If you’re one of the millions of people looking for that amazing six-pack, this is the article for you. Here’s your blueprint for a stronger, fitter core.
On the road to attaining a healthy body, there is one crucial stop that may prove to be more challenging than most.
What is it? Abs. The abdominals are some of the most stubborn muscles in the human body. They take the most work to attain and they are the easiest to lose when you stop doing the right things for them. This is because killer abs and abs health are not just the result of one single factor. It takes the hard work of diet and exercise, along with leading a low-stress life, to attain those highly coveted abs of steel.
You have to take an entire lifestyle approach to health and abs. Now for the good news: If this is something you desire, it is doable, especially with the right tools. So let’s get into the specifics and discuss which foods and what exercises will help you the most on your journey to action hero abs!
When it comes to the biggest contributing factor of six-pack abs, there’s one thing that’s crystal clear: It’s all about diet. That’s right, strong and sleek abdominal muscles are going to be predominantly gained by eating properly. If you’re working out as hard and as efficiently as you can, but not being constantly mindful of the foods you’re consuming, you’ll never achieve success. The main components of an abs-healthy diet, and of any healthy diet in general, are calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat and sodium.
Watch Your Calories.
For calories, just remember calories in versus calories out. To get rid of any excess fat that may be preventing your abs muscles from ever showing in the first place, you must adjust your calorie consumption to the amount of calories you’re burning.
You essentially need to burn more calories (calories out) than you’re taking in. So if you’re not working out as much, and therefore not expending as many calories, your daily calorie intake may have to be lowered. If you are working out more frequently, your daily calorie intake can increase, as long as it does not go above the calories you’re burning.
These numbers can even be adjusted on a daily basis, depending on if you work out that day. For example, if you work out a lot one day and burn a daily total of 3,500 calories, you can consume a great deal more on that day (say, 3,000 calories’ worth of food and drinks). Conversely, if you don’t work out one day and only burn a daily total of 2,000 calories, you should consume less on that day (say, 1,800 calories’ worth of food and drinks).
Do Carbs and Protein Matter When Trying to Obtain Great Abs?
To get major abs, your protein intake should be relatively high. Boosting protein can keep your metabolic rate up, prevent lean muscle mass loss and keep you satiated throughout the day. Aim for a daily intake of 9 calories of protein per pound of body weight.
Carbohydrates are a little trickier. If your carb intake is consistently too low, energy levels will plummet, junk food cravings will intensify and your resting metabolic rate will drop drastically. Aim to eat 25 to 50 grams of carbs both before and after your workouts.
Try to look for the good kinds of carbs like veggies and whole grains. You can also cycle your carb intake. This would mean that every month or so, you have a high-carb, low-fat weekend to keep your metabolism firing. Then, just return back to your usual low-to-moderate carb intake. These days can be extremely effective for results. Why? You’ll burn more fat and reduce your overall water retention.
How Much Fat And Sodium Should I Consume?
It almost goes without saying that you’ll want to keep fat intake low. Aim for only a few grams per meal, coming from healthy sources, such as nuts, fish, olive oil, flax seeds, etc. Also, avoid fat right before or after a workout, as it can lead to digestion problems.
Finally, sodium intake should always be kept notably low. Too much can cause bloating, especially in the abs area. There is no set amount to aim for. The goal is to simply consume as little sodium as possible. Follow these diet guidelines and your journey to abs is already well over halfway complete!
Here’s An Abs Exercise Secret.
After you have your diet headed in a healthy direction, it’s time to focus on exercise. For abs, there is an obvious but often unknown secret when it comes to workouts. That secret is the three major planes of movement: Sagittal, frontal and transverse. To fully develop your core, you must target the core muscles in each of these three major planes.
Exercises like the standard crunch target only one major plane and therefore will ultimately be ineffective. So let’s go over three exercises that, when used in conjunction with one another, will hit all three major planes and give you a complete abs workout! For each exercise, the goal is to do three sets of 6 to 10 reps, depending on the resistance that is being used. As you can see, there is no need to perform endless sets of high-rep crunches, the movements here are effective enough to be used in moderation.
Target Your Sagittal Plane.
This plane divides your body in half, into a left side and a right side. When you move your body up and down, you’re moving in the sagittal plane. The standard crunch is an example of a sagittal plane abs exercise. But, the inverse crunch is among the most powerful low-equipment exercises you can do. It essentially takes the weight of your entire lower body and puts it directly on the abs in a crunching movement.
For the inverse crunch, you’ll need a sturdy vertical surface like a pole or door frame. To begin, lie on your back and brace one shoulder against the surface of your choice. You can switch which shoulder is being used between each set. Firmly grab the back of the surface with both hands, about 18-inches up. Then raise your legs up off of the floor and bend slightly at your knees and hips, locking them into position. Your lower back should still be flat on the floor, for the most part. This is your start position.
So you’re going to be locking down your shoulders and raising your pelvis up towards your ribcage, sort of similar to a leg raise.
To do this, get into that start position. Now pull forward and down forcefully with your arms. If your upper body is locked into place and your lower body is free to move, like they’re each supposed to be, this movement will raise your entire lower body off of the floor. You don’t want to be just doing a leg raise here. Instead, imagine that you’re trying to pull the surface you’re holding onto forward and down. But since the surface can’t move, your lower body comes up. Make sure to exhale as the lower body rises.
The pivot point will be the upper back/bottom of the ribcage area. Bring your legs as high up as you can safely manage to get them, making sure to squeeze your abs hard. To come back down, lower your legs very slowly, fighting against gravity. Stop lowering just before your lower back touches the floor, until all 6 to 10 reps are complete, in order to keep up the most tension between reps. This exercise is so effective because you’re using some of the greatest resistance possible, your entire lower body.
Want Great Abs? Target Your Frontal Plane.
This plane divides your body into a front side and back side. When you stand and bend your body directly to the side, you’re moving in the frontal plane. The side abs push-up works your oblique muscles and the side abs wall in a highly functional manner. Your entire core is engaged and stabilized while the oblique muscles do all of the work. This keeps strain on your lower back to a minimum while still directly working the side abs muscles.
To begin, place your left side on the floor. This means your left hip is on the floor too, with your left hand propping up your body and your fingers pointing directly in line with your body. Your left arm should be kept straight and locked into place. Your legs should be extended straight down with your feet together.
Bend your body sideways at the waist, as if you’re about to push yourself to get up. If needed, you can brace your feet against a sturdy object, like a wall. If you place your right hand on your lower left ribcage, it will help you to feel exactly how the abs are contracting while you do the exercise.
Now, bending your side abs, raise your hips up in the air as high as you can, using that right hand to make sure you’re contracting properly. Squeeze your abs hard as you reach the top, holding for a few seconds and then slowly lower your body. You can rest your hip on the floor in between reps if needed. Repeat this entire exercise on the right side as well.
Always keep a close eye on form, and make sure that you are on your entire side as much as possible throughout these movements. This exercise is so effective because it tightens the side abs wall effectively, it’s functional and it requires no equipment.
Target Your Transverse Plane.
This plane basically splits your body into an upper half and a lower half. When you are doing rotational movements and exercises, you’re moving in the transverse plane. Abs exercises that use rotational resistance and attack the rotational portion of the abs have the greatest ability to tighten the waist. These exercises work those deep rotational muscles to form a natural corset around the waist. The two-dumbbell ball twist is a perfect example.
To start, you’ll need two dumbbells of equal weight and a Swiss ball, or any ball of a similar size. For the starting position, lay with your back on the ball, keeping your knees bent and your feet placed widely apart. You’re going to need a strong base of support so that you don’t roll off of the ball.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at arms-length, directly above you. Keep them pressed tightly together for the duration of this exercise. If separated, they’ll move around more and make the exercise less efficient. Stick with fairly light dumbbells the first time you try this. With your head facing up/forwards and your hips horizontal, lower both dumbbells evenly and slowly to the left. Hold your breath and tighten your midsection as you go down to the fully twisted position.
You will now want to prepare to push firmly against the ground with your left foot so that you maintain your balance. Next, bend your left arm 90-degrees at the elbow as you lower the dumbbells to the side. When you are at the bottom, your upper left arm should be in contact with the surface of the ball, but don’t let it rest or lose tension. Your right arm should be kept perfectly straight.
This torque is key to making this exercise incredibly effective. Bending your lower arm is crucial to keep your torso area in the same position on the ball.
Using two dumbbells is also a key. The use of two separate dumbbells is going to create a uniquely beneficial stress on your entire abs area, unlike anything you’ve experienced. Reverse this exercise, to do the right side, by simultaneously pulling with your right side abs and pushing with your left side abs, essentially rolling yourself onto your right side.
Great abs don’t happen overnight. It takes dedication and patience. They involve a number of vital factors. Be constantly mindful of your diet, work out smarter (not harder), keep stress to a minimum and get the proper amount of sleep. If you can do all of this, you’ll have killer abs before you know it.
-By Nicole Dimacale