Ok let’s start with some basic info that nobody likes.
- If you can’t see your abdominal muscles, its because you have too much fat laying on top of them, not because you haven’t done enough sit-ups.
- If you can see EVERY abdominal muscle and aren’t notably overdeveloped there, you should be careful that you are maintaining a healthy body fat level because yes, you can have too low a body fat level (for overall health).
Now let’s break that down a little bit. The six pack that people commonly desire is nothing more than a result of good definition in the rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis is the two muscles at the front of the “stomach” area, running from sternum to pubic bone. Commonly people think that the six pack is either six separate muscles or one big muscle (commonly called the abdominal wall). The truth is that it is two muscles that sit side by side and the visual of it being six or eight is because of tendons that connect parts of the muscle to each other creating the appearance of them being separate muscles. There are many more muscles in your abdominal cavity, and those effect the appearance of the rectus as well. While they will effect it, the primary effect of them will be health and fitness related and they will not usually have a large esthetic effect on the “six pack”.
Developing the six pack muscles can be done a ton of ways and it seems that every trainer has their own favorite method. The truth is really very simple though. If you want to develop the abdominal muscles to increase their size, do exercises that do that. Do crunches and hold at the top. Do hand-to-feet crunches and go extra extra slow. There are a ton, but simply put, make sure to use the entire rectus and build it how you want to. Remember though, all the muscle in the world still doesn’t show if you have ten pounds of fat laying on top of it.
So now to the most important part of obtaining a six pack. You MUST reduce your body fat. Everybody is a little different, but for most men, abdominals show well around 10-13% body fat. Most women will see them around 12-15% body fat. It is important to remember that because the human body is drastically different from person to person (especially with where body fat is stored), these are common scenarios and will not always apply. There are men and women who will be able to see abs with higher total body fat percentages if their body stores fat greater in one area than it does in the stomach area. I have seen people read as high as 19% and still have great abdominal definition. This was possible because this individual stored most of her body fat in her legs and very little in her stomach.
Well, that’s it. I know it’s not as simple as I’m making it sound, but really, the truth is you just need to reduce body fat enough and the six pack shows. There is no secret. There is no complexity. Reduce your body fat enough and you will have abs. Now go eat right, be active, and make everybody wish they had your washboard!
If you don’t know how to do any of the things above, check out these other posts for some help!
Work the movement or the muscle? The plain and simple truth about isolation vs movement based development