One of the most sought-after prizes of any gym routine or workout plan – a wash-board 6-Pack. Many try, and many fail, and it’s hard not to. When there are so many articles giving you the “secret” to a 6-pack, or the quick-fix approaches, it’s difficult to know what will truly work to unlock the definition you want. So what does it take to finally reach the physique you’ve been training for?
Firstly, let’s set the record straight. Body fat percentage targets are not the answer to the physique you’re looking for. Individual body fat percentage is relative to the person, and can be impacted by both fat and muscle mass. Some may be able to reach incredibly low percentages and still not achieve the definition required for a 6-pack, while others may find it comes naturally. Simply put, a body fat percentage between 8-12% does not mean you’ll start noticing abs. To truly indicate whether or not you’re on track with physique, you need to work off absolute values of fat mass, which only a DEXA scan can truly show you. In order to see ab definition, you need to achieve < 4kgs of fat within the trunk region.
So how do you do it? What does it take to get abs? It all comes down to getting lean, losing fat mass and maintaining your muscle. There is no magic exercise routine, nor will doing 100 sit-ups in a row give you what you desire. There is no simple quick fix or answer, and there is a reason those who have that level of definition are focused and dedicated to their training. With an educated approach exercise and dietary behaviours, you can achieve 6-pack definition. But don’t think that it’s something you can achieve for fun.
Dietary focus is a fundamental of any program, but its importance in the quest for abs simply cannot be understated. A balanced intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fats are essential to ensure the correct approach to your performance in the gym, recovery, and fat loss targets. To understand the specific recommendations for your diet, a DEXA scan can provide you with your Resting Metabolic Rate, which in turn can aid in determining an appropriate caloric intake. With this caloric intake, specific guidelines of macro-nutrient intake tailored to your goals and body composition can allow an optimal diet to be obtained, helping you on your journey to a 6-pack.
While diet makes up a major component of your progress, an appropriate training regime will be necessary to achieve your physique goals. Performing abdominal workouts doesn’t mean you’ll get abs! Target the best fat-burning exercises in order to reduce your fat mass. I would recommend Moderate Intensity Continuous Training, or for those who may not have as much time on their hands, High Intensity Interval Training. Combine this with a resistance training program that focuses on compound, multi-joint movements to maximise fat loss while maintaining (or potentially growing) lean mass.
In order to determine what best puts you on track for this level of definition, a DEXA scan is essential. Finding what works best for you is one of the most important steps to any fitness goal, as each individual can react differently to programs and as such you need to ensure that any approach you take is the correct one. By analysing absolute values of fat and lean mass, and analysing changes in these values, you can accurately determine whether or not your current approach is working. By alternating between different training approaches and diets, you can determine what best puts you on track to reducing your fat mass while maintaining muscle, and slowly but surely seeing each level of the abdominal region start to shine through. By consistently assessing the level of fat in the trunk, you can objectively measure whether or not you are on the right path, or close to what you wish to achieve.
The road to a 6-pack is a long, arduous journey. However, the secret to abs is that there really is no secret. All it takes is dedication to consistent training and dietary approaches. Knowing what works best for your body is the first step in achieving this physique. However, it’s vital that you understand the correct approach for this – losing fat and maintaining muscle. Don’t get caught up in a whirlwind of core workouts because it may not necessarily be the right approach!
B.EXPHYS, ESSAM, AES, AEP
Accredited Exercise Physiologist