Ten years ago, I’d never believe that at some point, I’d be the proud owner of a “six-pack”. Hell, even 4 years ago I would have admitted that that coveted bastion of fitness was something I was just never going to have.
It wasn’t until just recently that I realized that having a six-pack wasn’t just attainable, but much easier than I thought.
WHAT IS A SIX-PACK?
A six-pack, as we understand it, is just a person’s rectus abdominis muscle made visible. Everyone has one. It is a parallel muscle that runs from your pubic bone to your sternum.
Our rectus abdominis muscle has a few key functions:
- aids in maintaining healthy posture and stabilization of your torso;
- it aids in forcibly exhaling (such as during singing, where expiration is a controlled process);
- it helps to control the tilt of the pelvis.
So what makes it visible? 1,000,000 crunches? 10,000 hours of planks?
No. All that work will be for naught if your body fat is too high to see the muscle separation in all its glory.
What you need to get a six-pack is muscle size and low body fat.
THE MYTH OF THE SIT-UP/CRUNCH
Like all singers, I’m hyper-aware of my body. During the days spent I spent training without knowledge, I’d hammer out sets of ab work only to find I was no closer to revealing the coveted abs, and then be too sore to relax my abdomen when breathing.
All singers are afraid tension. At least, the wrong kind of tension-the kind that puts our bodies out of our control. We need our bodies to work with us, not against us.
Crunches/sit-ups don’t really do much. Most people do them wrong-by actually “crunching”, which strains your back and makes other work unbearable-and they barely scratch the surface of the muscle you need to stimulate. Doing hundreds or thousands of them only creates a ton of residual tension by overworking, in a non-natural way, a part of our anatomy that should have tension (read: muscle activation) only when we need it.
Oftentimes, people do crunches and similar direct ab work in an effort to “spot-reduce”, or burn fat in only a certain part of their body. You can’t do this, because it isn’t possible. What you can do is build muscle in a desired area to compensate for excess fat, but only to a certain extent. Having muscle mass and low body-fat is your ideal combination.
BUILDING A SIX-PACK
We need our bodies to be strong and vital. Any aesthetic benefits should come as a by-product, a bonus, of our training, and not be the desired out come. Chasing false gods like “visible abs” for their own sake leads only to disappointment and body-dysmorphia.
Strength starts with the posterior chain. The PC is the group of the largest voluntary muscles in the body, chiefly: the glutes (ass), hamstrings (back of the thighs), external obliques, and the erector spinae muscles.
These are not the sexy, coveted “beach muscles”. However, your beach muscles won’t mean shit if you 1) can’t functionally use them and 2) the rest of your body is a soft sac.
We know that the rectus abdominis/six-pack is a major player in posture and breathing. It makes sense, then, that by training for strength, those muscles get built by proxy.
The primary reason for weightlifting injury is poor form. Poor form comes from using more weight than you can handle, and trying to execute exercises without proper cues/form.
These exercises-presses, squats, deadlifts, rows-mimic what our bodies were designed to do. Furthermore, all exercises stem from these basic movement patterns that have functional places in our daily lives. They are:
- squat (sitting/standing up)
- lunge (walking up/down stairs)
- hinge (bending over and picking something up)
(Honestly, unless you’re mowing your lawn, the last three are rare outside of the gym-but they make you look great, and that’s functional, right?)
Overthinking kills progress and proper-execution.
By training these patterns, and increasing weight, your entire body gets stronger. That includes your rectus abdominis/six-pack/abs.
Focusing on these exercises not only builds you an incredibly aesthetic and functional midsection, they make the rest of your body look great as well. That’s why they’re the foundation of weight training programs.
After building a respectable amount of muscle (enough to where there was no question to whether or not “I even lifted”), I had a lot of success in cutting bodyfat through sprinting. In fact, I’d say it was sprinting that truly revealed my six-pack to me for the first time.
Fundamentally, sprinting tells your body two things:
1)Be faster (have more muscle to move you)
2)Be lighter (have less fat to slow us down)
Sprinting also engages your entire body. The stimulus a brief sprint produces on the body is impossible to replicate by any basic ab-exercise.
As the limbs pump back and forth and up and down, the torso is pulled in many directions. It is your abs that keep your body stable. They are also involved in pulling your legs up and down for the actual movement itself. Want to test what stabilization is and get a taste of just how intense sprinting can be?
Lift one foot off of the ground (I assume you’re reading this sitting down). At the same time, try to allow the rest of your body to stay as unmoved as possible. Feel your abs flex and keep you grounded? Now imagine that at maximum output. Fat melts off your body.
UNVEILING YOUR CREATION
Okay, so you’ve built all this muscle and can feel your newly minted abdominals underneath….wait a minute. Underneath what?
Bodyfat. Your six-pack doesn’t mean anything unless it’s visible. You have to strip away bodyfat and then you’re in the clear.
There are a lot of “diets” out there, but diets are dead. They don’t work. There are only calories in versus calories out, and how you arrange your macros is up to you.
You can ONLY lose body-fat by eating in a caloric deficit.
Simply put, this means eating less than you burn. Find out your maintenance calories by multiplying your bodyweight x 15.
Subtract 500 from that number, and you’ll have your new daily caloric allotment. One pound is 3,500 calories. Since all outcomes are due to the sum total of our efforts, this means that at this deficit, you will lose one pound per week.
Whether or not that is primarily fat or primarily muscle is due to your nutrition and training program.
Here is a good rule of thumb when determining how much protein to to eat: get 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Some say that should be per pound of lean bodyweight (weight after subtracting fat, known by bodyfat percentage) and some say that number should be doubled.
Everyone is right. Your body adapts, and there is evidence that proves both to be correct. What’s right for you can only be tested by you.
Build muscle, burn fat, and have a six-pack. No crunches required. Want to get started? Check out the programs & products here. Everything I write is based directly off of my own experience.
- A six-pack is the result of 1) having muscle mass and simultaneously 2)having low body-fat.
- You don’t need directly train your abs to have “abs”-focus on heavy compound lifts.
- The muscle that makes up a six-pack is functional and indicates overall athleticism.
- Losing body-fat can only be achieved through caloric deficit.
- Your results are the sum total of your habits.