Striving for Six-Pack Abs
Flat stomach, tight abs -- we all dream about it. Here's how to get them, with step-by-step instructions and photographs.
Ab Workout: More Is Not Better
"You're not going to reduce fat content without either a whole heck of a
lot of abdominal work -- which is unnecessary and a waste of time -- or some
kind of aerobic activity," says Richard Cotton, exercise physiologist and
spokesman for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Abdominal muscles consist of three layers. The very deepest layer is the
transversus abdominis, which acts as the body's girdle, providing support and
stability and plays a critical role in exhalation. Next is the rectus
abdominis, which flexes the spine. Closest to the surface are the internal and
external obliques, which turn the trunk and provide the body with rotation and
Exercise physiologist and certified diabetes
expert Rich Weil recommends training the abdominals much the way you would any
other part of the body.
"Abdominal muscles are no different than any other muscle group. They
should respond the same way." Hence, if you wouldn't do 50 bicep curls, you
don't need to do 50 abdominal crunches, he says. Just work smarter by slowing
down to try to isolate the muscles you're working.
Six-Pack Abs: Reality or Pipe Dream?
So what about the six-pack? Is it attainable? Can anyone get it?
Although possible, most experts say it's rare.
"Six-pack abs is really a pre-cellulite phenomenon. It tends to be
reserved for those in their teens and 20s," says Cotton. "It gets more
difficult as we age because we get more subcutaneous body fat." However,
with the right genetics and strict program, even people in their 30s and 40s
can have six-pack abs.
Genetically, women have a disadvantage when it comes to that. Their bodies
store more fat than men. For good reason, says Calabrese. Women's bodies are
designed to bear and nourish babies and fat is the primary energy source to
support fetal development. In addition, Calabrese says, men generally lose
weight quicker as a result of regular exercise.
For women to lower body fat enough to have a six-pack, says Cotton,
"that might even interrupt their menstrual cycle."
That's why Cotton doesn't encourage such extreme goals.