I’m guessing that because you clicked on this post, you admire or are at least curious about the famous six-pack abs. I’m not sure where exactly the six-pack obsession came from- I was wrapped up in it myself as a teenager. Maybe it’s a result of the photoshopped images that grace the covers of fitness magazines like “Men’s Health” and the likes. The abundance of these images in has painted the six-pack as the ultimate vision of strength.
But how can I get a six-pack? Let’s break it down.
Sidenote: for any women reading this, you have it harder than your male counterparts. Men pack on muscle at a much greater rate than women, due to the high natural testosterone levels. The good news is that through smart training and good nutrition, it’s possible.
- Six-packs appear only when overall body percentage is low. Not just low but on the very low side. For men, it usually shows itself around 6-8%. For women, it’s slightly higher. The six-pack body fat range falls around the “athletic range”; a range occupied by competitive athletes or very enthusiastic exercisers. 2-5% of body fat for men is considered essential fat, if you go any lower you’re in risk of organ failure. The figure for women is higher at 10-13%. The message here is that it can be risky business getting to that level of fat percentage unless you’re aiming for performance. Yes, there are people we know that are very thin and slim, but that can be deceptive. Just because someone is slender doesn’t mean they don’t have a high body fat percentage. When I was working as a personal trainer in Toronto, I worked with a Chinese man, who was high up in a commercial bank. He wanted a six-pack, so we did the usual body fat measurements. To my surprise he had 25% body fat, which is quite high (in the obese range), especially considering he looked slim from the outside. Looks can be very deceptive.
2. No, crunches won’t get you that six-pack. But what if I do hundreds of crunches a day, will that get me a six-pack? It astounds me to hear people ask me that question, time and time again. The answer is simple, NO! Yes doing crunches will develop your ab strength, but at the cost of your lower back and spine. Doing ab exercises without working the lower back, will end up in injury and at best muscular imbalance.
3. Exercise sculpts the body, but food reveals it. Food is an essential part of the process. You can lift weights and run all you want, but nutrition is the pillar of any successful programme. Eating healthy and natural food regularly, coupled with consistent exercise will speed up the process. A note of caution with nutrition; under-eating will come back to bite you later down the line. Doing it the right way takes patience and consistency.
So there you have it. Six-pack abs require extremely overall body fat percentages, which are obtained through hours and hours training, and a consistently healthy diet.
But here’s why you shouldn’t aim for six-pack abs.
My thinking has always been- focus on performance goals like squatting 60kg, running a certain time, or any quantifiable goal, rather than an aesthetic goal. An aesthetic goal like attaining a six-pack is unrealistic for most people. All the stars have to align to make it happen. Your nutrition and exercise has to be smart and structured correctly. The work required is huge. Here is where quantifiable goals come into it. I was obsessed with the six-pack when I was a teenager, like many of my peers. Then once I started running at age 16, I focused on race times which gave me something to aim for that was achievable and therefore built my confidence. Fast forward a few years of consistent training and without focusing on aesthic results, they too were achieved. I will argue that the six-pack is a distant dream unless you have a very specific plan to get you there, you commit 100%, and give yourself years to achieve it. Once you achieve your six-pack, what then? Focus on doing your best at each of your workouts and set short term goals. It’s that cycle of achieving short term goals that will bring the rewards and maybe even a six-pack!
Top tips to get into the best possible physical condition.
- Combine strength and fitness training to work all of the body and increase calories expended.
- Stick to the main lifts like squats dead-lifts etc, isolation exercises are a waste of time for weight loss.
- Eat a balanced and natural diet: have protein, carbs, and fat at each meal.
- Get a coach or personal trainer to give you accountability and structure to your training.
- Follow our blog for quality, common sense information to help you on your path.
Thanks for reading, I hope this article proved useful for you. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to get in touch below.
Until next time,
Steve and Catherine,
The Health Heads