Q: It seems like no matter what I do, I can't get rid of my extra belly fat. How can I get lean enough to have a six-pack?
This is a fantastic question and a great way to kick off my new Bodybuilding.com column! If I could take a moment, I'd like to show my gratitude for this opportunity. I was an active member of the Bodybuilding.com Forums when I was preparing for my first fitness competition and was even featured as an Amateur Athlete of the Week, so it's an honor and a dream come true to be invited to share my expertise here. I enjoyed receiving helpful advice and developed genuine, supportive friendships that helped to launch my career as a pro fitness champion 10-plus years ago, and to be able to give back to this community means so much to me. Thank you to the Bodybuilding.com team for welcoming me as a regular contributor, and thanks also to everyone who has used my past workout articles and reached out to me with your fitness questions. I look forward to helping you achieve your fitness goals!
Now, let's get real about what it takes to get six-pack abs.
Everyone is capable of rocking a defined midsection. There is always a way to push past the training plateaus that hinder your success if you are willing to put in the work. Ultimately, it takes determination and fortitude to attain that level of physical conditioning because your body is going to be fighting you every step of the way.
It's always easier to drop pounds when you are a beginner, especially if you have a significant amount of weight to lose. The margin for error gets smaller as you progress, and those last 10 pounds that stick around your waistline are the most stubborn. As you continue your weight-loss journey, you need to adjust your training and your diet to keep your body from adapting.
Training Your Six-Pack
The road to washboard abs starts with training. Let these three tips guide your workout program:
1. Resistance Training Is a Must
People who have six-pack abs have a good amount of muscle that comes from consistently applying the progressive overload principle with weights. Don't just do crunches! Start with a program that works your entire body and strengthens your core using compound movements like squats, bench presses, and rows. If you're already an avid exerciser and still don't see the definition you desire, add weighted core exercises such as cable crunches, medicine ball push-presses, and hanging leg raises to your routine two or three times per week.
2. Do Plenty of Fat-Blasting Cardio to Streamline Your Results
Adding cardio to your program at least three times a week will help you burn more calories and increase your metabolism so that your body leans out. The layer of fat that sits on your abdominal muscles will shrink quickly, and you'll learn to love these effective workouts. If you are tight on time or feel like you're stuck in a rut, switch things up by doing HIIT on your bike or sprints. This type of exercise builds muscle while tearing away body fat and reduces your required training time by half.
3. Give Your Body Adequate Rest
When you're busy and training hard, it's tempting to steal time from sleep for much-needed work or family time, but this can lead to increased stress levels and exhaustion. Do your best to get a good eight hours of sleep each night, and you'll realize the positive effects it has on your fitness results.
Eating for Washboard Abs
Paying close attention to your diet is the secret to great abs. No one is walking around looking ripped without following these three rules:
1. Get Enough Protein
Aim to eat a gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, sometimes more, if you want to have a tight, lean physique.
2. Don't Starve Yourself
Eating too few calories is detrimental to your weight-loss goals and will result in your body burning fewer calories in an attempt to preserve energy, which means your body will take the food you are eating and store it as fat. Instead, eat healthy foods throughout the day, in portions appropriate to your daily energy expenditure. You may find it helpful to chart your food intake and calories burned during exercise so you can calculate how many calories you need in a day. Subtract 200-400 calories from your daily intake to initiate healthy, sustainable weight loss.
3. Drink More Water and Avoid Excess Sodium
When you don't drink enough water, your stomach can appear bloated because your body is holding water in fat cells. If you stay properly hydrated and eat less salt, your body is better able to regulate the water in your system.
Showing Off Your Six-Pack
Looking down the road, after you've taken my tips and worked diligently to sculpt your abs, you'll want some photos of your accomplishment. Before you compare your abs with the fitness stars you see on Bodybuilding.com, here are three key points to remember:
1. Posture Matters!
If you are slouched over, any skin and body fat you do have on your midsection is going to scrunch up. So, unless you're ultra-lean, try to flex your abs while keeping your shoulders back and stomach tight.
2. Lighting Is Your Friend
Try to find the best spot to get the shot—often harsher lighting is ideal when it comes to body-scaping images.
3. Don't Forget to Flex!
It seems simple, but learning to flex your abdominals properly can take practice. Pull in your bellybutton while contracting your abs, and pose toward the camera slightly sideways, twisting your torso to engage your obliques.
Creating your dream body won't happen overnight, but I guarantee that with consistent effort and unwavering commitment, it will develop over time. Keep at it!
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