What is the obsession with those 6-pack abs? You cannot read or search anything regarding fitness without being bombarded with advertisements claiming to have the new magical formula for acquiring flat abs. Diets, workouts, you name it. Then all the health sites are littered with photos of super fit models showing off their ab muscles. It all can get a little bit overwhelming and it has gotten to the point now that I am asked about this more than anything else. So, once and for all, we are going to address this issue and kill off the hype about it. Please forward this to all your friends so I no longer have to keep repeating it!
The formula for the six-pack
Despite all the advertising, there formula to have those abs you are dreaming of is quite simple. Starve yourself, eat extremely lean and healthy, exercise cardio, and throw in a little ab work at the end. The key to those abs is being able to see them. In order to see them, you need to get rid of pretty much all of the fat covering them and I do mean all!! It doesn’t take much abdominal exercises to get them toned. Just some daily sit ups and core work will do it. The problem is getting the fat off that is currently hiding them. The models you see in the photos are on some extreme diets and often get down around 5% body fat.
Low Body Fat Men
The good news for men is that it is possible to get down to 5% body fat a lot easier than it is for females. The bad news, is unless you are a large well-built man, you will look like a holocaust victim if you allow yourself to get that thin. Most of those models do a great deal of body building to compensate for their thin size. So, unless you are training primarily for size and bulk, you will actually look pretty sick and gaunt, if you get thin enough to show off your abs.
Low Body Fat Women
Few women are able to get down to this level of body fat to show off the ripped abs. The women that accomplish this are generally pretty extreme athletes, or fitness models who make a career of diet and exercise. Furthermore, super low body fat percentages can be unhealthy or even dangerous. Despite what is commonly thought, women need a little body fat to keep that sexy curved look. Many (not all) women who drop to this extremely low body fat end up looking squared off like a man. Thus whatever “sexy” look they were trying for was undone by going too far. It is IMPORTANT to learn the difference between having a flat tummy and a six pack. A flat tummy is a good goal for health and fitness. It is the pursuit of trying to see all the little ripples in your ab muscles that can get you in trouble.
Exercises for the Abdominals
Throw away any exercise program that is advertised for flat abs. While you are at it, throw away any exercise program that advertises helping only one muscle group or area. If you want that sexy look, you need to be thinking total body. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO SELECT WHERE YOU LOSE BODY FAT!! Your body burns fat where it wants to burn fat regardless what area of your body you are working. You need to be doing a workout series that incorporates cardio, core, and total body strength training. That way your entire body becomes more toned while at the same time you are shedding the body fat around it.
Pursue total health and forget the abs. If you begin a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise you will slowly transform your body and shed excess fat. Overtime, you will look more and more fit and shapely, while gaining more confidence and feeling better about yourself. Or you can waste your time in a futile effort to meet some “ideal” image of single part of your body that will probably end in failure and frustration. The choice is yours!!
(the following article was written by nutritionist Sarah Rowe and posted here with her permission)
How to Be Lean for Life
Your body wants to be lean. Excess weight burdens your body and causes hormonal problems. Your body would much rather be healthy, energetic, and vibrant. Unfortunately, if you try to get there too fast, it will shock your system and your body will fight you in your efforts.
Dieting tells your body food is scarce and that it needs to squeeze every calorie out of the food you eat. Because it does not know when the next meal is coming, it enters into a defensive mode and begins slowing your metabolism. This is turn catalyzes all sorts of changes in your body for the purpose of conserving energy.
People often ask me some variety of the following questions regarding weight loss:
Any approach to weight loss that has a time frame involved is most likely going to end in failure, especially in the long term. For a variety of reasons:
Understand that your weight (fat reserves) are predetermined by your body!
There is a simple formula that your body goes by that you must understand. Your body yields a predetermined/preprogrammed weight for any given combination of age, exercise, and diet. There is nothing you can do about your age, so we will focus on what you can change. When you embark on a new eating habit or exercise program, your body starts shedding weight. It is transitioning to the weight it has already preprogrammed to be for that combination of activity and diet (i.e. lifestyle). Eventually it will stabilize at the new weight. That is why you should only embark on an exercise and eating plan that you can continue. Because in order to keep your new size, you must continue to whatever plan you were on. This gets frustrating to most individuals because they incorrectly believe that they should always lose weight as long as they are on weight loss programs. (That only works on diets which are so low calorie, that they do not provide enough energy for you to live on, thus the deplete your fat reserves)
Age (X) + Activity Level (Y) + Eating Habits (Z) = Your weight.
Change one of the above variables and your weight changes also (up or down)
The only really successful way to lose weight is to pursue a healthier lifestyle and consider weight loss as a perk. When you go into something with a lifetime or long term mentality, you are much more likely to not bite off more than you can chew. You are also much more likely to succeed in the long run. Don’t compare yourself to the quick results your friends get following fad diets or hard core exercise programs. It is like comparing a get rich quick scheme vs. slowliy investing over 20 years. You are slowly becoming richer while your friends will ultimately be working at Walmart.
So What Should Your Eating Plan Be?
There are many good resources online regarding healthy eating. One of the best sources I have found are books by Dr. Ann Kulze. Regardless what book you choose, remember to start slow. Make changes that you are able to continue for the long term. I always suggest as a first step is to eliminate soft drinks from your life (including diet). These things can wreck havoc on your body. Then when that seems no longer a chore, move onto another small change. This way you are slowly changing your bad habits and eventually you will no longer desire them. It is easy to continue a plan where you no longer want the stuff you are giving up!
What Should Your Exercise Program Be?
Something that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t continue it. There is no perfect exercise program. Swimming, running, yoga, tennis, weights, pilates, dancing, cycling, hiking, walking. They all work. Just like the eating plan, start slow. If you are currently doing nothing, make a habit of walking around the block briskly each day. (Doing something daily is important) Doing it daily makes it become a habit that just gets into your head like brushing your teeth. It doesn’t have to be much, but does need to be consistant. Good beginner workout plans can be found on fitnessblender.com.
So if you just gave up sodas, and walked a little each day, you will notice in a month that you are healthier than you were before with little effort on your part. Keep progressing in this manner and you will feel much better in a year and you will have lost weight. Who cares how much! Keep pursuing health and you will keep seeing results!
Beware the Evil Lies of Age!!
Remember I said that your age affects your weight. If you continue your same lifestyle without change, your weight will not stay the same, it will increase. REMEMBER THIS!! Because I have seen many people say, “I’m doing better now than when I was younger, but I am not as thin as I was then” That may be very true! When you make improvements to your lifestyle, you are doing just that! Even when it doesn’t show. That is because had you not made those changes, you would be even heavier! Don’t let your age lie to you and tell you your efforts aren’t effective. Sometimes they are merely stopping your age from making you gain weight.
In conclusion, just remember, if you are pursuing being a healthier person, your weight over time will reflect it. If you pursue being a more active person you will also gain the same results. Think long term and amaze your friends at your next high school reunion!
I found the above question on a web forum and was horrified at some of the answers given, such as “both boys and girls should workout using the exact same exercises” or “workout videos are complete BS”.
I will start by saying that there actually is a “best” workout online…. ….It is whatever one that you enjoy and continue to do. Choosing a fitness routine is like choosing a hobby. You do it because you enjoy it and because you enjoy it, you will continue to do it. Whether you chose swimming, running, weight lifting, kayaking, ballet, hiking, yoga, or workout videos; make sure it is something you like and you will succeed in becoming “fit”.
Despite what many in the world are trying to claim, men and women are very very different. We are physically different, we a chemically different, we think different, our emotions are different, and we have different interests. So guess what, it is safe to assume that our workouts should also be different. Men are designed to produce short powerful bursts of motion, while women are designed for more sustained endured motions. (Ever notice how men gravitate to power lifting while women gravitate to yoga or ballet) Guess what… …these are entirely different exercise programs.
A lot of trainers and fitness experts are extreme athletes. They are often bodybuilders, weight lifting competitors, or cross-fit competitors. These people cannot conceive that others don’t want to follow in their footsteps and unfortunately they push or expect way too much out of anyone just wanting to be in better shape. There is a world of difference between being lean, strong, and fit and being a strength competitor. So, for those of us not trying to be the next Olympian, home workout videos are more than enough to accomplish our fitness goals. Some of these home workouts (like insanity) would challenge the best of the fitness experts.
So what are some of the best free online workouts for women: