If you have your sights set on sculpting impressive eight pack abs then read on. Following these eight key steps could mean the difference between washboard abs and a colossal waste of time.
1. It takes more than crunches. To get eight pack abs you need to target all key abdominal muscles: the upper and lower abs and the internal and external obliques. Crunches, a perennial favorite, only work the upper abdominal muscles. If you want to get ripped, you need to work the lower abs just as much. Try adding seated leg tucks, the pelvic tilt and the bicycle to your weekly routine.
2. Try some new moves. While we are on the topic, traditional crunches may not be as effective as you think. According to a study by the American Council on Exercise, they rank among the worst abdominal exercises you could do. If you want eight pack abs, try bench crunches, the butterfly and curl up instead.
3. Don’t forget the obliques. No abdominal workout would be complete without cable crunches, twists, the reach and catch or similar exercises that involve lateral moves and rotations.
4. Forget it. Spot reduction doesn’t work. If you’re still hoping you can get eight pack abs without breaking a sweat, it’s time to get real. Abdominal exercises are integral moves that tone and strengthen your abs but they cannot burn fat. No amount of sit-ups or twists will remove inches from your waist. The only way you are ever going to get ripped is if you get moving. Running, swimming and cycling are just a few great ways to get your heart rate up. You need to engage in some form of aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes, three times a week—more if possible—before you will see results.
5. Put those chips down. Ever heard the theory “garbage in, garbage out”? If you want people to ogle your eight pack abs, you can’t hide them under a layer of fat. The best abs diet is one that revolves around five or six small, low-fat meals a day. Your fridge and pantry should be stocked with complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, whole grain cereals and brown rice); lean protein (chicken, fish and lean steak); nuts; legumes; fruit, especially berries; and green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach. This is the optimum diet for burning fat, building immunities and boosting stamina.
6. Don’t forget to hydrate. Now that manufacturing and selling bottled water is big business, it seems like no one should have to be reminded to drink it. But just in case you are one of the few who hasn’t started lugging a plastic water bottle everywhere you go, remember to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
7. Go easy on the alcohol. Although it may be tempting to drink a cold beer after a hard workout you may want to reconsider. It turns out that alcohol contributes to the accumulation of intra-abdominal fat (the fat that builds up deep within the abdomen). This can increase your risk of hypertension, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes among other illnesses.
8. Butt out. Finally, if you still smoke, this may inspire you to quit. Like alcohol, smoking has been found to increase the amount of fat you deposit around your abdomen. Last time we checked, that didn’t bode well for eight pack abs.