How Do You Get “Those” 6-Pack Abs?
6-Pack Abs are perhaps the ultimate buzz word in the fitness world. The most sought after physical trait, the holy grail of fitness. And everyone wants to know the secret on how to get them. To solidify this argument, just check out the buzz over the 2013 Calvin Klein Super Bowl commercial. ABC News ran an entire piece called “Abs-olutely Fabulous! The Best Abs in the World?” Tuesday all dedicated to the advertisement. And it’s this segment that got me thinking – or rather, got the attention of my client Anne, which sparked this discussion. And from such, comes the inspiration for this blog post.
So, back to finding the answer you’re waiting for — how do you get those 6-pack abs? First, I’ll let you in on one little secret…(drum roll and spoiler alert, please). It’s not what you think and it’s ten times better…
You already have them!
Really. We all do. Anatomically, the rectus abdominis muscle’s shape IS a “6-pack” (reference the picture to the right). All the muscles you see defined on Mr. Terry above are all visible on our anatomical figure as well. Problem is — most of us just have too much extra padding over top to let the muscle show it’s true form. 😉 Not the answer you were looking for? Don’t worry – just keep reading.
If you’ve trained with Regan and I before, you’ve heard us talk about engaging the core through every movement – be it a squat, lunge, plank, crunch, sprint, bent over row, push up; literally EVERY movement. When we first start working with people, most don’t fully get what this means – both in terms of muscle activation and the limitless potential of muscular strength & development.
In the post-Super Bowl media frenzy that Matthew Terry’s ab-tastic commercial caused, everyone wanted to know his secret. His answer? Plank. You might be thinking, “What?! But there is no movement in plank. There’s no way that’s how he got all that definition!”
And so in comes our second secret to a creating a strong and defined core — the most important function of the core during movement or exercises is not to move at all. In an article written for our Macks Mo Get Mo(re) Challenge, Regan explains:
“When we exercise, we typically move at our JOINTS, including the: hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow and wrists joints. These movements allow our body to travel through space. In all exercise aside from rotation, keeping the spine completely still while our arms or legs move should be a primary focus. As an anti-mover, a stable core allows you to transfer energy and power between your upper and lower extremities safely and efficiently. In this respect, all power, quickness and even strength starts and ends with a strong core.” By stabilizing the spine against movement, the core is creating resistance for your extremities to move against and vise-versa. When a force is applied to the core (through movement of other body parts), it grows stronger – and accordingly more defined, through this resistance.
Coming full circle and back to #1 washboard abs & #2 plank, let’s experiment in your body. First take a look at the picture of your core’s anatomy (above) so you have a visual of what the muscles look like. Now, try these two exercises to train maximal core activation through compression and an isometric (non-moving, but active) contraction:
- Supine Compression: Lay flat on your back, feet on the ground under your knees. As you visualize the different layers of your core with eyes closed, press your sacrum (bony triangle at the base of your spine, inside your hips) and bottom of your rib cage into the ground, leaving the natural pocket of air underneath your spine. Take a deep breath and relax your shoulders into the floor. As you exhale, first kegel the pelvic floor up, then compress (pull in + down) through your abdominal wall – drawing the belly button towards the ground. Think of your core like a shoe’s laces and pull the two sides of the core IN like you’re lacing up the bottom to top of your shoe. Take 10 deep breaths and with every exhale, try to contract the core tighter 360 degrees around the spine. Imprint this feeling of compression into your mind.
- Moving on to plank, once you’re set, make sure the shoulders are over wrists and feet in line with hips. Create length in the body by reaching both the crown of the head and legs away from the belly button. As you do this, take a deep breath. On the exhale, press your foundation points (hands & feet) into the ground then lift “up” through the abdominal wall + postural muscles of the upper back, again compressing the core towards the spine and drawing the two sides together and in. Soften the shoulders down the back away from the ears and imagine being suspended in space just by your core – as if your arms and legs weren’t there. Hold for a count of one-one-thousand to 30. Every breath focus on getting lighter on your hands/feet and tighter through the core. Try to emulate the SAME contraction you had when you were lying on your back.
Okay, now it’s go time. How your core felt in both the supine compression exercise and plank is how your core should be engaged 100% of the time – during every exercise and throughout your day. Try it – right now. See if you can do a squat or a lunge and focus on engaging and moving from the core first. Can you feel a difference? If you do this, it means your core is working ALL the time. And this will take your fitness and body to the next level, while intensifying every workout. When you layer on movement – like a lunge, etc. to the already intense “plank” contraction of the core, you get…BINGO! The developing strength, definition and power of your abdominals. You don’t need to do 1000 crunches per day.
- Learn to stabilize through the core, practice the two exercises above until you’ve mastered the contraction without changing your posture or bringing tension to anywhere else in the body.
- Practice breathing while holding the core in these isometric contractions. Always exhale on the “effort” – the push or pull of an exercise.
- Start every exercise movement or daily activity by engaging the core: front, side and back. Move with intention. Power and initiate all movement from the core and then transfer that energy out through your extremities.
And last (you may have guessed this was coming) – you must master your nutritional habits. Like I said earlier, we all anatomically have a 6-pack. It’s the layer of fat over top that’s hiding our most coveted asset. My one rule: eat 100% real food. Food you can make in your own kitchen, not a science lab. No matter how hard or how long you exercise or what your movement of choice is, your body composition will not budge if your eating isn’t on track. 90% (or more) of how you look isn’t done in the gym, it’s that “fork to mouth” exercise that is the game-changer. I’m not talking about a diet, I’m talking about a lifestyle of eating delicious, good-for-you food that nourishes you from the inside-out.
And THAT, my friends is the winning formula –>
Take your plank with you every day in every way you can + eat 100% real food
= YOUR MACKS MO SIX-PACK ABS FORMULA.
And no, that’s not the Calvin Klein model – that’s my Regan. Un-enhanced by any photo program or color (just saying – check out the difference between the advertisement picture and the video where Matthew Terry shows his abs on camera – slightly different I’d say). These are just the results of using the said Macks Mo Formula. 🙂 And you can find yours too! If you need help, we can get you there. Shoot any questions our way: firstname.lastname@example.org or post below.
– Put Mo(re) In, Get Mo(re) Out. In your workouts, through your nutrition and into your life. –