Everyone seems to believe that having 6-pack abs is the ultimate fitness goal, but so many people struggle to get them to show. Let me save you some trouble: 500 crunches a day will not work (I’ve tried).
For most people, having shredded 6-pack abs year round is not sustainable or healthy! But there are ways to improve your abdominal muscles over time, and I am going to share them with you along with some things to consider:
Disclaimer: You cannot control where your body stores fat! Some people are genetically gifted/lucky and do not hold much fat around their waist, and these people may have a much easier time maintaining visible abs year round!
Now, onto things you can control...
1: Abs are made in the kitchen (bet you haven’t heard that before…)
As cliche as it is, it is true! You can do a ton of direct ab work, but they will never show if you are not at a low enough body fat! So, in order to get leaner, you need to eat in a caloric deficit. My favorite way to learn how to do this is to track how much you are currently eating and simultaneously track your weight each day over the span of two weeks. If your weekly average weight goes up at your current caloric intake, you are eating in a surplus! Ideally, you want to find the caloric intake where your average body weight stays the same week by week, and then slowly decrease your calories a bit to get yourself in a deficit!
Note: Moving more (cardio especially) can help you get into a caloric deficit more easily!
2. Do heavy compound exercises
What is better for building abs, crunches or barbell back squats?? Although many may disagree, I’m going to say barbell back squats! If you do not activate your core during this movement (and many other compound exercises) you most likely will fail a rep, or your form will entirely breakdown. Focus on doing compound exercises like heavy squats, deadlifts, and rows rather than spending all your time doing crunches on top of crunches.
3. Okay...now isolate your abs
I know I just said crunches aren’t great, but they have their place. If you are at a slightly higher body fat, you can get your abs to show more by making them stronger and thicker! The more muscle, the more they will protrude to the surface (if you are reasonably lean/in shape). So, I advocate for heavy isolation work on the abdominal muscles in order to achieve this! Weighted crunches, hanging leg raises, kneeling cable crunches, banded oblique rotations, weighted planks and more fall into this category! Work on progressively adding more weight to these types of exercises and watch your core muscles push to the surface more and more!
If you are interested in customized personal training and programming tailored to your goals and needs, check out www.balancewithshaheen.com