Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to go From Flab to Ab, and 4-Pack to 6-Pack

Everyone and their mother wants a six-pack. If you say you don't you're lying. Its the pinnacle of aesthetics and fat loss, and not to mention its one of the more impressive features that sets your physique apart from someone else's. A great six-pack is a sign of someone who has worked his or her ass off, has great dedication, and is the model of consistency. Hopefully this article can you get started on the road to getting that six pack, but please take this into account: it does not happen overnight. It’s a long-term process and it takes great consistency and effort. It took me 9 months to get one, but to this day I can remember the exact moment of looking in the mirror and seeing four abs and the day I saw the real deal six. Ever since its just motivated me to keep going and adding to my core, whether it be a tighter Adonis belt (Transversus abdominis or the "V-Lines"), getting them to pop more, or adding diced serratus muscles.

The Key To Getting A Six Pack

No matter where you stand body composition wise; the only way to get a six-pack is to continue to lose fat from your midsection. Period. It doesn't matter if you have a four pack, if you have love handles, or whatever; continuance of fat loss is the key to getting a six-pack. You can do 1,000 crunches a day, but if you have fat covering those abs, I'm sorry but you're not going to see it. Does this mean we don't train our abs? Of course not. Bigger abdominal muscles will show at a higher body fat percentage. And a strong core will aid in all of your power lifts, such as Bench Press, Squats, Dead lifts, and Overhead Press. Genetics and core size will play a role in when you can see your abdominals, but they ARE NOT the deciding factor. Don’t let anyone tell you it's genetics. That’s bullshit, and a lame excuse. My family isn’t on the muscular and lean side, and I myself used to be very overweight, and I have a six-pack. So don’t believe that garbage. Men will see their abs usually around 10% and lower, but I’ve seen some people see the outline of their abs around 12%. Women will see definition in their abdominals around 17-18% and see a six-pack around 13-15% usually.

So now that we understand fat loss is key to getting your six-pack to show, let's go over the different parts of the core musculature and how you can work each part to strengthen it and develop the muscle.

Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis is the actual "six-pack." It’s a thin sheet of muscle that gives that popping out look. When your rectus abdominis is developed very well, you'll have abs that pop out of your stomach. The rectus abdominis' main function is to pull the chest to the groin area, creating that "crunch." It also provides core stability and is a trunk flexor. The main exercise people use to work their rectus abdominis is the crunch, although there are many other exercises to work the rectus abdominis.

Transversus Abdominis

The TVA muscle is the deepest of the flat abdominal muscles. It plays a significant role in core stability. Exercises commonly done to work the TVA muscle are stomach vacuums and planks. The TVA is also responsible for pulling in the abdominal wall, giving you the leaner look. Bodybuilders of the past used to perform stomach vacuums to train this muscle and give them that leaner look. Also, training your TVA muscle can help with the Adonis Belt, also known as the V-Lines, or Sex-Lines.


Your obliques are made up of internal and external obliques.  Both muscles rotate the trunk of the body and also let your body bend at the side. The external obliques help side bend the torso toward the same side (An oblique crunch), and also rotate the trunk toward the opposite side of the core musculature (Twisting crunch). Your internal oblique provides stability to the core and also aids in rotating the core toward the same side.

Serratus Anterior Muscle

The serratus muscles are small, finger shaped muscles that sit on top of the rib cage. They’re often the pinnacle of aesthetics, and can only be seen when at extremely low levels of body fat.

Exercising the Abdominals

I’m a firm believer in training your abdominals similar to any other muscle group. Training the abdominals with weight is very efficient when it comes to adding strength to the core and helping it develop. This is important for two reasons: 1) Adding strength and stability to your core is very important in aiding other lifts (Listed above) and helping with posture. 2) Enhanced development. This is important since that’s what the majority of us are concerned with. I believe how often you train your abdominals is inversely related to the intensity. For example, the more intense you go, the less often you should work your core, and vice versa. I personally don’t believe in overtraining, but please do not train your core everyday. Focus on fat loss, and build your strength and core endurance up, then you can start adding more core workouts. Also, research has shown that the abdominal and core musculature responds best to exercise with a low amount of rest. What this means is circuit training seems to be the best way to train the abs.

If you do not know the name of an exercise, or how to properly perform one, a quick Google search or YouTube search can find the answer. Or feel free to ask and I’ll help out.

Rectus Abdominis
Ab wheels (My favorite ab exercise of all time), weighted/bodyweight crunches, weighted/bodyweight decline crunches, roman chairs, kneeling cable crunches, Swiss ball crunches, hanging leg raise, hanging knees to chest. etc.

Side Note: When performing a straight leg exercise, make sure you put a slight bend of the knee. Keeping the knee locked and leg perfectly straight makes the hip flexors perform the movement, not the core.

TVA Muscle
Stomach vacuums, planks, and dumbbell pullovers (Also trains the serratus muscles).

Cable trunk twists, Russian twists (with or without a medicine ball), twisting crunch (Elbow to opposite knee), side crunch.

Sample Workouts I Give Clients and I Perform

5 total sets, exercise is performed one after another with no rest in between

Stomach Vacuum – 30 second hold
15 Weighted Kneeling Cable Crunches (Heavy)
10 Hanging Leg Raises (Toes to bar)
10 Roman Chairs – Straight Leg
10 Roman Chairs – Knees to chest
10 Dumbbell Pullovers
45 second rest.

One for obliques, 5 sets:

Weighted Kettle Bell Side Crunch – 20 reps each side
Cable Trunk Twist – 15 reps each side

So to recap again, the key to seeing that six-pack we all yearn to have is having low body fat. You can have the strongest, thickest abs in the world, but if they’re covered up with fat no one would even know. Fat loss would consist of eating in a caloric deficit, and losing weight.  Exercises such as heavy squats, heavy dead lifts, etc, will also train your core because your core needs to stabilize your spine during these heavy compound movements. Train your abs like you would train any other muscle, hard, heavy, and intense. Hopefully this article can help clear up some misconceptions regarding the core musculature, and help you get the six-pack of your dreams!

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