Originally from Clonakilty, Colin Murphy is a fitness professional, workout specialist, founder of the fitness website properlybuilt.com, certified personal trainer, author and blogger. He is an Ironman, sub 3-hour marathon runner, occasional CrossFitter and all-round fitness fanatic.
How many people do you know who have six pack abs? I’d hazard a guess that there aren’t too many. Having a rock hard mid-section, with chiselled abdominal muscles, is extremely hard to get. For most people, it takes a phenomenal amount of discipline, motivation, and old-fashioned work to come close to this kind of look. However, it certainly isn’t impossible if this is your fitness goal!
As the stomach is one of the first areas to gain fat when we put on weight, for centuries humans have used this area as a gauge of how fit someone is. It is difficult to have a flabby stomach if you are fit and toned everywhere else. When we get a chance to look at someone in their swimsuit, we instinctively look at their stomach as a clue to how in shape they are. This may explain our obsession with abs, especially as summer approaches.
The abdominal muscles are part of our core that wrap around our mid-section to keep us stable, and also add a layer of protection to the vital organs underneath. The deep muscles, such as the Transversus Abdominis, play a vital role in supporting our spine, and thankfully, fitness professionals all over the world now encourage the strengthening of these muscles, over the more superficial Rectus Abdominis, that can be seen as the ‘six pack’. We basically want to get stronger from the inside out. Having a stable core far outweighs the aesthetic beauty of a chiselled tummy.
Here are Five Truths you need to know before going on your Six Pack Safari and hunting down those Summer abs!
1. It’s not easy! Let’s get this one out of the way from the start. You will have to be super strict with your diet and step up your training more than a few notches. You will be saying no to friend’s requests to go out for drinks and to check out the new burger restaurant opened in town. Body fat is your enemy when you are in search of a six-pack, so avoid all situations where the wrong type of food will be offered. What you eat, combined with high intensity training, will strip you of fat, and give your stomach the best chance to shine for those few weeks strutting around the beach.
2. Get a real role model (a magazine guy or gal doesn’t count!) Fitness pros are who you need to look to if you desire a ripped stomach. If, however, you are happy with a lean flat mid-section, look for someone with a similar lifestyle to yours (job, kids, gym-goer) and watch what they do. A working Dad or Mum with five children will not have the same time as a 30-something single person, so don’t make this person your role model. See who’s killing it in your work or community sphere and then look to replicate their habits. A realistic body goal, based on your current lifestyle, will make this pursuit so much more enjoyable and rewarding.
3. Aim for function first:
Remember, we are working from the inside out. It is pointless to have the look but not the strength. We want to have the strength first by working those deep core muscles. The abs you will eventually see are the icing on the cake, after great foundational work first. Be patient with the process. Things take time, but the results will come if you battle to the point of being consistent through persistence! If you need some great core exercise moves, check out the brand new ‘Lean Abs Workout’ on the Properly Built YouTube Channel. This video works you through 12 different core moves, that you can do anywhere, that build strength and tone.
4. A natural order: You cannot have abs that turn heads if you are overweight. The excess fat will have to be removed before you get into the shape you want. It seems obvious, but people often go crazy on sit ups, crunches, and planks, hoping to get a nice stomach, before doing the fat loss first. It’s important to know the stages that you have to go through so that you don’t get false hope, and sprint after something that really takes weeks and months to achieve. If you know the path that stretches before you, you will be more likely to stay on it. No false hope, just determined focus on the action required.
5. This is temporary: A regular Joe or Sally Soap is not going to have a six pack around the clock. Life interrupts the best made plans and therefore will also interrupt your training. Summer is a great time to have a goal like this, as it’s only temporary, and you don’t feel pressured to stay in that shape all year round (some days I have to squeeze as hard as I can to find an ab or two!). Take it as a challenge to be in amazing shape for one month of the year. This is achievable if planned well in advance, and avoids any disappointment when the routine becomes too difficult to maintain.
Abs are wonderful to have. They can make you feel attractive, confident, and fit, but are very much an accessory to a strong, healthy body. As you strut around in your bathing suit in a few months’ time, I hope that you’ll have put in the work, made a few sacrifices, and are proud of the body you have.
That’s the real ab work aim.