Don’t just shed away the layers of clothing in preparation for summer, shed away your layers of body fat. Read this for the best tips, and necessary actions to get you your six-pack abs. First thing’s first:
It doesn’t matter how many crunches, Russian twists and leg raises that you do, if your body fat isn’t at the right level, you will never see your abs. For abs to be noticeable, men need to get their body fat between 7% to 9%. Since it’s natural for women to carry more body fat than men, women need to be between 13% to 15% to see their abs.
Most men must face a challenge that only some women have to overcome. Men tend to accumulate most of their body fat in the abdomen area. This body fat accumulation pattern is called Android body fat accumulation and is often referred to as “Apple” shaped. This makes it a little more difficult for men to chisel down to their six pack abs. On the other hand, Gynoid fat accumulation pattern mostly affects women. Gynoid fat accumulation simply means that women tend to accumulate fat in 8 areas: hips, buttocks, lower back, knees, behind the arms, breasts, between the thighs and pubis. So the trouble areas for women are mainly in the hips and buttocks area. To complicate matters even more, on average, women tend to have less muscle mass than their male counterparts, making it a little more challenging to burn body fat.
So what can you do?
- Increase your cardio! In order to burn body fat you have to move. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that you partake in an aerobic activity 3-4 days per week at 30%-80% of VO2R or Heart Rate Reserve for at least 20-90 minutes.1
- Develop a resistance training. ACSM recommends that you perform resistance training at least 2-3 days per week with 8-10 exercises consisting of 1-4 sets and 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Your resistance training program should also be developed based on the principles of specificity, overload and reversibility. In short, specificity means that you train for a specific purpose. Overload means that you need to continually attempt to overload the muscle/muscle group. Reversibility means that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.1
- Work those abs! Form matters. Here are some tips to get you on your way:
The picture above shows the improper way to complete the sit-up. The proper method is to round the back to reduce stress on the vertebrae and lower back.2
This is the proper way to perform the crunch. The movement consists of raising your upper torso, only. You do not need to touch your elbows to your knees to properly execute the crunch exercise.2
When performing the crunch or situp, it is important to place your hands on the side of head instead of crossing the hands behind the head. Crossing the hands behind the head pulls too much on the neck. Pulling the elbows open also makes the crunch or sit up more difficult. You should attempt to close the elbows and pull them forward which will make the exercise easier. 2
When performing leg raises, it is important to ensure that your back stays flat and is not arched.2
Now that you have more tools in your tool belt, you should be on your way to achieving the goal of getting those six pack abs. Hello, summer!
Note: Always consult your doctor before engaging in an exercise program.
By George Dorsey
1. General Principles of Exercise Prescription. (2010). In ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (8th ed., pp. 152-169). Baltimore, Maryland: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
2. Delavier, F. (2003). Abdominals. In Women’s Strength Training Anatomy (pp. 88-90). Paris: Human Kinetics.