As sweaters go back into closets and tank tops reappear,
people start asking me the age old question: How do I turn this spare tire
into a six-pack?
Fortunately, I've got the answer, but keep in mind that if it were easy, everyone would have one. But if you’re willing to make some positive changes, do the right things in the gym AND in the kitchen, you can shed the body fat and reveal your inner six-pack.
Here’s my 4-step plan to six-pack abs.
1. You ARE What You Eat (and so are your abs): Seventy percent of your results will come from what
AND how you eat, and that includes eating breakfast! Eat a supportive meal, one
containing roughly equal
portions of a lean protein, a starchy carbohydrate (whole grain) and a fibrous carbohydrate (vegetable) within thirty minutes of waking. Continue to eat a supportive meal every three hours. Eat until you are satisfied (but not full) and the calories should regulate themselves. Minimize sugars, simple starches and processed foods - your body will store these as fat. Eating in this way stabilizes your blood sugar creating a hormonal environment in which sugars are burned for energy instead of stored as fat.
2. Muscle Up! Now that your nutrition is working for you, providing good energy to your muscles, it’s time to work them out. Lean tissue (muscle) not only makes you stronger but also is metabolically active (fat is burned in the muscle cells). Add muscle by working your major muscle groups with big, compound exercises (squats, chest presses, rows, overhead presses). You build the most muscle by doing sets of 8-12 repetitions. Keep track of how much you can lift and do either more reps or more weight each time you work out. Progressive resistance ensures you will add muscle.
3. Do Short, Intense Cardio. Do only a moderate amount of cardio, but make it intense. Always do cardio after your strength training, not before, when you’ve burned the sugar in the blood and muscle. By doing so, you’re going to burn more calories from fat. Work as hard as you can for a minute or two and then cool down for the same amount of time. Repeat this for 30 minutes, three or four times each week. This is called interval training and is most effective for fat-burning. Long, consistent cardio tends to burn more muscle than it does fat and is counter-productive if the goal is lean, toned abs.
4. The ONLY Ab Exercise You’ll Ever Need: As the fat burns away, you’ll want strong, hard abdominal muscle underneath. Build it by working it hard through it’s full range of motion. Here’s the single best exercise for building the six-pack (the rectus abdominis): Support your low back on a physioball; stretch back so your rib cage lifts upward and then squeeze your abs and press your ribcage down hard. That’s it! Repeat for 3 sets of 15 reps. Once you can do that, add weight each time by holding a dumbbell behind your head; start light and then progress the weight once you can do 3 sets to completion.
Following these four simple steps will put you on the path to carving out a sexy six-pack. If you start now, your abs could make their debut just in time for beach season. --Greg Rothman, MS PT (EmpowerFitness@aol.com or Empower Fitness on Facebook)