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Six Picks for Six Packs

Need an expensive gizmo to get a washboard stomach? Nah. An athletic trainer gives you six steps to six-pack abs
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Ab rollers, ab sliders, ab swingers. Think those gizmos work? Think again. Although some devices can be useful, the experts will tell you: If you want six-pack abs, low-tech generally works best.

Alan DeGennaro, a certified athletic trainer, strength and conditioning specialist, and director of the sports performance program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, shares his wisdom on ways to sculpt that sought-after six pack:

1. Forget gimmicks. You have to burn calories to lose fat. Until you lose the fat, the abs won't even become visible, no matter how much you develop them, or how many gadgets you use.

2. Check out your parents. Genetics dictates your physique, to a large extent. "Some are born lean, others have to do exercises every day, have to watch their diet," DeGennaro tells WebMD.

3. Skip the ephedra. Dietary supplements containing ephedra can help control appetite and help you burn more calories while you're working out, so you do lose weight. But ephedra also increases heart rate, which can cause heart rhythm problems. Ephedra has even been linked to strokes. Also, when you stop taking ephedra, your appetite -- and the weight -- comes back.

4. Cut 500 calories a day. Proper nutrition and exercise are important to help burn calories. One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. If your goal is losing a pound a week, you've got to do some calorie-cutting daily and fat burning. Cut back on little things -- half a sandwich, cream in your coffee, afternoon candy.

5. Buy a Swiss ball. Lie on the inflatable ball to do your exercises. You're working muscles through a full range of motion. Building muscle burns calories.

6. Vary your routine. A little variety -- swimming, running, walking, working with the Swiss ball -- will keep your calorie burn consistent, says DeGennaro. If your body gets used to one exercise, you'll soon quit burning calories -- the plateau we know too well.

Changes like these lead to "true weight loss that's going to stick," he tells WebMD. Whether you achieve six-pack abs - and with enough tenacity, you just might - at the least you'll lose weight, look better, and feel better. Go for it.

Reviewed on March 29, 2004

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