The top question from just about everyone is how to get a 6-pack. No one cares about the toned legs, the plate of armor chest or the calves that look like bull’s balls. It’s like if you have a 6 pack then you have made it in life and women will throw themselves at you. Take it from me, this is not the case. Granted some women do look for that in a man but for the most part women don’t care. The only ones that really care are you and the dudes at the gym.
For the vast majority of people the abs, more specifically the lower abs, are where they store the fat first and where the fat is lost last. That is why an on point nutritional program is needed. Any excess water or calories not used goes right there. So consistency with good choices are a necessity. That means no eating out and no alcohol just home cooked meals consisting of protein and veggies.
A 6-pack nutritional plan should consist of roughly a 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fats to start. This gives your body enough protein for muscle building and satiety purposes and enough carbs to give you energy for your workouts and to help repair the muscles. Like I said previously, carbs should consist of veggies like lettuce and broccoli and maybe some sweet potatoes after your workout. I like oatmeal but there is a lot of fiber which tends to produce gas and bloat your stomach. Not good for showing your 6-pack. Veggies have fiber and other vitamins and minerals so you are losing anything there. The veggies should also be steamed and not covered in a liquid “cheese” or butter. The “cheese” and butter are just unneeded calories that could be used in a better way. Meals should be eaten every 2-3 hours with the carbs being eaten almost exclusively around your workout. A little before for performance and the majority after to replenish what you did in the gym.
I’ll also start a cutting phase after a bulking phase. During the bulking phase, I’ll up my calories to about 3000 and slowly lower them while cycling my carbs for the entire phase. I start cutting after a bulking phase so I have more muscle at the start and I have more calories to cut without putting my body at risk of malnutrition by only consuming 1100 calories a day. Carb cycling has been a game changer for me. I can step down my carbs while stimulating my body to use more fat for energy than carbs. After the critical point (which I’ll get into later) of the cutting phase I can live off of 50g of carbs or less and not feel any different than if I was eating 300g.
So what is carb cycling? Carb cycling is exactly what it sounds like… cycling the amount of carbs to keep the body guessing. Let me tell you from experience this beats the hell out of cutting carbs out totally. Honestly there is nothing better in the world than the high carb day breakfast after a low carb day. There are many ways to set it up, but I typically start with a no carb day on a Sunday (less than 50g), high carb on Monday( 250-300g) and medium on Tuesday(about 200g) and then go back to a no carb on Wednesday and continue the cycle but always having Sunday as the no carb day. Sunday is my rest day so the amount of carbs I need isn’t much. I might eat a little on Sunday night just to fuel my Monday morning workout. Maybe a little oatmeal or some air popped popcorn and hour or so before bed. Carbs before bed? Dude must be crazy. I don’t typically eat carbs before bed normally but when you have no carbs over the course of a day, the night carbs will get digested and put to use right away rather than getting stored as fat. That sounds like a really bad Dos Equis commercial.
Over the course of the cutting phase, every two weeks I’ll scale back my carbs by 50g, which will bring my total calories down by 200. I’ll keep my fat and protein intake the same throughout the whole phase and just adjust my carb intake. So if week 1 and 2 I’m taking in 300g on my high carb day then that drops to 250g on weeks 3 and 4. A word of warning, there will be a point when the amount of carbs you are taking in will reach a critical point which isn’t enough to support your required energy. Your workouts will suffer and you will have limited energy. Stick with it because this is the point where your body transitions from carbs for energy to fat as the dominate source for exercise. Around this time your weight will plateau and it will get really, really frustrating. After the transition, your energy will be back to normal if not more than before and the weight will drop quickly. After that turning point, stick with the carb cycling progression and you will be ripped in no time.
Now onto what to do in the gym. 500 situps will not get you a 6-pack. Unfortunately you cannot spot lose fat. Most people go with the high reps low weight to tone up while doing a lot of cardio but if you look at it logically, you are only at the gym for 1-2 hours a day. All that work you put in is roughly 6% of your day. The other 94% is spent at work, sleeping or doing whatever you like to do. There are a couple of main schools of thought that help achieve fat loss in order to achieve a super lean physique. The 2 are:
- Light weights, lots of reps, low calories and carbs
- Medium weights, lots of reps and moderate calories
The theory behind the light weight, lots of reps is more reps = more work thus you burn more calories. That’s all well and good if you are looking to have a runners physiques and you don’t care about strength. After your done the cutting phase your 1 rep max will have dropped considerably because 1) your body isn’t used to lifting heavy weights and 2) your body will have used some of your muscles as fuel because of the low calorie diet.
The medium weight, lots of reps is along the same lines as the light weight, high reps. Instead of doing reps until the cows come home you are doing more volume training and trying to add more muscle which will help in burning calories while stimulating muscle growth. I like getting the most bang for my buck, so to me, putting on muscle, which will use more calories when I’m not in the gym, seems like the smarter way to do things. I will also typically do multijoint movements (bench press, deadlifts, shoulder press) as heavy sets to keep my strength up. That means going to the opposite end of the spectrum and go heavy for 5-6 sets and keeping the reps less than 8. This does a few things:
- Lifting more weight means more muscle recruitment
- Minimal loss of strength due to calorie restriction
- When you switch over to lifting in the hypertrophy phase (8-12 reps) you can now lift more which is better for gains.
To me that sounds way more fun then lifting a 20 lb dumbbell until my arms fall off. Around the point where my body is shifting over to use more fats for energy, I’ll use more volume until my energy stores come back and then go back to lifting heavy on the mulitjoint movements. So the elephant in the room now is what do we do for a workout. Well there is no magical exercise that is necessary so as long as you are working your full body, yes even your legs, then you are all set. Speaking of legs, the biggest muscles in your body are found below your waist. Your ass and quads are the best muscles to work to help your body burn calories so don’t be that guy with the stick legs and massive upper body. You are only doing yourself a disservice by avoiding them.
There are a few things in your workout you should target along with legs. Situps should only be a quarter of what you do for your abs. You should also being doing a stability exercise (plank), a twist (Russian twist) and a lower ab exercise (hanging leg raises). Since your abs consist of many muscle you want to hit all of them to ensure proper development. Using weight also adds thickness to your abs just like any other part of your body.
So in closing, a 6-pack that you could wash your clothes on is just an on point nutritional plan, dedication, discipline and a well rounded workout away.