When I was at the ripe age of 15 I decided I was going to start working out and like most guys my age, it’s because I had one goal in mind. I had an ambition. I wanted abs.
I wanted to be able to grate cheese on those abs. I wanted to put that cheese over my chips with some fried bacon.
Ok. So I had conflicting ambitions, I wanted a six pack but also loved food way too much, but at that age I thought that doing hundreds of crunches every day would do the trick.
I was doing two things wrong – eating terribly, and doing hundreds of crunches.
Eight years down the line, I have learned a thing or two about achieving body composition goals. If one of your goals is to achieve the highly coveted six pack or just a more toned stomach, then I’m here to share my two cents.
A lot of people say that abs are made in the kitchen. I disagree. Abs are made in the gym and shown in the kitchen. For some unknown reason, I see a staggering amount of people training their abdominal muscles differently to the rest of the body. Would you do 50 repetitions of bench press followed by another 50 repetitions of press ups to get a bigger chest?
If your goal is muscle hypertrophy, then probably not. You might ‘feel it’ the next day, but this is not always representative of an effective way of training when you consider your goals. Performing exercises with 15+ repetitions or for long periods of time will build muscle, but it’s hard work, difficult to progress, and takes a lot more time.
If you want to build your abs, find exercises that you find physically challenging in a 5-15 repetition range, and add resistance to those exercises in some way each week. For me personally, I find ab wheel rollouts, strict hanging leg raises, and weighted crunches hit this criteria.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much muscle you’ve built up underneath the fat if you can’t shift the fat. Doing lots of ab work won’t make you burn fat in that area, only a calorie deficit will.
You can’t ‘tone’ muscles. You can build muscles, and then reveal those muscles by losing fat. The less fat you carry, the more ‘toned’ a muscle will look. So stop reading the magazines when their front page says they have the best 7 exercises for a toned stomach.
Eat less calories than you expend, keep your macronutrients in check, and get those abs out of hibernation.
But… Remember, this is going to take time. If you’re checking the mirror after you trained abs yesterday, you’re perhaps expecting results a little too quickly. Some will get there faster than others, but if you channel enough hard work in the right direction you’re going to start seeing better results.