If you’re like many men out there, you dream of a flat washboard stomach and a six pack. If you’re ready to ditch your evenings in front of the TV for a trip to the gym, and your usual pizza and six pack of beers for a healthier alternative, then the six pack is possible.
Diet: Unless you are the very rare exception, diet is the key component in losing abdominal fat and keeping it off. Start by getting rid of all refined carbs (white bread, white pasta, pastry, etc.) and trans fats (foods containing hydrogenated oils, like packaged food) from your diet, and eat organic unprocessed food (no chemicals or pesticides.) You should also be eating the appropriate ratio of protein, carbs and fat in ever meal. I’m not a believer of cookie cutter diets, so you may want to look into the Metabolic Typing Diet to determine what proportions are right for you. Keep your body well fueled – most people do best with 3 main meals and 2 smaller snack meals a day – and well hydrated with clean, filtered water. Good food and water will not only help with recovery, but will also keep your metabolism going at its ideal pace.
Exercise: Remember that you cannot spot train. Doing thousands of crunches a day will not get you a six pack. Get off those silly crunch and oblique machines! They do nothing to gain core strength and stability, which is what you should be aiming for. Incorporate multi-muscle functional exercises, such as squat and lunge patterns that involve upper & lower body integration. You can’t perform these kinds of exercises without activating your abs so you basically turn your entire workout into an ab workout.
Here are a few exercises to isolate your abdominals:
Russian Twist: Begin on your back, arms out in a “T.” With bent legs, begin twisting your legs from one side to the other, coming up slightly towards your ribs in the middle of the movement. Using your hips, allow your lower back to lift off the ground. Keep your shoulders flat on the ground and your upper body straight.
Advanced: Perform this exercise with straight legs.
Bird Dogs: Lie on your back with your knees and arms bent (elbows at 90 degrees directly facing the knees). Now slowly lower the right elbow and left knee towards the ground. Return to your starting position and switch sides.
Cable Wood Chop (Obliques): Using a cable system, begin standing and grab the handle with the outside hand, and then place the other hand on top. Draw the belly button inwards and make sure that your body is facing forward. From here keep your arms fairly straight and pull the cable diagonally across the body. The movement should end with the hands just outside the furthest foot. Perform all reps on one side and switch.
If you feel that you are doing everything right, but aren’t seeing any results, you should look at the following:
Stress: Do a quick check on your stress levels. Sometimes stress can also play a big role in being able to shed those unwanted inches. If you are living a stressful life (not getting enough sleep, overworking, overtraining, and eating the wrong foods) your body may be holding on to the unwanted pounds you are desperately trying to lose.
Allergies or Intolerances: Is there a chance that you may intolerant to dairy, or gluten? You are likely suffering from constant bloating around the midsection and fat retention if this is the case.
Skip these foods: Chips, alcoholic drinks, pizza, greasy pub food, saucy foods, anything out of a vending machine.
Eat these foods: Meats, fish, eggs, whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, leafy greens, all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Lastly, make sure to take it one day at a time and follow the 80/20 rule where you can relax a bit on the diet 20% of the time as long as you follow it religiously 80% of the time.
Yours in health and fitness,
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Image courtesy of rita vita on flickr