I could have simply called this article, ‘How to Get Six Pack Abs’, shared my most effective ab exercises and left it at that. I’d rather go the extra mile and ask some underlying questions about six pack appeal too.
Has a Six Pack Always Been In Fashion?
Growing up as a child in the 90s, my answer would be yes. I only have to look to Brad Pitt in Fight Club, or more recently the whole cast of 300, to see that having a six pack is part of being in shape for any man. Am I wrong to think this though? With the exception of Bruce Lee (click to read my article on this legend!), I haven’t really seen any alpha male film stars sporting six packs back in the 1960s or 1970s (please correct me if I’m wrong). I’m putting the bodybuilders aside (i.e. Silvester Stalone and Arnold Schwarzenegger) because they are a special case and not your typical men. So my answer would probably be no. Sean Connery didn’t have a six pack as James Bond but was seen as sexy and masculine but equally our new millennium Daniel Craig gets the same response and does have a six pack.
Do Men and Women Desire a Six Pack?
Abs for Women: To put it bluntly, I do not find a perfectly chiselled six pack all that attractive on women. I totally respect that some women want one and would respect any women who has achieved one but it is not something I think of as the pinnacle of sexy. I think most of us guys like to see women with firm tummies as opposed to ripped ones! There are so many celeb examples but I’ll go for an obvious one in saying Megan Fox has a well toned midsection.
A toned stomach on a woman is sexy but would a defined six pack be too? Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Andy Newson
Abs for Men: Earlier I mentioned Brad Pitt and Daniel Craig. These are the abs which we are supposed to spend all of our time chasing? Well actually, you don’t need to spend your whole life trying to get abs (see Rule Free Abs below!) but more importantly, do men even need to worry about a six-pack? I would never go as far as saying women crave a beer belly but I think it is fair to say that not all women (more than we are led to believe perhaps) look for a six pack in a guy. Hollywood does set examples for us and there is nothing wrong except that a Tyler Durden physique of less than 5% body fat is pretty damn unsustainable year round.
A study carried out a The University of California asked 141 college women to look at six standardized silhouettes of men ranging from brawny to slender. It might surprise you that most preferred a toned man who was more likely to commit over a muscular man which they felt would be more volatile, aggressive and dominant! Now this study obviously isn’t definitive but there are many others out there that show women aren’t going to ignore you if you lack muscle or the perfect six pack. Most of the time we don’t even have our stomachs on show – so obviously it is the eyes and the face which carry most impact at first sight!
My Little Paunch is Worth It!
I workout hard and eat well. This gives me a well toned stomach but it is by no means a perfect six pack. We all make our choices and mine is this: I have abs that I can see but I am not prepared to put in all that is required year round, to go the full way and get the golden six pack. Why not? Well, it would probably require me to clean up my diet even more…way less dark chocolate, no more cheeky beers or red wine. It sounds pretty dull to me. Personally the trade off for some stomach fat for a looser lifestyle is worth it. This ‘trade off’ will be reached at a different point for us all. Some wont stop until their abs are perfect, others will be happy never to see there abs. Basically, I’m saying don’t stress about it too much. There are no short cuts to seeing your abs but here are my Rule Free Ab Favourites…
Rule Free Abs
**These exercises will only help with your abs if you can get your diet right first because all that stands between you and your abs is a layer of stomach fat.
- Drink plenty of water (not sports drinks)
- Focus on static ab-contractions: Planks, Side Planks, Hanging Knee/Leg Raises. Breathing consistently as you do these exercises will improve the mind to muscle link with you abs. Static ab exercises are all about form, so try not to shake under the pressure too much and keep that bum down on your planks!
- Say No to Crunches and sit-ups. They are not the safest way to train your abs as they can cause back problems.
- Do non-direct ab exercises in high volume: Dumbell Rows, Clean and Press. These will pull you core into action whilst working other muscle groups too!
- Practice Bruce Lee’s (secret) breathing technique. It requires breathing out through pursed lips and contracting your abs simultaneously (static contractions). This works the mind-muscle link so that your abs will be better recruited during other exercises. Rusty of Fitness Blackbook wrote a great article covering this technique.
- Do High Intensity Interval Cardio Workouts (after training your abs). An example is alternating sprints/jog intervals when running. This will be an effective fat burner.
Remember we cannot spot fat loss i.e. chose which part of our body will lose fat so, even if you are shedding fat unfortunately it will not necessarily go from your abs first. That said, if you can build up your stomach muscles, it will help with their visibiltity.
Good luck in obtaining a stomach which you are happy with, and as I have questioned here, is it really the end of the world if we don’t walk round with the perfect Hollywood six pack?