Being in the fitness industry, it’s a struggle to not give into the hype. And by that I mean the vapid marketing hype that brings in clueless clients. Stuff like, 6 pack abs in 30 days! Lose 10 lbs in 5 days! Double your butt size with this simple movement!
People want to believe that stuff works. But it doesn’t. I could lie and say it does to get clients, but that is completely out of my integrity.
And one of the most significant hot buttons under this umbrella of BS marketing is six pack abs. I wrote about it years ago, and unfortunately, I still have to write about it today.
So the other day I was browsing someone’s social media and I came across a post that said something to the effect of, “I’ve been doing my ab exercises. I’m finally starting to see them pop!”
I wondered if she was doing the one tried and true exercise to get abs. Lots of people think that they can crunch and sit-up their way to a six pack. But that stuff is mostly just fluff. The one exercise I’m talking about? It’s the real deal.
And that one exercise is…shutting your mouth and not putting excessive food in it.
Yep. That’s it.
First of all, everyone has abs. You would not be able to stand or do much of anything if you didn’t. What most people want is to have visible abs. The reason you can’t see them is because there’s fat on top of them.
You cannot get rid of that fat by spot reducing the area. Meaning that a hundred crunches or sit-ups aren’t going to burn off the fat in your stomach. If you want to lose fat, you must create a caloric deficit, and in most cases you do that by eating less. And the fat is going to come off in a genetically predetermined way, which may or may not be in the places that you want it to.
(You could also create a deficit by exercising more, but for most people, exercise is not going to burn enough to create significant fat loss.)
Now, crunches and sit-ups and exercises of that kind could potentially build the muscle, which would make your abdominal muscles larger. But first of all, I’m skeptical how much those exercises would even stimulate muscle growth as they just aren’t that taxing. Just like any other muscle in your body, the abdominals need sufficient stimulus to grow. If you were to religiously practice these exercises, your abs would quickly adapt and growth would be minimal. You could add weight to them, but crunches and sit-ups inherently aren’t great for your lower back. Adding weight could end up stressing your lumbar region.
Second, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think most people actually want big, blocky abs. I’ll go so far as to say that if most people could get lean enough to see their abs, they would be pretty satisfied with the size of them. If you did want to genuinely grow your abs, you could do weighted crunches and sit-ups–just watch your back. Exercises like L-sits, hollow holds, hollow rocks, plank variations, leg raises, and pallof presses can also help with ab growth, but more importantly, they’re great for strengthening your core.
If you’re on a fat loss mission but still not seeing much progress in your belly, keep in mind that it might be genetic. Some people naturally have visible abs because they don’t carry a lot of fat in their midsection. Others (like myself) have to get extremely lean to see ab definition. It’s just the luck of the draw.
So there you have it. The biggest factor in having visible abs is having low enough body fat, and exercise alone is not going to cut it.
But you know what? You don’t have to take my word for it. Writing this has inspired me to do a 30 day AB challenge. I’m going to do at least 100 crunches or sit-ups every day for 30 days and see what the result is. (I already know what it’s going to be but whatever.)
This is admittedly a vulnerable challenge for me to do because I’m not particularly comfortable showing off my stomach. But hey, all for the sake of experimentation. Here’s a pic of my tummy today.