Core training and the six pack mania

It seems as if everybody is chasing six-pack abs even when they are supposedly doing core training! Let me make this clear that core training and working the abs is as different as chalk and cheese. Working towards a chiseled midriff requires very specific training and diet strategy. I am perennially asked about which exercises would help in losing belly fat. You can do loads of crunches but spot reduction is not possible. Let’s try to understand what we need to do to achieve abs that stand out.

The Rectus Abdominus or the abs is a thick sheaf of muscle, which runs vertically from the sternum to the pubis. When a person has sufficiently low percentage of body fat, about 10 per cent for men and 15 per cent for women, the abs can be clearly seen. If a trainee has been working the abs properly, such that they have hypertrophied plus they have low body fat, then the six pack appears!

I mentioned the body fat percentages first because unless you have diligently worked on your diet and reduced body fat, it’s pointless doing crunch after crunch. It is very clear that you cannot out-train a bad diet. Also, getting into the single-digit body fat percentage is not fun as it entails making substantial lifestyle changes. Most people fail at it and thus the perennial search for the six-pack.

What not to do if you are looking for a six pack

•Focus on doing endless abdominal exercises.

•Cheat on your diet.

•Try to burn belly fat by doing lots of cardio.

•Fall for snake oil-pushing salesmen, offering untested, unknown products for reducing body fat.

•Resorting to “fat burners”, available by the dozen at supplement shops. Most of these supplements do not list their full ingredients, hiding behind phrases like “proprietorial blend of natural ingredients”.

How to get to six pack abs

I would like to divide this section into two parts. Let’s focus on the diet part first. If you are dead serious about getting lean, then my recommendation is consult a good, experienced nutritionist. The nutritionist will help you modify your diet scientifically without causing any health issues. Basically, you need to get into a calorie deficit to lose body fat. This can be done by cutting calories or shifting to a Ketogenic diet or a mix of the two. Whatever might be the chosen route, my only recommendation is not to cut protein, otherwise training in the gym gets poor results.

Now for the training:

•Abs are like any other muscle. You don’t need to do thousands of repetitions six days a week. They need to be trained with progressive overload about twice a week, keeping the reps in the 12-15 range.

•Weighted crunches, ab pull-downs on a pulley machine, hanging leg raises are the main exercises for overloading the abs.

•Progressively overloading the abs will make them hypertrophy, just like your biceps. So when you are lean enough, the abs will stick out.

So there are you are – get lean and hit your abs hard. Now you can go bare torso anytime, anywhere!

Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years

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From HT Brunch, June 2, 2019

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First Published:
Jun 01, 2019 19:02 IST

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