When people start working out, they almost invariably go straight for their abs. And perhaps it is reasonable – the abdominal area is where people are most acutely aware of carrying extra weight, bloat, or softness, and it is the spot almost all people want to see direct improvement.
What’s more, having a great set of abs is the primary marker of ‘fitness’ in the general world. And when the abs don't seem to be improving any more drastically than the rest of the body despite receiving the most attention, people get discouraged and begin to think that perhaps they are just not genetically capable of building a tight, lean six pack.
However, as we should all know, there is no effective way to spot-fix a body part. Regardless of how many crunches you may do, an isolated focus is an effective way to change your body, especially when it comes to your midsection.
In order to train your abs for the best results, a full-body approach is necessary. In fact, if you are carrying extra weight in your abdominal area, chances are it is not the only culprit. Bearing this in mind, there are two key concepts that are crucial to building a strong foundation for ripped abs: Engage, and Diet.
Rather than going straight for the crunches, consider that the most effective way to see improvement in your abdominal areas is to hold off on direct and exclusive ab exercises until you have begun to reduce your overall body fat percentage. Why? Like all other forms of resistance work, ab exercise increases the growth of muscle, and muscle under fat has a tendency to look like more bulk.
This is why some people get discouraged with their middle thickness despite heavy ab workouts -- they have the muscle, but the fat overtop is hiding their achievement. This is not to say 'neglect your abs entirely until later on’, as this would be a serious detriment to your fitness goals. Strong core muscles (Abs, obliques, back, glutes, etc) are vital to all other types of workouts -- without them, you could seriously injure yourself, especially while lifting.
So what do you do? You engage. Engage your core muscles in everything you do. Squeeze your core tight when you jog, when you squat, when you do jumping jacks, when you do push ups, when you lift weights, when you do pull ups, when you do ALL types of workouts. If you are doing squats and not even thinking about your abs, you are missing out on the full potential of what that move can do for your body! Is it not better to work more at once?
Abdominal engagement can be done anywhere – in the office, at home while cooking dinner, or even while enjoying your favourite evening TV show. By doing so, the strength in all your core muscles, especially your abs, will start to improve, while you are working on melting the fat from all areas of your body, and building a nice frame of lean muscle. You will be surprised, when they softness burns away, that you have a nicer, flatter stomach to work with, and finally give that extra attention to.
Here, the old adage of “abs are made in the kitchen” truly needs to be stressed! What you eat and how you eat are fundamental to the aesthetic results of your midsection; if your diet is not en pointe, shredded abs are not going to develop. Even the fittest of people will noticeably bloat and soften when they consume something full of sugar, fat or sodium – and this shows most in the midsection.
It must be emphasized that a diet full of processed, sugary foods will be a serious detriment to the fat burning process that will uncover your strong, toned abs. If you want to have a great six-pack, your focus needs to be on eating clean, eating at proper intervals, and most importantly, eating enough! If you’re not getting enough calories to support your caloric burn and exercise activity, your body will begin to cling to fat as a survival instinct.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals that comprise of lean proteins, whole wheat or whole grain complex carbohydrates and bountiful portions of veggies are the best way to ensure that you are left feeling satisfied and energized with every meal, while still shedding fat from your midsection to reveal your abdominal foundation. So never forget to think about what you are eating, and how that one thing will reflect on your body, especially when you want to see firm, taut abs.
Overall, these two key concepts are crucial for building the best, strongest and most aesthetic foundation for your midsection. Utilizing these tricks will help you to sculpt your abs into the six pack of your dreams!