Where’s My Six Pack?
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me why they didn’t have a six pack.
“I do 500 crunches every day. I do twists, leg lifts. I use machines, the ball, the abolizer. Where the heck is the six pack? No one deserves it more than me.”
I know. It is very frustrating to work so hard towards something that never seems to materialize. The problem is that if you are working your abs as hard as you say you are, you probably have very strong abs and quite a wonderful six pack. It is a hidden treasure. It has never seen the light of day because it lies beneath a thin or okay I said it – thick layer of adipose tissue. (Doesn’t ‘adipose’ sound nicer than ‘fat’?)
Here’s the problem. Most of us don’t have a low enough percentage of body fat to enable us to see the muscle definition of the so-called six pack. Note that for many people, a body fat percentage low enough to actually delineate the abs would not be healthy.
Unfortunately spot reduction is a fallacy. If you would like to see definition in your abs and decide to lose some weight, you won’t necessarily lose weight in the abs to begin with. Your body and genetics will decide where and when you will lose size and inches.
As we age the metabolism slows and we lose lean muscle mass. This doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy elastic waisted sweat pants when you turn 40. It just means that you need to be on top of good nutrition and ensure that you perform enough cardiovascular exercise and strength training in order to counteract the effects of aging.
Hormones are also involved. At menopause, the production of estrogen decreases and the ratio of androgen (male hormones present in small amounts in women) to estrogen increases. It is thought that this shift is related to increased abdominal fat after menopause. The drop in estrogen levels at menopause is also linked to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes the accumulation of abdominal fat.
If you want to see muscle definition in the abs, you are going to have to be vigilante about your nutrition and exercise program. Diet is also important. Watch portion size, and emphasize complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and lean protein over simple carbohydrates like white bread, refined pasta, and sugary snacks. Remember that drastically cutting calories can force the body into starvation mode, slowing metabolism and causing it to store fat more efficiently later on.
When you train your abs, make sure you perform a balanced routine that targets the entire core. Train to fatigue with attention to proper form. Do not perform ab exercises if you have any lower back ailments or conditions until you have talked to your physician. Learn how to activate your core muscles safely and effectively to get the most out of your training. Be sure and exercise your lower back as part of a balanced core workout.
Vary your ab routine to continuously challenge the muscles to see improvements. Try tools such as stability balls and BOSU’s or take an abs/core class for a change and to give you ideas of exercises you can add to your own routine. Practice good posture at all times and integrate core stability into your other strength exercises.