A six pack is the standard and most well-known feature of an “athletic” individual. Those aspiring to have this look usually attempt several exercise regimens, including those from advertising infomercials, Youtube videos, or even stealing exercises from a neighbor at the gym. The most common exercise performed in the hope of achieving “washboard abs” are called crunches: the motion of laying on one’s back with knees pointed toward the ceiling, while lifting the torso to the knees.
Despite popular belief, the “secret” to achieving a six-pack is not a secret at all. Granted, creating said look is more complex than doing hundreds of crunches, it does not require any superhuman abilities or workout plans. The key to six pack abs is a combination of three important factors.
They say “abs are made in the kitchen” and they aren’t kidding. Eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables and lean protein sources reduces and tones natural body fat and allow the abdominal muscle groups to show through the layer of fat that covers the abdominal muscles. This is usually achieved at lower body fat percentages (10% for men and 20% for women).
Cardio exercises – such as running, swimming, or biking, are another way to thin out the layer of fat in between the skin and the muscle. High intensity exercise is an important compound of joint movements that recruit numerous muscle fibers to contract, thereby activating more than one muscle group. Overall, the increased amount of working muscles aids in the burning of a higher amount of calories. Fat loss is all about the exchange of calories in versus calories out.
Core-strengthening activities play the smallest role in “creating” six pack abs. Yes, it is important to strengthen the muscles themselves, however this strengthening is not actually responsible for the look of the muscles, solely the functionality. Studies show that the technique of “spot reduction”, trying to tone only one specific part of the body, is almost impossible. However, there has been evidence that proves that fat breakdown has an increased rate in the fat cells that surround the contracting muscle – but only about one tenth of a gram of fat for every 30 minutes of crunches (roughly two thousandths of a teaspoon of butter).
All in all, it is obvious that the best way to achieve six-pack abs comes from the combination of a balanced diet, cardio, and core strengthening exercises. Fitness, just like all aspects of life, best comes together in a congruity of factors.
Stein, Jeannine. “The Truth about Six-Pack Abs, beyond Crunches.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sept. 2008.
Talens, Dick. “Crunches Alone Won’t Give You a Six Pack: The Myth of Spot Reduction.” Vitals, 23 Jan. 2015.