A defined set of six pack abs sets you apart from the average person. A toned midsection shows you exercise regularly, eat a clean diet and care about your overall health. Society’s fascination in getting a perfect midsection has led to an almost unlimited amount of bad information on the subject.
1. Abs Everyday. Working your abs everyday will get you nowhere. Your abdominal muscles are built the same way as every other muscle in the body. Working out causes damage to your muscle which is repaired only if you provide your body with an adequate amount of nutrients and rest. If you keep working the same muscle group everyday, your body won’t have time to repair the damage and you’ll get weaker instead of stronger and lose definition instead of creating it. Give each muscle 48-72 hours of rest – that means doing abs at most, every other day. Muscle soreness is a sign that the body has not yet fully recovered. Don’t workout until the soreness is completely gone.
2. Ignoring Nutrition. Nutrition is much more important in getting a set of defined abs than most other muscle groups because of the way the body stores fat. Your genetics largely determine where your body likes to store fat, and for most, that area is the midsection. Because fat is stored in such large amounts right over the abs, getting a defined look is much more complicated than simply growing the muscle, it also involves burning the fat. Your body will only burn the fat that is covering your six pack when you create the right conditions – a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is a state in which you burn more calories than you eat. This forces your body to use fat stores to make up for the shortfall. A calorie deficit is the only way to get your body to burn fat. It can be created by either eating less, exercising more or combining the two.
Another important step is eating the right foods. Some foods promote fat storage while other can help you avoid it. The key is how long foods take to digest. Foods that digest quickly give your body a lot of energy in a short period of time. If you don’t burn those calories off quickly, they will get stored as fat. Slower digesting foods give your body a more manageable supply of energy making it less likely that your body will store fat. Foods you should avoid include soda, candy, sweets (doughnuts, muffins, cakes), refined (white) flour, sports drinks (when you’re not working out), fruit juices and sweet tea.
The same principle applies to large meals. Large meals give your body too much energy in a short period of time. A smarter strategy is eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than three large meals per day.
3. Spot Reducing. Burning fat from a specific part of the body is called spot reducing and short of liposuction, is impossible. Exercises targeting the abs (sit ups, leg raises) are popular because many people have the mistaken belief that doing them will burn fat from the midsection. Spot reducing isn’t possible. Your body decides where to put the fat when you eat too much and where to burn fat from when you create a calorie deficit. You can’t direct the body to burn fat from your midsection by doing sit ups. You can only tell your body to burn fat from all over by creatine a calorie deficit.
4. Ignoring the Right Type of Exercise. Sit ups are popular because people believe that spot reducing is possible. Even though spot reducing is impossible, sit ups still have a place in an exercise routine. The problem isn’t sit ups, it’s replacing exercises that burn a large amount of calories with sit ups in hopes of burning the layer of fat covering the abdominal muscles. Sit ups, leg raises and other exercises that target your midsection are important in creating a defined look, but if your body fat percentage is high, you need to place more of an emphasis on burning the fat.
Cardiovascular exercise is good at burning a lot of calories. Not all cardio is the same. To burn fat, you need to participate in high intensity cardio (running, most sports, swimming, circuit training, cardio classes) in order to burn as many calories as possible. Stay away from fat burning zones on cardio equipment as they don’t burn very many calories.
Strength training also plays an important role in burning calories. When you build muscle, you speed up your metabolism which helps increase the number of calories your body burns throughout the day. Focus on compound exercises that target more than one muscle group at a time (squats, deadlifts, rows, pull ups, bench press, shoulder press). Those exercises will build the most muscle and burn the most calories.
5. Saunas. Saunas are a complete waste of time. Yes you lose weight if you sit in a sauna for long enough but it’s not the kind of weight that will make any difference. Water weight is regulated by the body and when you sweat a lot of it out, your body gets dehydrated and starts holding onto more of the water you drink. That means as soon as you drink any water or eat any food containing water, you will gain back all of the water weight you just lost by sitting in a sauna. Instead of trying to lose weight by sitting in a sauna for hours, do some high intensity exercise which will help you lose real weight (fat). Exercising, like sitting in a sauna will cause sweating. The difference is that exercising will also burn large amounts of energy while sauna sitting will not.
The Bottom Line
A defined midsection is the result of hard work requiring a clean diet, calorie deficit, proper exercise and avoiding time wasting steps. Your abdominal muscles act the same way as every other muscle in your body. The only difference is that the body loves to cover them with fat. A perfect midsection is a reflection of a diet plan and exercise routine that work.