“You want to get a six pack? Why you should buy this machine! Or maybe this pill? Or get this super effective plan that will make you model beautiful in 2 weeks!” I’m sure you’re tired of all the BS. So let me give you a truthful, simple explanation of everything you need to do to get a six pack. Along the way I hope I can help dispel some of the myths you may have come across and give you the real deal on getting the lean body you want. It’s very simple! But it isn’t easy.
First me give you some good news, it’s very likely you already have a six pack! It’s covered in a layer of fat, and that’s the challenge. If you want to reveal your abs your main objective should be to eliminate that layer of fat. You also need to be doing crunches, sit ups and other ab exercises will help you build your 6 pack. However so long as your abs remain covered in a layer of fat, you won’t see them.
Nutrition to get a six pack
The largest part of getting your six pack lies in losing weight, and the biggest part of losing fat lies in your nutrition.
Losing weight is simple math, calories in minus calories out. An average adult man needs 2500 calories a day to maintain his weight, for an average woman, that figure is 2000 calories. But you should find out how much your specific needs are, in my bibliography at the bottom of this article I’ve linked a calorie requirement calculator that you may use to do so.
To lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit. In other words, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Your average meals need to consist of a third lean protein, a third fruits/vegetables and a third carbohydrate.
Your caloric deficit means you will lose some muscle, but you can minimise that by resistance training (which I’ll get to) and by consuming enough lean protein such as chicken, fish, or pork. Meats such as lamb or beef tend to contain more fat and should only be had once in a while.
You’ll need to consume fruits and vegetables to get your vitamins and fibre. Most fruit and vegetables do not contain many calories and therefore fill you up without causing you to gain weight, when you consider pastries and cakes that way, you can see what makes them responsible for weight gain! Sugary snacks are “dense” in that they’re loaded with calories and don’t fill you up. You could easily have quite a few doughnuts on an empty stomach and not feel full (albeit a bit sick).
Lastly you need to have complex carbohydrates; these are anything that contain starch such as bread, rice or potatoes. Don’t repeat my mistake and try and eliminate them from your diet. A lot of diets advocate cutting out carbs from your diet completely however eliminating carbohydrates from your diet will make you feel tired and sluggish, and when you do workout it will be much more tiring. Worst of all the second you return to a normal diet, all the fat you’ll have lost will jump back on. Your diet needs to be something you can maintain over a long term allowing for a rare indulgence.
Try to eat 5 small meals a day! This may sound time consuming but in reality you’re still having your 3 regular meals along with 2 snacks to keep your body fuelled with the energy it needs to keep you going and the protein it needs to retain muscle.
Important times to eat carbohydrates are for breakfast, 2 hours before you workout (In my experience any less will probably give you stich pain during your workout) and in the 30-60 mins afterwards. During that short period of time after you work out your body is starved for nutrients and rapidly absorbs what you give it. This meal is the most important of the day! Later on in the afternoon and especially at night is when you should have smaller quantities of carbohydrates, as your body doesn’t need that much energy towards the night.
Tip: If you feel your willpower fading and you really want to have something “bad”, like chocolate or a sweet snack, have it in the 30-60 mins after you workout to minimise the damage. That said you must follow 2 rules. First you may not do this more than twice a week and not hurt your progress and second, this is not a license to binge. If you want chocolate, have a small portion just to tide yourself over.
Remember three quarters of the work in getting a six pack is to lose the fat covering it, the rest is to build those abs!
The best tool there is in losing fat, cardiovascular exercise is going to form an important part of your exercise routine. Cardio is any exercise that increases your heart rate and can include anything from running, swimming to most sports!
But forget pounding on a treadmill for an hour, try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT consists of alternating short periods of intense exercise with periods of moderate exercise, for example sprint for one minute and jog for 2 and repeat this 4 times. Why this is effective is that HIIT takes less time, and gives you better results. You not only burn more calories during your exercise, with high intensity interval training you also increase your basal metabolic rate meaning you burn more calories at rest!
Sports are a good way of doing cardio without realising it! You have less precision over your “intervals”, hell you might not be able to implement HIIT at all. But sports are very good cardio nonetheless simply because it’s fun! You’ll be motivated to workout if you’re having fun doing it.
I’ve extolled the virtues of cardio above, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook resistance training.
As I’ve mentioned eating less calories than you need means you lose muscle alongside fat, lifting weights will help further give your body a reason to minimise that loss of muscle. Muscle is very important, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest! If cardio is like a quick payout, then muscle is a long term investment, once you acquire it, you will keep burning more calories at rest. Now doing nothing and managing to burn more calories? That’s what many companies selling pills try to pitch to you. But this is how it’s done.
Besides... muscle looks great! When you think about the six pack body you’re dreaming of, I doubt you’re thinking of gorgeous abs below a doughy chest. You should work on your musculature in order to make the rest of your body look lean and healthy.
N.B: I cannot stress this enough, but to sum up an extremely important point. Always use perfect form when lifting weights and don’t lift more than you can. Doing so puts you at risk for injuries that could possibly stay with you for your whole life. Before doing any exercises research how to do them correctly, you may consult the exercise database at bodybuilding.com which I’ve linked to you in my bibliography at the bottom of this article.
Now for beginners I suggest you alternate full body workouts, 3 times a week and cardio 3x a week, giving yourself Sunday to rest. So on Monday you would do resistance training, Tuesday cardio, Wednesday you’d do resistance training again... and so on. For full programs I suggest you check out bodybuilding.com where you’re not only taught what to do but also how to perform exercises correctly.
A point I’d like to add for women. Don’t be scared of lifting weights thinking that you’ll become big or bulky! It takes years and years of dedication even for for men to be able to put on muscle. Women naturally do not produce enough hormones for such growth. So don’t feel you shouldn’t use more weight when you know you can, but always use a safe amount.
But if I don’t go to a gym?
Note- I’ve written all the above based on the assumption you can go to a gym, if you cannot it’s still very much possible to get a six pack. I have numerous friends that have never been to a gym and have gotten amazing abs.
For cardio – Open your front door and start running! You can easily implement your HIIT by sprinting and jogging in a park, I can guarantee you this is much more fun than the treadmill. But the weather won’t always allow you to run outside. When that happens, use stairs in your house as a step up, jump rope in your living room! Shadow box vigorously! Remember apart from illness don’t let anything get in the way of your workout
For resistance training – Bodyweight exercises can still challenge you enough for you to grow leaner! Consider the simple routine of pull-ups (you’ll need a sturdy bar), Push-ups, sit ups or crunches, chin-ups (like pull-ups but your palms face you)
Remember, if you really want your 6 pack, there’s nothing that can stop you.
Rest and recovery
You should make sure that your diet can support the work you put in when you workout and that your workouts are intense enough to stimulate fat loss. However you also need to get enough rest to allow yourself to recover. Muscle repairs itself and grows the most during sleep, and lack of sleep causes the release of a hormone called cortisol which increases the storage of fat.
It is thus essential to get an adequate amount of sleep everyday, 8 hours of sleep is recommended but like most recommendations for the average person it may not suit you exactly, if you feel you need more rest then sleep more.
A topic I also want to touch on is overtraining, if you give 100% effort every day, then the time will come where your body is no longer able to support your heavy workload. That day you will find yourself feeling lethargic and unable to complete your workout, if you feel that way then take a day’s rest to allow yourself to recuperate. Overtraining actually destroys muscle as it is broken down for energy, you definitely do not want that to happen to you. It’s a horrible feeling when you realise that all your hard work is actually distancing you from your goals.
To conclude –
If you really want your abs, you’ll need to understand there’s a limit to how fast you can lose weight and gain muscle. Have realistic expectations and don’t expect miracles within a month. It takes a lot of determination and I can promise you there will be a point where you won’t want to get up to workout, or you’ll want to give up on your diet and binge on unhealthy foods. Everyone has that moment. What you will decide to do then, and nothing else, will determine whether you make it, or you don’t.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my article and I urge you to do more research to help yourself reach your goals.