Is there any better shorthand for a physically fit body than a set of well-defined, six-pack abs? For many people into fitness, a perfect six-pack is the ultimate sign of success, the thing they’ve putting all that sweat into. But what happens when your six-pack never appears, no matter how much work you put into it?
As with all things fitness and lifting, different bodies have different thresholds and different requirements for results. A routine that gives one person a six-pack in no time at all may never work for someone else. If you’re having trouble building your six-pack, here are some tips you can try to get the muscles you want:
1. Lose the body fat – If you’re doing thousands of crunches every week and still not seeing defined, well-toned abs, your ab routine may not be the problem. It’s a simple fact of six-pack abs that, in order to appear, you need to be able to see them. In other words, excess body fat may be hiding your abs from view. The target body fat ratio for men who want a six-pack is less than 10%; for women, it’s less than 18%. If you’re over those numbers, step up the cardio and weight lifting to burn off the excess body fat.
2. Don’t just stick to crunches – There’s a common misconception that doing a lot of crunches is all you need to build a six-pack. Like any workout routine that says one exercise alone will get you perfect results, the all-crunches approach is all wrong. Why? Because crunches don’t work the lower abs enough, meaning that other ab workouts like hanging leg raises are also required.
3. Give the abs a rest – Think doing ab exercises 5-7 times a week is going to get you a six-pack faster? If you do, you might instead be sabotaging your fitness efforts. If you work your abs every day, or even every other day, you’re not giving them the time they need to rest and grow. If you want that six-pack, only do ab exercises once every three days. Any more than that is probably too much.
4. Challenge yourself – If you’re not slowly increasing the difficulty of your workout, you’re never going to meet your fitness goals. Muscles grow based on a principle called progressive resistance. In order to develop, the difficulty of your workout needs to increase. That means upping the amount of weight lifted, the level of pressure applied, and the number of exercises done.
5. Protein, protein, protein – There’s a reason fitness buffs and professional sportsmen won’t shut up about the amount of protein they intake. Protein builds lean muscle and helps burn body fat; the body burns lots of calories just breaking the protein in your system down. Your body needs fuel to burn in order to build that six-pack – eat lots of protein before your workout, and follow it up with carbohydrates for your post-workout meal.
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