If you want to build a sexy six pack in the least amount of time, say goodbye to stomach crunches; because stomach crunches are not the best exercise for six pack abs. Sounds crazy, right? Afterall, crunches and sit ups are supposedly the end-all, be-all exercise for abdominal training. But that's not necessarily the truth, as there are several exercises that will actually get you better six pack results in less time and with less effort than crunches. But instead of bombarding you with a whole handful of movements that will give you better results (yes, crunches aren't even in the "top 10 exercises for six pack abs"), I'm going to cut to the chase and leave you with the best exercise for chiseling a six pack stomach in the least amount of time possible.
Are you ready? Good...
That's not a typo. Squats are your best option for building a six pack stomach. Sound crazy? Of course it does. Squats are supposed to be a leg exercise, right? Right. And that's exactly why they're so good at defining the midsection.
This is true for both men and women.
Let me explain:
Why Squats Are The Best Exercise For Six Pack Abs
As you may or may not know, what really hides your abdominals isn't a lack of muscle, it's a build up of body fat. Your body's natural tendency is to store fat right on top of your stomach. It doesn't always mean you're out of shape or even fat, it's just the body's natural genetic programming. To really show off your abs, you'll need to chisel away at that fat storage.
But there's just one problem: It's impossible to "spot reduce" or "lose weight in one spot." What's worse is that your body will probably give up its fat stores everywhere else in the body before letting go of that nasty belly flab. Is it fair, no. But it's a fact of life (and physiology).
That means: Building Six Pack Abs is a process of body fat reduction, not abdominal muscle building.
You already have abs. Seriously. They are there (probably hidden from view, but they're there, trust me). Unlike most other muscles in your body, your abs are always working. Even if you sit on your duff all day watching TV and drinking beer, your abs are constantly firing. They help keep you balanced when you stand or sit, and they are responsible for twisting from side to side and bending forward. Even if your biceps look like Olive Oil's and your chest rivals that of Don Knotts, your abs are there.
What does this have to do with squats?
I thought you'd never ask.
Squats are the ultimate body fat reduction exercise.
For starters, they use the huge muscles of your legs, which are much larger than any other muscle in your body. This is important for two major reasons:
- Squats burn calories like crazy. Those big muscles have big appetites, and the "meal" for any muscle is calories. While there is a huge discussion about where those calories should come from just waiting to bust loose, I'll save that for another time. The point is that the more muscle fibers you use, the higher the caloric burn.
- Squats release a higher concentration of fat-burning, metabolism-boosting hormones than nearly any other exercise. Any time your muscles are stressed (in a good way), they release several hormones into your system that benefit your waistline; and again the more muscle fibers you use, the better the results.
Plus, the fact that you're working the very big muscles of the thighs (quadriceps), hamstrings, hips, glutes and calves means that you'll ramp your metabolism up like crazy. And it will stay high for a long, long time - sometimes hours after your workout is over. That means you'll be burning more calories when you get back to the couch.
Squats are the ultimate compound lift. What's a "compound lift?" A compound lift is any movement that works more than one muscle at a time. Squats work all the muscles of your legs, plus the stabilizing muscles of your core and even many of the muscles in your upper body. In fact, some people have even said that Squats are the closest thing to a full-body exercise you'll ever find. Hopefully your wheels are turning as you read this, because I'd hate for you to miss the "core" part. This means that your abs are actually working in squats!
In comparison, crunches are considered an "isolation lift," meaning they only work one muscle group: The abs. In comparison to your legs (let alone your whole body), the abs simply aren't very big. So by working them you'll strengthen your six pack core, but the likelihood of ever shedding that fat layer that keeps them hidden is very low.
One former NFL quarterback - I can't remember who, I believe it was Vinny Testaverde, but don't quote me on it - once said that if you train your lower body, your upper body will follow. So this mystery quarterback focused his strength and condition workouts on his legs and lower body, rather than the other way around. And the results? Well, he was an NFL quarterback - I think that says it all.
But Aren't Squats Dangerous?
When performed correctly, squats are just as safe as any other exercise. When performed incorrectly, you do have a very high risk of injury. That's why it's very important to have a professional "check you off" on your squat motions before you start going hog-wild on the weights. And when I say "professional" I mean it - find a certified trainer or licensed strength and conditioning coach, not a buddy or a fellow gym patron. While they always mean well, there's nothing saying they are performing the exercise right themselves. I've found that the biggest guys in the weight room typically have the worst squat form, but that's a topic for another article.
The fitness industry went through an odd phase a couple of years back in which it ostracized squats and dangerous and bad on your knees. Thankfully they've reconsidered that fad. I personally think this become the hot topic because the industry had to support all those complicated fitness machines (which paid big advertising dollars) - and the idea of a simple squat rack, a barbell and some weight plates wasn't as profitable. Again, I'm ranting, I'll leave it at that.
The point is this: When done correctly, squats are not only safe, but they're your fast-track ticket to six pack abs.
Why Crunches Aren't The Best Exercise For Six Pack Abs
Okay, so I've gone on and on about squats, but haven't really addressed the topic that lured you to this article in the first place: Why crunches aren't the best exercise for six pack abs.
I wouldn't want to leave anyone hanging, and if you've made it this far into this article, you certainly deserve a thorough discussion as to the limitations of crunches as they relate to building a hard stomach. And while I could simply say: "Squats are the best, crunches are not squats, therefore crunches aren't the best," that wouldn't cut the mustard.
Let's break this down:
- Six pack abs are more a result of body fat reduction rather than abdominal muscle development. While crunches will develop your abs, they won't put a dent in your body fat. You'll end up with some very strong abs that nobody will ever see.
- Compound lifts burn more calories and release more fat-shedding natural hormones that isolation exercises. Crunches are an isolation exercise, I can't really take this point any farther than that.
- The bigger the muscle groups in the workout, the better the results. Crunches only work the abdominal muscles - which is a rather small group in comparison to, say, the legs.
Now that you know why crunches aren't the best exercise for six pack abs, go out there and start developing your sexy midsection!