Is it narcissism to focus on obtaining a specific look on our own single body part? Perhaps, but both men and women alike desire that chiseled ab look.
We are funny (and sometimes pathetic) creatures, aren’t we? Now that we’ve given ourselves an excuse to be shallow, shameless and…sliced up, it’s time to point out how to get there. While the formula is uncomplicated, the desired result requires a level of devotion most folks are unwilling to give.
I briefly touched on the necessity to carrier lower body fat in order to have visible abdominal muscles here, but given the general level of confusion on this topic, I figured I’d take a deeper dive.
Here is the single key to acquiring your six pack, expressed in three different ways.
- Get lean
- Lose body fat
- Improve your body composition.
Just being able to see your abs is a little different than having a shredded six pack. Guys will be able to see their abs from around 10 to 12 percent body fat and possibly as high as 15 percent, notes strength coach Marc Perry. To really reveal definition requires getting to 6 to 7 percent, or even 3 to 4 percent for bodybuilding contest condition. Female bodybuilders are generally around 10 to 12 percent and you might be able to see abs up to 22 percent, adds Perry.
That’s right. No matter how much you squat, how many sit-ups you perform daily or how many gimmicky ab machines you purchased at 2:00am, we can’t see your beauties if you have a layer of fat covering them.
Let’s take a step back and examine the obvious. It’s not necessarily healthy to have body fat low enough to expose these muscles. According to the University of Pennsylvania (pdf), body fat percentages lower than 8 percent for men and 14 percent for women carry an increased risk of health issues.
Trying to achieve a body fat percentage that is so low it affects your essential fat stores is not healthy and can cause many health complications. Some storage fat is also necessary as it is used to protect organs in the chest and abdomen.
Still want abs? I thought so.
Your first move is to go get your body fat measured. Most quality health clubs offer caliper skinfold testing. They’ll likely pinch your fat at three (at least) different locations. Generally the chest, abdomen, thigh, arm and back are among the chosen sites. The measurements are used to estimate total body fat with a small margin of error depending on the accuracy of the tester. But don’t stress about perfect accuracy. You just want a baseline; you’re not a bodybuilder yet.
Once you know your magic number, you’ll know how many games you need to win. I suggest keeping body fat percentages in your back pocket and focusing on how you feel and look, but if you want to be scientific, test yourself repeatedly over the course of the weeks that you are focused on nutrition and training. Take your measurements under the identical conditions every time. First thing upon waking always makes sense.
Here they come, your necessary steps to lower your body fat:
1. Eat at a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit is a state in which you burn more calories than you consume. For example, if you burn 2,500 calories per day but only eat 2,000, you have created a deficit of 500 calories per day. A calorie deficit forces the body to use non-food sources of energy (typically body fat though the body can also burn muscle tissue for energy) to make up for the shortfall causing weight loss.
2. Train with weights.
When you strength train with heavy objects (or with intense body weight training), you get stronger and keep the muscle mass that you already have. On top of that, you also push your metabolism into an “afterburner” effect which burns extra calories even after you are done working out.
3. Replace all processed foods with veggies and animal proteins and all sugars with fruit.
Think about all the junk you consume that comes in a package. What if you ate vegetables at the moments in which you normally eat processed food? How lean would you become?
Boom, shredded abs and unprotected organs.
Can’t wait for your photo shoot,