Visible Abs, Pinnacle of health and fitness? how to get them? Are the sacrifices worth it?
Visible 6 Pack, washboard stomach, Rock hard abs, it really does seem these, long sought after, picture of health muscles are becoming more and more the marker for health and fitness. The sacrifices to achieve such a look should not be underestimated.
But first, let's break down what the core muscles of the body actually are, what they look like and what is their function. Iv said it before, the human body has 1 primary role, to keep you alive. It doesn’t care too much about how it looks, as long as it keeps you alive. That is the principle reason, achieving the ‘6 Pack’ requires skill, dedication and sacrifice (I’m not talking blood and sweat here, I’m talking happiness and social lives).
4 key muscles make up the anterior part of the core.
· Transverse Abdominus – the deep lying core muscle – stabilises the spine, big player in breathing
· External Obliques – pair of muscles located on the sides – flexes the spine, rotation of the spine and bending
· Internal Obliques – pair of muscles, lying underneath the external obliques – same job as the External Obliques
· Rectus Abdominus – the outer muscles at the front of the body – flexes the spine
To focus on the Rectus Abdominus, as these are the visible abdominals at the front of the body. The muscles are separated by ‘bands’ if you like, to give the shape of individual muscles split into the ‘6’. There is a vertical band that splits the muscle down the middle, this is called the Linea Alba, translates into ‘white line’, it is mainly made up of collagen connective tissue, giving it its white appearance. There are similar bands which cross horizontally, known as Tendinuous Intersection. These bands along with the development of the muscle, give the 6 pack appearance.
The big thing to remember, is the abdominal muscles, are a muscle, and as with every muscle in the body, if you want to develop it, you need to stimulate them, but placing stress upon them, allowing them to recover and adapt, and then increase the stress and stimuli and so on.
The ‘6 pack’ look simply put, requires 2 things, a development of the abdominal muscles, and a reduction of body fat that ultimately covers them. This is where the issue arises.
Developing the abdominal muscles doesn’t require a great range of motion, take performing a sit up for example, beyond a certain angle, the hip flexors begin taking the load/resistance away from the abdominal muscles (this can work both as a positive or a negative dependent on the reason of the inclusion of a sit up in the programme). Right now, lye on the floor, place your hand on your stomach or Rectus Abdominus as we now know it, and squeeze them as hard as you can. All that will happen, is your ribs will be squeezed closer to your pelvis, lifting your shoulders slightly off the floor. What we have done is create a very powerful, strong Rectus Abdominus muscular contraction, which is exactly what we are after. Place more stress on the muscle, by either increasing the repetitions, increasing the load, or increasing intensity by decreasing rest periods, and we are on to a winner, in terms of developing the muscles.
Truth be told, most people who conduct some sort of exercise programme, will have some development of abdominal muscles, either through abdominal exercises, or purely the contraction of these muscles, as a stabiliser when performing other exercises. The bigger issue, is the layer of body fat hiding these really well developed abs.
Now I’m not going to dive deep into the nutrition of how to lose body fat, because 1, I have covered it previously, and 2, it will make this blog post ridiculously long. But what I will say is this, you cannot ‘spot lose’ body fat. What do I mean by this? You can’t decide you want to lose body fat from your middle and think performing sit up after sit up will help this, it wont. Much the same as performing lots of shoulder presses, wont help you lose body fat from your shoulders. The human body is only able to lose body fat as a whole body, Using the key fundamentals of burning more calories than you consume. Individuals will however store fat in different places, so some people may just be luckier than others. If you are after a relatively simple way of trying to reduce your calories without having to track calories, count macros…..consume your carbohydrate sources around exercise, and nowhere else during the day, from a coach’s point of view, this is a ‘tactic’ I have seen many people have success with in terms of losing body fat.
Now here comes the counter argument, above I have told you how to develop the abdominal muscles, what you need to do in order to achieve visible abs, and a quick tip I have seen work for people to reduce body fat….BUT, in order to have the ‘cover model’ look of visible abs, you generally need a body fat % of single figures or less, how achievable is this? Practically? Now don’t get me wrong, you could start from an athletic physique, and commit fully for 6-8 weeks and reduce your body fat down for visible abs, but in everyday life, for those with full time jobs, children, those who like to eat out, socialise with friends, it requires a lot of sacrifices, a lot of hard work, and it certainly is not a lifestyle many can see themselves doing long term.
So the question you need to ask yourself, am I happy as I am? Will having ‘6 pack Abs’ actually make me any happier, baring in mind all the sacrifices I would have to make in order to achieve it. You can still be healthy, strong and fit without visible abs. The hard work of achieving visible abs really does come in the kitchen, and it doesn’t involve Sauces, Cakes, Sweets and Alcohol, it requires a lot of sacrifices and a very HANGRY person. (Hangry: The wrath and anger of a hungry human)
All the above provides arguments from both sides, if you want to make the sacrifices, and are willing to put the work in, and would like a little extra help and guidance, feel free to drop me a message, if you want something bad enough, you can get it!