Summer weather has officially arrived around the country, and with Memorial Day comes days spent lounging at the pool, the beach, the lake, on a boat, or any other number of situations in which you are likely to find yourself wearing not much more than a swim suit. For a lot of people this situation causes a lot of stress, because they have not seen the fitness results they desired and aren't confident with how their body looks. The even more frustrating part is that it is not due to a lack of effort. Many people have put in countless hours in the gym, only to arrive at shirtless season without the abs they definitely worked hard enough to earn. However, working hard does not equal working smart, and uncovering your abs is a serious challenge.
Let me start by saying this: abs are not the end all be all, and just because you don’t have a washboard six pack is not a reason to feel uncomfortable outside this summer. Whatever you’ve got, rock it! At the same time, I know that is a goal for a lot of people, so I am here to help. The first lesson is this: doing sit ups will not give you a chiseled core. You can do crunches, reverse crunches, planks, sit ups, etc etc until you’re blue in the face and cannot get out of bed in the morning, and you will still not be able to see your abs. This is what I mean when I say people work hard, but not smart. Doing that much core work is hard, but it doesn’t mean it is smart or beneficial for your goals. There is only one way to see your abs, and that is to cut down body fat percentage. This is done through a combination of diet and exercise.
The Diet: There is a reason that the CrossFit pyramid begins with nutrition: without proper nutrition you will not see the results you are after. This is especially true for achieving the slim and defined core you’re after. While everyone has slightly different nutritional needs, for the average person following a semi paleo diet is a great option. Do not be afraid of fat, and earn your carbs! For example, eat eggs, vegetables and fruit for breakfast, have nuts for your snacks, and keep your carbs around your workout. Feel free to include healthy dairy options like Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr in your diet, but in general stick to the CrossFit nutrition advice which can be summed up by eating meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and a little bit of starch and fruit. You don’t need to start out counting calories and macros. Just focus on fueling your body with the foods it needs, and stay away from the pizza and donuts.
The Workouts: So, if doing specific core exercises is not what gives you the abs you’re after, what does? In sticking with our goal of fat loss (remember that is how you uncover your six pack) we want to ramp up our heart rate, and build muscle. More muscle equals a higher metabolism which means the 23 hours you aren’t spending in the gym each day are consuming a higher number of calories. Over time, this really adds up. High intensity interval training (HIIT) circuits, and CrossFit are all a great way to achieve both of these goals. Include exercises such as deadlifts and squats, as well as burpees and kettlebell swings in your workouts, and shoot for at least 3 hard sessions a week. On the days you are not in the gym, be sure to stay active, whether that is going for a long walk, taking a bike ride with a friend, walking your dog, or working in the yard. Anything that keeps you off your couch is helping you out.
Hopefully you find something in here that is helpful in finally achieving that six pack. Remember, it is only May 25, so there is still time to achieve your physique goals this year, but you’ll have to really commit! If you don’t want to do it alone, come check out a class at Summit Strength or your local box. It is always more fun to workout with a community that by yourself!