Ask anyone about their aesthetic fitness goals, and chances are that a six-pack is high on their “dream body” wish lists.
I’ve spent my portion of time around the fitness industry, and I would like to ask everyone in pursuit of a finely sculpted six pack – why do you want it so bad?
They’re Hidden, But They’re There
Six packs are not a realistic goal for people who are not bodybuilders or fitness models preparing for a competition. People who always have shredded abs are most probably born that way, with few belly fat deposits, a naturally high metabolism and low body-fat percentage, so it didn’t take much work for their six-packs to look astonishing.
All of us have ab muscles. A fair number of people have abs that are just as well-developed as the ones you see flaunted in fitness magazines. We use them every day in almost everything we do, but they are just not that obvious on some people, due to the layer of body fat which covers them.
Body fat distribution differs in all of us. Some people carry most of their excess body fat around the thighs, buttocks, and hips, while others may carry it around the stomach. If you were born pear-shaped, then you’ll sport those ab muscles simply by not overeating and exercising moderately.
The Risks Of Staying Ripped
If you try to maintain your body fat level extremely low all year-round by engaging in crash training and eating very little, you’ll be at a greater risk for health complications. Do you think that those shredded bodybuilders you see on television or in fitness magazines look like that all the time? Absolutely not! They start following a strict diet for 6 to 12 weeks before a competition, and drain their body of surplus water with the use of diuretics.
When it comes to bodybuilding and fitness magazines, it’s the same story – those front-page models had spent a month preparing for that photoshoot, or the magazine editors used a photograph taken the last time the athlete was in prime shape. (Then, of course, there’s always Photoshop).
The truth is that you simply cannot get rid of that dreaded muffin top the way you think you can. Another truth is that you will never quite look like a front-page model, unless you train and eat like one, every single day of your life. Again, the goal should never be to fit into what fitness magazines think you should look like. The goal is to be healthy and strong, rather than ripped at all costs.
I’ll let you in on another secret. Those insanely sculpted models are likely extremely dehydrated have barely eaten before the shoot, and are nothing like the strong, athletic, healthy individuals you perceive them to be. Even if the image has not been Photoshopped, what you see is not real.
What Really Matters
If you try to stay extremely ripped all year-round, you can inhibit your muscle-and-strength building process, which can leave you feeling tired and lethargic all the time, and could lead to further, more serious, health issues. The human body, deprived of necessary fat, can experience major imbalances. It needs to use some of the fat you have to protect the inner organs. Fat deficiency can also lead to hormonal imbalances, and go as far as to affect your skin tone and hair. Remember that every organ in your body has and needs some fat.
Instead of hoping for a super-carved six-pack look, a better goal for most people would be to keep the abdominal area strong by aiming to maintain a healthy overall level of body fat and working the abs regularly. This can give you that desirable body of a fairly flat, toned tummy without being super chiseled.
Also: Never skip leg day, arm day, core stability day, and other workout routines, because they are equally, if not more important for your overall fitness as working those abs.
Becoming more athletic and leaner shouldn’t be framed within the unrealistic goal of a washboard stomach. Great fitness is about working towards the healthiest, happiest version of yourself. It results from hard work, motivation, desire, discipline, and mental strength. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with six-pack abs, you shouldn’t prioritize your desire for a six pack above working towards becoming more powerful, faster and stronger overall.
Having visible abs, while aesthetically pleasing to some people, won’t make you tougher or stronger in and of themselves.
Focus instead on increasing your core strength and agility, rather than on any kind of visual benchmark of protruding ab muscles. Strong abs are essential to great fitness; they are needed to help counterbalance the muscles of your lower back and their pull on your hips and spine. Keeping them strong is one of the ways to minimize and avoid lower back pain.
But don’t work your core out of vanity or to achieve some aesthetic ideal; do it for your own health and wellbeing. A healthy, portion-controlled diet coupled with a well-rounded fitness routine that works your includes core will not only leave you with that flat, toned tummy that you desire, but most importantly, it will help you be a generally fitter, healthier you.