the bloodstream, growth hormone levels to increase in the bloodstream, waste removal processes to become activated and cells to repair, inflammation to be reduced, mitochondria (the energy production component of cells) to be more efficient, and growth of new nerve cells to be increased.
- Strength training
Running is an exceptionally good exercise for your abs because of the rotation through your trunk on each stride and the need to work against gravity on every step, but as for cardio as a fat burning exercise, strength training is much more effective. Strength training causes muscles to grow and as your lean muscle mass increases, so does your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the minimum amount of energy your body needs to maintain vital functions and keep it alive. Having a higher BMR means that you burn more energy, even at rest. In addition, while you’re performing any exercise, whether that’s an *isolated or **compound exercise, you should still be activating your core muscles.
- Core training
Core training is much more than just sit-ups and crunches. Crunches are still a good exercise to strengthen your rectus abdominus but you don’t need to do a lot of them to strengthen the muscle. There is also a correct way of doing them to get the most out of it and avoid hurting your back or neck. In my experience most Pilates and yoga trained individuals understand this better than the run-of-the-mill PT. If it’s a 6-pack you want, when it comes to strength training for your core, perform bracing exercises such as planking over sit-ups and crunches. This will still strengthen the rectus abdominus and more importantly, the transverse abdominus too. Just make sure you’re activating your core in your plank and not just hanging out there.
Everyone has a 6 pack. Whether it’s visible or not, it’s there. In fact, everyone has an 8 pack and some lucky people even have a 10 pack. If you want your abs to be visible, it’s all about fat loss. In this order of importance, get your nutrition right, fast using whatever method works best for you and commit to regular strength training. Finally, forget about the sit-ups and work on your bracing exercises instead.
What’s your favourite way to exercise your abdominal muscles?
* Isolated exercises are exercises that involve only one muscle or muscle group.
** Compound exercises are exercises that involve multiple muscles groups.
[Top photo Source: wikihow]
[Image 1 Source: Bacalao]
[Image 2 Source: Pinterest]
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