Steps to Achieving a Six Pack
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Obtaining a strong-looking core and musculature is the goal of many fitness enthusiasts and dieters.
The term "six pack" is often thrown around as a way of defining the certain percentage of body fat required to visibly show abdominal muscles.
This goal is often difficult due to the dearth in dietary, exercise and lifestyle knowledge needed to obtain lower body fat.
The following 4 steps will outline a fundamental approach aimed at achieving and maintaining a six pack while focusing on the simplest, most effective methodologies available.
Step 1: Diet
Those looking towards their own six pack often have little understanding of proper dietary habits. Many individuals seek crash diets designed at eliminating a certain amount of weight within a very short time frame.
These diets are doomed to fail because they:
- Focus on weight and not fat.
- Are not maintainable.
- Create a sense of deprivation.
Fat loss and muscle retention/growth should be the primary purpose of any dietary intervention strategy.
A dietary plan should cut its teeth on such goals, and should be further refined with an inclination towards consistency, ease of implementation, nutritional status and enjoyment.
Depriving an individual of a loved food has been highly correlated with dietary lapses and increased body fat.
Successful fat loss diets will have a special emphasis on protein due to the satiation, thermic effect and muscle building capability that protein affords. The thermic effect of food, or TEF, is the amount of energy required to digest a food source. Protein's TEF is significantly higher than that of carbohydrate or fat.
The total caloric intake of the diet should be based on basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which can be calculated online using height, weight, age and sex statistics. The body expends this amount of calories every day in order to maintain standard function. Any other caloric expenditure, such as exercise, is separate from BMR.
BMR and fat loss goals can then be used to determine caloric deficit. At roughly 3500 calories per pound of fat, losing 10 lbs over two months would require a daily deficit of:
(3500 calories X 10 lbs) = (35,000 calories / 60 days) = 583 calories per day of deficit.
If your BMR was 2500 calories, daily intake would have to be: 2500 - 583 = 1917 calories.
However, this amount does not take exercise-induced caloric expenditure into account, which allows a little leeway when planning meals.
Step 2: Refeeds
The refeed, or what is sometimes referred to as a "cheat day," is a day or two each week that is designated towards carbohydrate-based increased caloric intake.
Refeeds are based on the principle of leptin decrease and restoration. Leptin is a powerful hormone that influences hunger, insulin sensitivity, lean body mass, water retention and even anxiety.
Leptin levels decrease when caloric intake remains below necessary levels, such as dieting, and surges when calories are elevated above requisites.
Refeeds are designed using the BMR data and caloric deficit from step one. The caloric deficit will be used to determine how many calories above BMR should be consumed. Using the sample data from step one:
-583 calorie deficit per day.
-2500 calorie BMR.
This data creates a refeed day of:
2500 calorie BMR + 583 calorie deficit = 3083 calorie intake refeed.
Although refeeds may seem counterintuitive to fat loss, they serve a vital role in stimulating adequate leptin levels. This adjustment prevents yo-yo diets and allows for more consistency.
Step 3: Lifestyle
Exercise is an excellent way to spur forward muscle growth and burn calories. However, daily tasks and activities that are not necessarily considered exercise can also be an invaluable way to burn fat. These Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenic processes, or NEATs, are part of the lifestyle changes necessary to obtain and maintain lower body fats.
NEATs can include any manner of unspecific, habitual actions. Great examples of NEATs include:
-Parking far away from the store and walking the distance.
-Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
-Carrying groceries in bags and baskets instead of carts.
-Maintaining an active hobby, like gardening.
-Tapping your foot.
Obtaining enough sunlight, avoiding allergens and pollution and maintaining strong social connections are other lifestyle changes that are strongly correlated with health and lower body fat.
Step 4: Exercise
Although NEATs can be a helpful fat loss strategy, no other step can boost muscle growth in the same dose-dependent manner as high intensity exercise. Engaging in high intensity training and building muscle tissue will not only increase abdominal visibility, it will:
-Contribute to caloric expenditure.
-Decrease susceptibility to disease.
-Create a store of protein in case of bodily injury.
-Strengthen the cardiovascular system.
High intensity exercise can be qualified by its difficulty. This definition allows almost any exercise to be performed at intensities sufficient enough to promote beneficial hormonal cascades. The most common high intensity exercises include weight training and sprinting.
Here are some more exercises provided by by Clark Bartram of www.clarkbartram.com
Tornado Ball - Wall Chops and Seated Chops
Grasp a Tornado Ball with a slight “choke up” on the rope. To do the wall chops, lean back against a sturdy wall and bend your knees into a slight squat. Then rotate from side to side, slamming the Tornado Ball against the wall. Do this ballistically for about 30 seconds. Seated chops are performed with the same intensity. Simply sit down on the floor and move the ball overhead. These two movements are nearly impossible to duplicate in any gym. Start with one 30-second set for each exercise.
These are called surrender sit-ups due to the hand position. Your arms will be above your head as if you were surrendering to someone. In the upright position, place your feet flat on the floor. Slowly lower yourself back like a traditional sit-up, but only go as far as you can without lifting your feet off the floor. When your feet begin to rise, come back up to the starting position. Squeeze your glutes throughout the entire movement.
Power Wheel Crunches
Unlike a traditional “ab wheel,” a Power Wheel is attached to your feet and you move your legs instead of your arms. You can either bend your knees and tuck them into your chest, or do a “pike” with straight legs. Either way, be sure to exhale on each contraction.
Swiss Ball Weighted Crunches
The opportunities are endless when it comes to a Swiss Ball, but weighted crunches are one of my favorites. Choose a weight that allows you to perform 3 sets of 8–10 repetitions. Position yourself on the ball just to the front of the top (to ensure a full range of motion) and slowly allow your spine to wrap back around the ball. Be sure to anchor your feet with a weight at least twice as heavy as the weight you use to perform the exercise.
Swiss Ball Reverse Crunches
Position your body so your scapula is centered on the top of the ball. Grab a stationary handle above your head and tuck your knees up and around towards your face. I use my eyes as a reference point. As in all abdominal exercises, it’s imperative that you exhale during the effort. Reps are not the only indicator of a good abdominal workout…you should feel each one in the muscle, without obsessing over how many you do.
Hanging Leg Raises
There are two schools of thought when it comes to hanging leg raises. If you do the entire movement from completely stretched out to completely contracted, then your psoas muscles (hip flexors) assist in the movement. If you start the movement with your legs bent at 90 degrees, you eliminate the use of the hip flexor group. I suggest you mix it up and do the exercise both ways.
These are tremendous once you get the hang of them. Assume the traditional sit-up position, with your arms crossed over your chest. Have someone grab the back of your calves and pull slightly. Slowly sit up, maintaining a contraction in the glutes. If you can’t pull yourself up right away, start with the negative part of the movement.
Full Contact Twists
These are similar to Tornado Ball chops, but they can be done in a gym without any special equipment. Get a 45 lb. Olympic bar and place one end in a corner to hold it in place. With your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms fully extended, hold the opposite end of the bar and rotate it overhead in a semi-circular motion. Be sure to rotate at the waist and feel the movement throughout your entire core. Do 1–3 sets of 15–20 reps.
Medicine Ball Throws on Swiss Ball
Assume the same position on the Swiss Ball as you would if you were doing weighted crunches, and position your feet under two dumbbells for safety. Ask a partner to help you with an 8–10 lb. medicine ball. While seated on the Swiss Ball in an upright position, have your partner throw the medicine ball over your head so you can catch it (under control) while lying back over the Swiss Ball. Sit up and throw the medicine ball back to your partner. Do 3 sets of 12–15 reps.
Cable Side Crunches
Using a cable in the highest position, grasp the handle with one hand and rest the other on top the hand grabbing the handle. Your hand should be at your temple. Keeping your arm completely stationary, crunch between the waist and lower chest only. The movement will be small and very isolated. Be sure to do both sides for about 3 sets of 12-15 reps with a challenging weight.
There you have it—if these 10 exercises can’t give your abs a good workout, nothing can!
When you get comfortable doing all these great exercises, you’ll be able to train your abs more instinctively, mixing up different exercises during each training session for maximum impact. You’ll be able to trust your gut and pick a variety of exercises that are most effective for you, and you’ll start getting results fast.
Always remember that abdominal training is the essence of a strong, stable, and attractive physique, so don’t be one of those guys or gals who never takes the time to add a few challenging ab exercises to your routine. With a little attention to detail, you’ll be well on your way toward getting the kind of tight, defined midsection that has the amazing ability to turn heads.
A wise man once told me something that I’ve burned into my memory and carry with me all the time. “I may not be where I want to be,” he said. “But thank God I’m not where I used to be!”
So just keep at it. You may still not like training your abs, but by spending the extra time and trusting your gut to choose just a few killer exercises, you and the rest of the world will certainly like what they see.
If you don’t have all the items necessary to perform the exercises featured here, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know where you can get them.