Six-packs are notoriously hard to attain and maintain, hence why people who have one are held in such high esteem. To have visible abs is to do the right workout and diet; not everyone needs to have a chiselled midriff, but that won't stop people from dreaming about having washboard abs one day in the near (or distant) future.
With so many elements to understand, from knowing your body's needs to managing expectations and carving out the time to meet your fitness requirements, it can be hard to know where to start and how to fine-tune your efforts to get a six-pack. If you want to start building strong abs and strengthen your core but are unsure where to begin, you'd better listen to Dean Zwech, Product Development Manager at Total Fitness (opens in new tab), who has shared his four best tips to build up your core.
For even more content about abs workout, check out T3's thematical guides, such as how to get a six-pack, how to lose belly fat, best core exercises, best standing ab workout with weights, and, of course, the best abs exercises to get a toned, flat stomach. There are many ways to get fit for 2023, so even if you won't have a six-pack, you shouldn't feel disheartened!
1. Don’t ditch cardio
"It’s a common misconception that when trying to form abs, you should only focus on gaining muscle, whether through deadlifts or crunches," says Dean, "And these exercises are indeed beneficial to incorporate into your ab training to build core strength. However, combining cardio into every workout is a must. Cardio is crucial for burning fat which is a key element in getting the defined look we all know as a six-pack."
Dean recommends putting the weights down for a while and getting your heart racing with the rowing machine. Rowing not only gives you a full-body workout, but it also helps to maintain core control, allowing you to give your body the balanced exercise it needs. If you haven't got one, have a look at T3's best rowing machine guide for more info about this amazing home gym equipment.
2. Get technical
Focusing on your abs is essential to getting a six-pack, but your abs are just one group of muscles in your core. "Your core is made up of your internal and external obliques on the side, your lower back and deep muscles such as your transverse abdominis and pelvic floor," Dean explains, "Together, these muscles work to help provide posture, balance and improve performance Having a stronger core also decreases the risk of injury."
Of course, if you're keen on having a six-pack, you should allocate specific days for abdominal training to ensure you are hitting your target. But Dean advises improving overall core strength and stability by incorporating exercises such as planks, side planks, hanging knee lifts, Russian Twists and Bird Dogs into your routine. Top tip: as your core is needed throughout your entire workout, an ideal time to train your core is at the end of a workout so you don't fatigue these muscles too early.
It might not be the best tool for beginners, but the best ab rollers are probably the best tools to improve core strength (here's how to use an ab roller). Ab rollouts require some time to master, but these seemingly simple tools can help you get a six-pack faster than crunches only.
3. Pack the protein
It's important to fuel our bodies when doing any form of exercise. When it comes to muscle building, swapping a few carbs or fat for extra protein is a huge help. With our muscles tearing slightly during exercise, protein is a vital part of the body's recovery process, with amino acids helping to repair muscles, allowing them to grow.
"Many can get fixated on packing too much protein and struggle to see the desired change in definition," Dean admits, "Maintaining a balanced diet while also mixing up your dinner plate with lean proteins, such as pulses and white fish, allows your body to get the protein it needs with less fat – which is ideal for toning and sculpting."
Don't banish all carbohydrates, though – complex carbs such as whole grains and veggies are essential for keeping your body fuelled, allowing you to reach your goals quicker. You can also consider using protein powders and other protein snacks to boost your protein level. Hard gainers might also want to consider mass gainers – a special protein powder containing loads of carbs.
4. Keep at it
Gaining a six-pack takes a lot of determination, with many not seeing the desired results for a long time. This is because you must balance body fat and body muscle. It's also important to understand that everybody is different; your abs can vary according to a range of factors, including genetics, diet and body fat levels.
"Don't feel disheartened if you're not seeing the results you anticipated straight away," advises Dean, "You've just got to keep striving - the dedication you put into your health through fitness will show over time." He says it's essential to develop your fitness routine, ensuring you take time to perfect a schedule that fits your abdominal needs. With hard work and persistence, you'll be able to reach your goals at a steady pace and still include everyday exercises to keep your fitness journey on track.