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Ah… the elusive six-pack. Who hasn’t wondered what she would look like with a set of ripped abs, no more jiggle, and just solid muscle from lower to upper abdomen?
And is it even possible? Well, as the song goes, “Don’t dream it, be it.”
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We will share the secrets of the six-pack, and in this article, we will answer the following question: What are the exercises that will bring you to solid abdominal muscles? How long will you have to keep up these exercises regularly until you see the kind of muscle definition you dream of?
How many repetitions will you need to do, daily, to reach your goal? And what is the connection between muscle definition, and fat (excess weight) you may be carrying?
And finally, is it even possible for everyone to achieve this goal? What about those who have lost large amounts of weight and are left with excess skin?
And what about stretch marks and other leftovers, for women who have given birth? Is it really possible to tighten and tone the skin after it has been stretched in pregnancy?
Read on to find out.
First of all, let’s get something clear. Fat and muscle are not contradictory.
If you work your abdominal muscles regularly, you will get stronger, and you can feel the strength of our abdominal muscle wall, through whatever layers of fat sit on top of those muscles. So even if you work out regularly, you might have a six-pack, but not be able to see it, if you don’t lose the excess weight on your stomach.
Everybody is different and holds weight in different places. However, most people will really need to be on the very low end of their healthy weight range, in order for the definition of their stomach muscles to be visible to the naked eye.
That may sound great, but most of us will have to work very hard to shed those last few pounds that cover the abdomen, especially those of us who have given birth to one or more children. This is an ongoing dedication to keeping your weight low, and your motivation must be very high to keep this up over time.
Even the skin and outer layers of the stomach have intricate muscle systems, so it should be possible to achieve some definition, even postpartum, with a lot of hard work and dedication. And the perks of this work are not just visual; a strong abdominal and core will stabilize your back, prevent disc slips, herniations, and other injuries and aches and pains.
Those of you who have lost large amounts of weight should be very proud. However, you face a different limitation in regard to the six-pack.
If you have a lot of hanging skin, you will most likely need to do a skin tuck, first of all, in the areas where you lost the most. For many people, that is the abdomen. So all the sit-ups in the world won’t show unless you get rid of that skin surgically.
But start working those muscles in the meantime, anyway…you will feel great, and may be able to see some changes in the tone of your skin without surgery. Some recommend the oral supplement collagen, in help firm up loose skin after weight loss.
This has not been scientifically proven, but feel free to give it a try and see how it works for you.
To summarize, achieving a six-pack will be easier for those of you who are already at their ideal weight, and in good shape, and have not yet borne children. However, everyone can benefit from the effects of serious abdominal exercises, and see improvements in their shape and figure, by doing the following exercises:
Six Pack Bootcamp
Add cardio exercise to your daily routine.
20-40 Minutes of heart rate increasing exercise like brisk walking, interval training (alternating bursts of high energy exercise like jumping jacks, with recovery periods of slow movements or stretching), aerobics or Zumba, cycling, high energy swimming, dancing, jogging or running, can help you lose belly fat. Studies have shown that cardio workouts target belly fat, and can help you lose in those areas.
If you can break a sweat, and feel that your heart is beating faster, you are doing cardio exercise. In order for your abs to show, you will have to reduce your body to an athlete’s level, which is about 14-20 % for women.
For the average woman, it will take about 1-2 years to achieve that level of body fat safely.
Work the stomach muscles.
The rectus abdominis is a long muscle that stretches the length of your upper and lower abdomen. It has two parts, on the left and right sides, that can sometimes separate during advanced pregnancy.
So if that has happened to you, you will need to work the muscle until those two halves rejoin. In addition, it is separated into four sections from top to bottom.
The definition of these sections is what will give you the appearance of a six-pack. Basically, in the same way that biceps pop when worked, the individual sections become strengthened until the “pop-out” and become visible through the skin on your stomach.
That is why they will not show unless you clear away abdominal fat, no matter how strong they become. It may help you to have an image of the rectus abdominis to visualize.
Combing stomach strengthen exercises with weight loss and cardio workouts means that your six-pack will be revealed as the muscles strengthen and the fat melts away. Now there is something to look forward to!
Other muscles to work are the internal and external obliques, which run along the sides of the abdomen, and can help narrow your waist and create beautiful over definition, and, even deeper, the transverse abdominis, the core muscles that provide stability and protect your back. So a daily workout that reaches all of these muscles is your goal.
Add some protein.
It makes sense, that if your goal is muscle building, you want to add some of the building blocks for muscle, namely, protein. This can take any form, but lean poultry, fish, and legumes are more healthy that fatty, high cholesterol red meats.
This will help your body build muscles, and give you a feeling of fullness that can help you to lose weight.
Drink lots of water.
Water is the essential nutritional element, keeping the body functioning, increasing metabolism, and helping in weight loss by making you feel full on fewer calories.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of all body systems, so get plenty of quality rest to help get your body into shape.
Exercises that help to build the 3 major stomach muscles that we mentioned are situps, crunches (these are good because they work the muscles while protecting the back, planks, and chin-ups. Pilates is great for core strengthening, and building abdominal muscles in a safe, gradual way.
It’s fun to see the way the bodies of women who practice pilates transform over time, with the lower abdomen and sides strengthening to reveal an hourglass figure. Bridges, butterfly crunches (short, quick sit-ups where you don’t go all the way up or down) to the front and to either side, and back and forth, will work the side abs and the inner core, and further, define your muscles.
In addition, 6 days per week of cardio will help you shed fat and further define your abdominal muscles.