Six Pack Mistakes Most People Are Making
Are you doing thousands of crunches with zero results?! Wow, did I ever just sound like an infomercial. But I am writing this post to cut the crap…. not add to it. Most infomercials will tell you that this new device, video, supplement etc. will give you the six pack abs you desire, but it’s so much simpler than that.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes that most people are making when trying to get visible abs.
1. Eating junk. This is the hardest truth to swallow (no pun intended). In my opinion, what you eat is 90% of the battle when attempting to get a six pack. You could have the best abdominal muscles ever but if your fat percentage is high because of your love affair with cake then you aren’t going to see those abs. They are going to be covered by a nice layer of “insulation”. I like to call it my winter fluff. In the winter I usually have a little extra fat (lets just say a MN girl needs to keep warm 😉 ). I can feel my abs and I feel strong and centered, but I’m not going to see any definition unless I flex and I’m under the right light (if even then).
When I cut out sugar and processed carbs I have my more visible abdominals. Even too many “date sweetened brownies” can add to my middle. I know all too well how quickly my holiday treats can add to my midsection. But eating clean and cutting the crap is the best way to see those abs you have worked so hard to acquire.
2. You are starving yourself. Okay, you aren’t literally starving, but you might be in a huge calorie defecate and think that is going to help you lose weight. Eating too little food can actually do the opposite of helping you lose weight. Being on a restricted calorie diet for a long enough period of time will put your body into starvation mode. At first you might lose some weight but then your body says “Hey, let’s hold onto this weight… I’m not sure when we will get enough calories again.” (I know that was a pretty scientific explanation there).
But really, people would be surprised by how much food I eat in a day. It’s just quality food, not junk food. Getting enough protein, healthy fats, and veggies is important AND quality carbs too. Low carb eating works, but there is no reason to fear healthy carbohydrates. I eat sweet potatoes, oats, fruit etc. and sweets too… just a more healthy version of them. You can eat delicious foods and still have abs.
3. You are focusing on the number of crunches rather than the quality. Are you doing crunches mindlessly in an attempt to do more? More is better right? Not always. If you aren’t focusing on keeping those abdominal muscles tight and squeezing them with each rep, you aren’t going to get those deep cuts that you are looking for. Think about being in cold water and how you contract your abdominal muscles. Hold that contraction with every crunch to get the full benefit of your exercise. Focus on quality crunches over quantity. Add more crunches as you get better but focus on your form first.
4. You are “just” doing crunches. While regular crunches will work your abs, doing a variety of movements will help work your abs from every angle. Start out with regular crunches and planks to build strength, then add in twists, leg raises, v ups etc as your “normal crunches” become easier and as you lose the insulation around your middle. BUT, you can’t spot train. Working your abs alone will not give you abs. While keeping your core strong is important, don’t forget the rest of your body. The more you build all over muscle by doing resistance workouts the higher your metabolism will be. More muscle =higher metabolism. Supplement your lifting with some fat burning HIIT cardio (to burn fat more quickly and efficiently than steady state) and you are more likely to see those abs pop.
Some of my favorite abdominal exercise are:
- Spiderman planks
- v ups or jackknife (I like to do these with a dumbbell sometimes too for added weight)
- side planks with a twist
- leg ups with twists
- cross crunches
- roman chair leg raises
- heel touches
- side to side twists with medicine ball
Lastly, I would like to say that while I enjoy having visible abs, I don’t always have them, AND my main goals are health, strength, and becoming a better athlete. Abs are a fun side goal, but if it becomes my focus and obsession I can easily lose sight of why I workout and eat well. The purpose of this post is to help get rid of the misconceptions about obtaining visible abs. Abs are not the end all. I try to keep my life balanced with realistic goals (which vary depending on what phase of life I may be in).
For example, right now I have abdominal definition but not the full 6-pack I have had at times. If I were to tweak my diet or throw in another workout day I could have the full 6-pack but I’m enjoying a few more healthy sweets and more time with family. To me, this is a great balance.
Note: I’m flexing in this photo. Also note that in fitness magazines they are oiled up, flexing, and in awesome lighting, photo shopped etc. Know that these photos are not an everyday relaxed look. Often times fitness photos give people unrealistic expectations.
I hope this was helpful! If you haven’t read my “Muffin Top Myths” post, you may want to check that out too.
Feel free to give any tips that have helped you, or ask any questions you may have in the comments below.