Q: Hi, I need answers on how to get a six pack without any equipment or protein shakes or stuff like that, I’m already in great shape, I’m slim, and exercise daily, like running and push ups, I’ve tried simple sit ups daily but I never see results, if you could help me out that be great. Thanks. – Austin P.
A: Good for you for staying in such great shape, Austin! It sounds like in order to get that chiseled stomach you want, you’re ready to kick it up a notch.
What’s at the Core of Your Core Workout?
Your daily exercise—cardio and strength training—are a great combination for staying slim and strong. But while they may give you a flat stomach, they probably won’t deliver washboard abs (which you’ve probably noticed). You need to incorporate some exercises that target your entire abdominal region. Luckily, you can do this without all the bells and whistles—or equipment and protein shakes—which is exactly what you’re looking for.
COMPOUND EXERCISES. Sit-ups and crunches can be very effective ways to tone your ab muscles; but remember, these are isolated movements. Compound movements, on the other hand, will work the entire ab area. After all, you want a six pack, not a two pack! Your ab region includes these muscle groups: internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominals and transverse abdominals. Try to do exercises that work as many of them as possible.
If you’re already doing push-ups, you should be getting a decent ab workout from that, as long as you’re keeping your core engaged (see below). A similar, compound exercise is planks. You can also trade your sit-ups for bicycle maneuver, which works your upper and lower abdominals. Click here for descriptions of both.
PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD. In addition to working several muscle groups at once, your workouts should vary and progress. The body adapts (and “plateaus”) if you don’t change things up and continue pushing yourself to new limits. The only way to build muscle is to build intensity, demanding a little more from your body each time you work out. Add resistance or repetitions to your ab workout—as much as you can add, while still maintaining strength and proper form.
WATCH YOUR POSTURE. Speaking of form, remember to stay conscious of your posture whenever you’re doing ab work. Always keep your abs contracted, or “engaged,” and keep your back straight. This will enhance your workouts and prevent injury and soreness. In fact, you should be keeping your abs tight 24/7! Running? Lifting dumbbells? Making a sandwich? Engage your core, and you’ll see results.
What to Do When You’re Not Working Out
Now that you’ve added more core work to your fitness routine, let’s look at a few other things that will help you define those ab muscles.
Hungry? Well, that’s good! Because you need to feed your abdominal muscles if you want them to grow. Protein is a great way to fuel muscle recovery and growth after a workout. It sounds like you aren’t interested in protein shakes, so you can pig out on other great sources of protein: meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, legumes and soy milk are just a few.
For those who like piling on the protein in shake form, protein powders—whey protein, soy protein, or a shake that combines both—are excellent for building muscle. Whip up a protein shake with skim or soy milk for even more protein.
Of course, you need to eat more than protein for muscle mass: a well-rounded diet with lots of variety and whole foods is the ticket to optimal health.
Thirsty? Even better! Make sure you’re drinking tons of water throughout the day, and stay hydrated during and after your workouts. Dehydration can cause fatigue, dizziness and muscle cramps. Find out why NoMoreBacon’s Ryan Sullivan says H20 is all the rage!
Tired? Puff up your pillows and make sure you get plenty of sleep. Not only is it critical in your teenage years, but everyone trying to build muscle needs to get ample rest. After all, it’s post workout, and primarily when you’re catching ZZZs, that your body builds muscle.
Finally, a few words of wisdom (or consolation): Not everyone can get a six pack, no matter how hard they work their abs. Some people just aren’t built that way. Younger people can struggle to build muscle until they hit puberty, and women have a harder time bulking up than men. Our genes and hormones have a lot to do with it. So if you’ve tried everything and still don’t have chiseled abs, don’t push your body past what it can handle, and don’t resort to steroids. You’re still building muscle, even if you don’t get a body builder’s ab definition.
Core strength should be the real goal. Keep at it, and make your workout routine unshakable with this great pointer from IdealShape.