In the personal training game abdominals tend to be the most sought after body part. Although we live in a country where we probably see less than 30days of beach weather a year, having a flat stomach is still seen as an essential requirement to looking good. The industry is flooded with articles and sites promising a Six Pack, some of which claim to be able to provide in as little as 7days. The majority of this information is simply marketing that will usually be plugging a supplement, exercise machine, program or combination of the three. The reality is, obtaining a flat stomach with developed abs is actually a somewhat long process involving dedication, time and more than just a couple sit-ups and leg raises. In fact closer to the truth is a minimal amount of direct abdominal exercise and a greater degree of concentration on the following areas.
Here lies the overriding factor as to why one does not have visible abs and how long it will take for them to appear. Generally one will need to be at a minimum of 15% body fat to have some form of a visible six-pack. The closer you can get to that 10% region the more prominent they will become. Some individuals will be an exception to this rule due to the differences in where they genetically hold body fat. That being said it is safe to say that the majority of the population will need to get overall body fat % as low as possible (sub 10%) in order to fully reveal the abdominal muscles. These reasons alone are why personal trainers who understand this fact will not waste precious time with direct abdominal work in the early stages of a total body transformation. Principal transformation protocol will be the reduction of body fat in the fastest possible time.
In order to reduce body fat in the most efficient time period, the correct type of training approach will be required. Resistance training programs should follow a system similar to that of Definitive Physique fat loss protocols, examples of such training can be seen in some of our videos. These types of workouts include big complex movements combined with incomplete rest periods. Resistance training in this manner creates a greater physiological demand on the body and contributes to an increased level of EPOC. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is a term used to measure the increase in oxygen uptake following a bout of strenuous activity. Oxygen uptake is required to help the process’s involved in restoring the body to a resting state. Activities that create a greater level of EPOC will contribute to a greater degree of fat burning both during and after exercise activity. One of the added benefits of this, is the metabolic stimulation such training will cause. The body will not only burn more calories in the long run, but will also be able to consume more calories as a result.
Cardiovascular exercise is an important component to achieving the six pack, but should not be though of as a substitute to resistance training. Cardio should be seen as a supplement to the calorie burning process and of course added benefit to overall conditioning of the heart and lungs. Ultimately CV training can be divided into two formats, steady state and interval. Steady state is continuous aerobic exercise that maintains the same pace for a specific period of time. Intervals require the subject to perform varying intensity levels over what is usually a shorter period of time. A type of interval training popularised in recent years is HIT training, which has been touted by numerous fitness professionals as being the definitive form of aerobic CV training. Although we at definitive physique do incorporate certain formats of such CV training, I would like to highlight that High Intensity Training may not be suitable for certain individuals. The basic premise of HIT is to achieve a greater overall calorie burn in a more efficient time period. Studies have shown this type of training to be more effective than your traditional steady state training. However, what most personal trainers forget to tell you is that the difference between the two is potentially not as important as the actual inclusion of extra cardio in itself. If you are physically able to include sprint intervals and the potential loss of muscle mass is not an overriding issue then your latest HIT training program could be an option. Yet if you are perhaps not conditioned for such an exercise and following certain types of restricted diets, one could simply include a less intense format of intervals such as hill walking or simply stick to moderate lengths of steady state.
Without a well-designed diet, obtaining abs will remain a dream and an individual will be left both frustrated and fat. Bottom line, abs will never be seen till we shift those unwanted fat stores, and in order to do so nutrition has to be seen as important as your training. There are many approaches one can take with diet including carbs or without. Nonetheless the most important factor to grasp is the importance of a gradual regression in calories, with the inclusion of certain calorie spikes in order to prevent plateaus and loss in muscle mass. Visible abdominals occur as fat stores diminish and this reduction will only continue to take place if a diet plan continually prompts the body to do so. The human body is a very complex and intelligent organism and as a result diet plans need to be constantly adjusted in order to avoid any stagnation.
As one can hopefully now see, obtaining a six pack is not just a matter of hitting the gym a couple times a week and throwing in a few sets of crunches. It is also not achieved via hours of abs classes or any of the latest combos you will see posted on YouTube. Six packs are the result of a sustained period of correct training and dietary practice. This practice will cause the gradual reduction in body fat which in turn allows the abdominals to be displayed. Direct abdominal exercise will come into play once body fat has been reduced, and by no means should be completely excluded form the transformation process. Direct abdominal work can be see as the icing on the cake, meaning the foundation has to be made before the decoration can take place.
This article was written by Mike Porter, Director, Definitive Physique