Ask most men what they’d like to achieve in the gym and the answer you’ll hear often is ‘get a six pack’. To many male gym goers, it’s the holy grail of training – the elusive goal of millions of men the world over. In this article, I’m going to explain how to get a six pack the right way.
The desire for a six pack has created a whole industry in itself…
Turn on the TV at night and you’ll see infomercials running on a loop through the night selling the latest, greatest abdominal training device. There are fitness magazines published every day promising ‘killer ab workouts’ that make empty claims about building a six pack instantly. I’ve seen cosmetic companies selling ‘ab firming’ cream. Finally, you can buy electrical stimulation devices that contract the muscles for you, meaning you can literally lie on the sofa having your muscles electrically contracted!
Despite all of these, the goal of a six pack is out of reach for most men. Why?
The first and most important answer is simple – because most men carry too much body fat.
You can do all of the abdominal exercise in the world, but if you have a layer of fat covering the muscles, your hard work will go unseen. In order to carve out a six pack, your main aim should be reducing your body fat significantly low enough to see your abdominal muscles. Most experts agree that reducing your body fat to around 10% (most men are around 20%) should be enough to make your abdominal muscles visible.
How Do I Reduce My Body Fat to 10%?
There’s an old saying in bodybuilding – ‘abs are made in the kitchen’. Basically this means that your diet is far more important than exercise when it comes to losing body fat. If you train really hard but eat too much, you’ll at best, maintain your currently level of body fat. If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll actually gain weight.
The first port of call is understanding how much energy your body actually needs. Once you know your daily calorie requirements, you eat less than that by up to 500 calories per day, in order to create a calorie deficit. So, in reality it works like this…
If your daily calorie requirements to maintain your current body weight are 3000 calories per day, you’d eat 2500 calories per day and the shortfall would be made up from the body fat stores. In time, these stores would reduce, so you’d be leaner and your abdominal muscles would be more visible.
You don’t need to manually work out your calorie requirements any more – apps such as My Fitness Pal do a fantastic job of it for you and even keep track of the calories you consume every day. Being lean has never been easier!
Food Choices For Weight Loss
Interestingly, when it comes to weight and fat loss, the calorie content of food is far more important than the quality of it, so you don’t need to obsess about eating only salads and drinking water. You can still eat pizza and ice cream, but obviously in much smaller quantities.
If you do opt for the healthy diet road, the obvious food rules apply…
- Eat plenty of protein – ideally 2-3 portions per day
- Reduce carbohydrates to training days only
- Fill up on vegetables
- Reduce soft drink intake
- Cut down on alcohol
The good news is that as long as you stay within your daily calorie goals, you can be relatively flexible with your food choices and still lose weight. It also helps you to stay on a diet for the long term if you can have the occasional treat – many diets fail because they are just too restrictive, but counting calories allows for a few cheat meals along the way!
Training for a Six Pack
When figuring out how to get a six pack, a lot of people obsess about abdominal exercise, but you don’t really need to do much, especially if it already forms part of your training. The return on investment of abdominal exercise isn’t worth it. That, plus the way the body works means that you’ll still be training your abdominal muscles when you do all kinds of other exercises including Squats, Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings, Push Ups etc.
Instead of filling your workout with abdominal exercise, a workout based around whole body exercises, with a lot of volume and performed at a high intensity will work perfectly. These kind of workouts are really, really effective when it comes to fat loss and building a six pack.
Consistency in the gym, working hard and working often is by far the most effective way to build a body you want, reducing body fat and building muscle.
How To Get a Six Pack: Conclusion
Despite what you may have read, getting a six pack isn’t all about crunches. It’s a combination of training to improve muscle mass and calorie burning, whilst at the same time reducing your food intake to ensure you lose enough body fat.
It’s an exercise in patience and consistency. Depending on your body fat levels, it won’t happen overnight, but if you maintain your calories at a sufficiently low level and train well, in time you’ll see the changes you want. Just stick with it – if it was easy, everybody would be lean!
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