There’s no secret to developing your six pack. Check out training tips to find out how you can succeed at your quest for six pack abs!

There’s no secret to developing your six pack. Check out training tips to find out how you can succeed at your quest for six pack abs! The answer is simple, your average gym-dwelling guy is training harder but not necessarily smarter. See, you can’t ‘out train’ a bad diet and you can’t see your abdominal muscles through a layer of fat. Which is why we’ve put together the following research-backed tips. As honest as they are, they are scientifically supported and, if you read them in the order in which they’re listed, a six-pack will be much more achievable.There's no secret to developing your six pack. Check out training tips to find out how you can succeed at your quest for six pack abs!

1. Fat Is Getting In The Way

This sounds harsh but it’s the brutal truth. Void of any sugar-coating, the reality is if you’re carrying over 10% body fat it is likely your abs will never be visible. This is because even the most scientifically crafted, abdominal-specific strength and conditioning routine will only ever increase the size – and therefore depth and definition – of your rectus abdominis muscles.

For those who never took that physiology lecture, the rectus abdominis muscle is the one running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of your stomach. Basically the one responsible for the appearance of a six-pack. Now, it can be moulded, sculpted and increased in size with exercise – like all skeletal muscle – but even the world’s most pronounced stomach muscle is not visible when hidden under a layer of body fat.

Your six-pack solution? Understand that abs are made in the kitchen and not the gym. What this means is – contrary to popular belief and many glossy fitness magazines – you’d be better perfecting your nutritional habits than your sit-up technique if visible stomach muscles are your end goal. Which brings us nicely onto point two.

2. You Think Diets Are The Magical Answer

The truth is they’re just the start. According to scientists from the Department of Psychology at the University of California diets are not – and never will be – “the answer” to your six-pack quest. Why? Because statistics show 90% of them fail. Worth noting is this statistic was based on a 1959 study of only 100 patients but it’s since been reinforced by numerous clinical studies and was recognised at the Australian New Zealand Obesity Society conference 2009 and the International Obesity Summit 2010.

Now reasons for this high failure rate are complex. There are also too many to list. But, in short, we were never meant to eat through rules, restrictions and check lists. Diets apply a simple, mechanical solution to a complex biological reality. They’re hard to stick to, let’s face it. Simply going on a diet is not “the answer” but only the beginning – executing it consistently without giving up is what’s going to make a big difference. Therefore your second six-pack solution – according to the International Journal of Obesity – is finding a way of eating that personally works for you.

This is because in a large-scaled study in which many diets were analysed, the International Journal of Obesity found there was no perfect nutrition plan. Instead they concluded, “Regardless of assigned diet, 12-month weight change was greater in the most adherent,” adding, “These results suggest that strategies to increase adherence may deserve more emphasis than the specific diet.” Basically the diet doesn’t matter, sticking to it does. Okay, nutrition covered. Now take a look at point 3 to see where exercise fits into your six-pack equation.

3. You’re Training Longer Not Smarter

Too many people think a six-pack comes from spending hours in the gym. Yes, spend your day attacking the weights rack and treadmill with a protein shake in hand and you will eventually see results, but research shows you’d be better training smarter and not harder. This is based on the work of scientists from Laval University in Québec, Canada, who found shorter and more intense forms of training were more effective for burning body fat compared to longer sessions of low intensity training.

It’s called HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training) and it could be one of the easiest training routines in the world to follow. You simply sprint, rest and repeat. That’s it! Exercise at a frenetic pace for 20 to 90 seconds followed by a period of low intensity training or complete rest which lasts 20 to 120 seconds. You then repeat this for a total of 10 to 20 minutes using your weapon of choice – whether that’s a bike, a treadmill or just you and your trainers sprinting up and down a hill.

Do this and, according to the previously mentioned Canadian scientists, “The metabolic adaptations taking place in the skeletal muscle in response to high intensity training appear to favour the fat loss process.” Basically, you will burn fat at a greater rate compared to your usual steady and leisurely 40-minute jog.

4. You’re Obsessed With The Sit-Up

This will be a shock to some but sit-ups are the most overrated exercise in strength and conditioning.

A bold statement, I know, but a study conducted at the Department of Kinesiology at the Pennsylvania State University in the US, served to challenge crunches’ dominance as the best six-pack exercise. They set out to determine which training techniques activated the core muscles the best – larger, ‘compound’ movements like the plank or smaller ‘isolation’ movements like the standard crunch. To test this they compared the two exercises and using surface electromyography (EMG) electrodes discovered there was 20% greater muscle activation in the plank compared to the sit-up. Once you’ve got rid of that body fat, this should be the first exercise on your six-pack hit-list.

How to perform a plank:

  • Start by getting into a press up position.
  • Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms
  • Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
  • Engage your core by sucking your belly button into your spine.
  • Hold this position for the prescribed time.

But the abdominal strength and conditioning revelations don’t stop there.

Research published by American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation found the lost art of “hanging” could be your ab’s best friend. This is because, to do it well, you need your entire body and stomach muscles to work in unison. To test this theory, scientists electromyographically studied muscle activation in the stomach during 10 strenuous abdominal exercises. What they found was, “Intensity of contraction was greatest in the basket hang, followed by three variations of the hook sit-up.” Beating the conventional sit-up (again) in terms of muscle activation.

Researchers added, “The apparently strenuous nature of the basket hang, which is primarily a movement of thigh rather than trunk flexion, implies that this exercise may be useful in the abdominal training of highly conditioned athletes.”

How to Perform a Basket Hang:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Contract your lower abs and bring your knees to your chest.
  • Twist your hips to one side in a controlled manner. Keeping your chest forward at all times.
  • As you do crunch your ribs to your hips. Pause. Then perform on the alternate side.

And, lastly as a bonus, is an exercise made famous by a martial arts legend and an exercise that was launched into the mainstream after featuring in the Rocky IV training montage. It incorporates pretty much all the principles described above to train the muscles of the core in a way very few other exercises can.

Only to be attempted once you’ve mastered the other exercises, the benefit of this exercise is it forces the muscles of the stomach to eccentrically (and forcefully) contract. What this means is they are in tension, but lengthening. Much like the downward phase of a bicep curl.

How to Dragon Flag:

  • Lay on the floor whilst holding onto something stable with your hands by your head
  • With only your head and shoulders in contact with the floor, raise your entire body from the floor
  • Keeping as straight as possible, lower yourself to the ground
  • Pause for one second when at the bottom of the exercise
  • Then return back in an upright position
  • All the time ensuring only your head and shoulders are in contact with the floor

In summary, achieving a visible six-pack requires an understanding of both training and nutrition. Yes, it’s not easy. Yes, your body fat must be at a certain level before you even think about core conditioning. But understand and apply the above basic principles and a defined, chiselled stomach will prove to be much less elusive than you perhaps originally thought.

Exercise 1: The DragonflyThere's no secret to developing your six pack. Check out training tips to find out how you can succeed at your quest for six pack abs!

8 to 12 Repetitions

3 sets in total

90 seconds rest in between sets

 

Exercise 2: Basket HangsThere's no secret to developing your six pack. Check out training tips to find out how you can succeed at your quest for six pack abs!

8 to 12 Repetitions

3 sets in total

90 seconds rest in between sets

 

Exercise 3: PlankThere's no secret to developing your six pack. Check out training tips to find out how you can succeed at your quest for six pack abs!

Hold for 60 seconds

3 sets in total

90 seconds rest in between sets

 

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