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How to get 6-pack abs – diet vs training

When it comes to revealing the abs, what should we focus on more – are they crafted through hundreds of sit-ups, or are they made in the kitchen? If you’ve always struggled to get a six-pack, this article is for you.

Firstly, everyone has a set of abdominal muscles. We are all born with the ‘rectus abdominis’ muscle group, whose function is to allow flexion of the trunk i.e. to bend forwards. So why do some have extremely visible ab muscles compared to others? There are 3 factors to consider.

1)  Levels of body-fat
This is the most important factor when it comes to revealing the abs. Put simply, if you are too fat, you are not going to see your ab muscles. In order to reveal the muscles underneath, we need to get rid of the fat lying on top of them. This is achieved through a calorie deficit over time. We cannot spot reduce fat, so unfortunately you will need to lose fat all over in order to see reductions around the mid-section. Harder than it looks!

2)  Ab training
Individuals who have trained for many years with compound movements that have engaged their core muscles, will have larger and more prominent ab muscles. This is because over time, the muscles have grown in size and therefore protrude further. The abs are a thin sheet of muscle, so don’t expect them to grow as much as other major muscle groups like the legs or back, but we can hypertrophy them (make them bigger) gradually over a number of years. Train your abs twice per week, with exercises such as hanging leg raises, planks and cable crunches. Pay close attention to how you execute these exercises – do not use momentum but instead focus on contracting the target muscle through a full range of motion.

3)  Genetics
For some, it may take a lot longer to achieve the six-pack look, and this is largely due to genetics. Individuals who have stubborn belly fat i.e. fat around the mid-section that is the very last bit to go, will have to diet far longer than those who carry the majority of their fat elsewhere e.g. in the legs/lower back. There is nothing we can do about this unfortunately, besides continuing to diet down until we achieve the desired look. Genetics will also determine the shape of the ab muscles, so don’t expect perfect symmetry. There is no way to train your abs to be symmetrical if they aren’t, this is simply a feature of genetics.

In summary, diet is key for achieving the six-pack look. Train the abs twice per week to assist in the process, and don’t stress about genetic factors outside your control.