The question I get asked most often is: “How do I get definition in my stomach?”
Seriously, it’s right up there with how did we get here and what is the meaning of life?
As a person begins to develop definition in the stomach, the question becomes a little more specific: “How do I get definition in my bottom two abs?”
The answer is pretty simple, yet extremely complex at the same time.
In simple terms, you must get your body fat percentage into ‘single digits’, if you’re male and around 12% if you’re female. This is a very vague guideline and some may achieve a six-pack at a slightly higher body fat percentage than others, but it’s a good general recommendation.
Getting your body fat levels down that low is rather tricky and so – for the purpose of this post – I’m going to break it down into sections: Nutrition, Exercise and Don’ts.
The first step you need to take to trim down the fat around your stomach is to cut right down on processed carbohydrates; i.e. sugar . And, by sugar, I don’t just mean sweets and chocolate – I mean fruit juices, fizzy juices, fast food, bread and pasta, as well.
Once you’ve cut down on your sugar intake, I recommend you take a look at the quality of your food.
Animals are often fed an unnatural diet of grains instead of grass and pumped full of steroids.They’re also generally kept in poor living conditions where disease spreads quickly and so they’re fed medicines and antibiotics.
Do you think the products from these animals will be healthful? Of course not.
The toxins (chemicals, steroids and antibiotics) are present in the animal’s produce and find their way into your system after consumption. They can then lead to inflammation; which can raise a number of issues, including an increase in fat storage around the stomach.
This is why I’m always raving about organic food.
Whilst there’s a debate that ‘certified organic’ food stuffs aren’t as perfect as we’d like to believe, I still prefer to know my meat has been fed its natural diet and hasn’t been ‘on the gear’.
Now that you’ve sorted your nutrition out by ensuring the food you’re eating is natural, unprocessed and organic (or as close to this as your budget allows) you can start worrying about what exercises to do to help you develop your abs.
My favourite exercises for developing the bottom two abs are very difficult and require a solid base of physical fitness and strength before they can be performed with good technique.
In order to achieve this base-level, you should work on compound lifts such as: squats, deadlift variations, presses and pulls. In addition to these exercises, plank variations are excellent for developing core strength.
When you nail the technique and your weights start to creep up, you should notice loads of tension through your core when you lift, you should be able to slightly contract (tense) your abs and you should notice that your body feels ‘tighter’.
Once you’ve mastered (or at least become competent at) these techniques, you can then start to spice it up by working on ‘advanced’ core exercises, including some of my favourites:
It’s important to reiterate that you must be in pretty decent shape and have good core strength before you attempt these exercises. Rattling out set after set of them before you’re ready will only lead to lower back injuries.
Start off with light compounds, become competent with the technique, increase the weight, increase your strength and then try these out.
In addition to compound exercises and the above core exercises, sprint straining and martial arts are great for developing the abdominal muscles. Sprinting ramps your metabolism sky-high and allows your body to burn fat at a scary rate, while martial arts (take Thai boxing, for example) involve a lot of core rotation, which will help to develop and define the muscles.
So far, I’ve given you a rough guide on what to do in order to get your body fat levels down to single digits and to develop your abdominal muscles.
Now I’m now going to list some of the things you absolutely should not do in your quest for a six-pack (or ‘toned’ stomach, ladies).
1. Do not do hundreds of sit ups or use one of those ‘ab cruncher’ thingies.
I’ve never seen anyone with a decent set of abs use one of them (except in the adverts) and if I had my way we’d all snap them up into poles and use them to attack the inventor.
All they’re good for is tripping me up.
2. Don’t run miles and miles and miles every day.
If your goal is to run a 5k, 10k or marathon, you obviously have to put the miles in and if running is your thing that’s great. I love running too, so I’m going to do it; but if you’re training for pure vanity (and there’s nothing wrong with that) I don’t believe long distance running is the way forward, if you’ll pardon the pun.
3. Drink lots of alcohol.
Whenever people ask me which of my clients get the best results, I always reply: “People who don’t drink.”
Most alcoholic drinks are full of sugar and, as mentioned earlier, sugar is something you should be trying to cut down on. In addition to this, kebab shops do most of their business in the early hours after nightclubs close their doors for the night. If alcohol leads to the consumption of kebabs, pizza, chips and cheese etc. then it ain’t going to get you ripped in a hurry.
To finish this point off: what do you eat when you’re hungover? No need to answer, I already know. Total crap.
The Bottom Line
If you want washboard abs, or even just a flatter stomach, I suggest you cut down your sugar intake and try to avoid consuming toxins from processed foods and poorly farmed animals.
Once you’ve got that under control you should begin to focus on compound exercises in the gym; becoming competent with the lifts and getting stronger before moving on to ‘advanced’ core exercises such as: dragon flags, ab wheel roll-outs and L-sit pull ups. You should avoid doing sit ups, using ab ‘thingies’ and drinking alcohol.
Finally, you have to commit to these recommendations and ensure that your lifestyle choices are always helping you work towards your goals. No one wakes up one morning with a set of abs their granny could do her washing on – it’s a process that takes time, dedication and hard work, but it’s worth it in the end.