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. –
12 exercises, 12 reps. You pick your workout time [20 min, 30 min, 40 min]. Do as many rounds as you can in that time frame.
(1) DB Side Lunge with Crane Twist [left]
(2) DB Side Lunge with Crane Twist [right]
(3) Plank Supermans
(4) Jump Squats [option to criss-cross legs when jump to center, alternating]
(5) DB Stiff-Leg Deadlifts
(6) DB Plank & Row
(7) DB Wide Deadlift Hops
(8) Push Up Jacks
(10) Hover Ups
(11) DB Squat & Shoulder Press
(12) Squat Thrusts
(1) & (2) DB Side Lunge with Crane Twist: Hold the dumbbell [DB] at your chest and side lunge to the left. Engage your left glute & use it to lift you up to balance on your right leg with the left knee bent and lifted to 90 degrees [this is your crane]. Using your core, twist towards the left leg. Repeat for 12 reps on left side, then switch to right.
(3) Plank Supermans: Start in a plank position on hands. Tighten the abdominal wall and lift opposite arm & leg off of ground, pausing for a moment, then control lowering them back down. Alternate until you complete 12 reps. Make sure you keep the hips in alignment [not sashaying side-to-side; your plank looks the same with 4 foundation points down as when there are only 2].
(4) Jump Squats with Criss-Cross Option: Start in a squat position, toes forward, feet outside the shoulders. Hop the feet in & together, landing on balls of the feet “standing” then hop back to squat position. Criss-cross option: Same squat starting position, but when you hop the legs together & land on the balls on the feet, cross right leg in front, left leg behind [squeezing inner thighs together]. Hop back to squat & next time you hop legs in, cross left in front, right in back.
(5) Stiff-Leg Deadlift: See picture — hold a DB in each hand & hinge at the hips,reaching the butt back [you’ll feel a stretch in your hamstrings], keeping the back flat/spine long; which means keeping the core engaged & shoulder blades pulled together. Look at Regan’s spine — see how it’s one long line from his head to his butt? Perfect form. 🙂 To come up, engage the glutes & hamstrings to pull yourself back up to the standing position.
(6) DB Plank & Row: Get into a plank position holding a DB in each hand, shoulders stacked over weights/wrists. Step feet out shoulder distance [basically width of mat] and firmly engage the core. Like the plank superman, keep your hips steady [no sashaying side-to-side!] as you “row”/lift one weight off the ground, bending the elbow to 90 degrees. Control both the lift & return to start. Alternate sides.
(7) DB Wide Squat Hops: Hold one DB between both hands and set the feet about 2″ outside the shoulders on either side. Sit back into a squat [DB will be in between legs]. Hop straight up in the air as high as you can and LAND back in your squat position. Arms stay straight the whole time. Important to keep the core contracted AND never land “standing” with locked knees. When your feet come back to the ground, you’re right back into your squat.
(8) Push Up Jacks: Get into plank position, hands wide for push ups. Perform one push up [on knees or toes; if on knees, lift them back up to plank when finished]. The end of your push up returns you back to plank [where we started]. “Jack” the feet out then back in and start over with the push up. The “jack” looks just like your feet would for a standing jumping jack.
(9) Bicycles: Yeah yeah, so you “know” how to do a bicycle. Here’s our way. 🙂 Lie on your back with your legs in table top [bent 90 degrees, knees stacked over hips] and hands behind the head. Your gaze will be up to the ceiling the entire time, don’t pull on the neck & drop chin down to the chest. To bicycle, connect your back hip points & sacrum firmly into the ground & engage the space between your frontal hip bones [never let back arch or hips sway side-to-side]. Extend you right leg straight out & contract the quad, keeping back pressed into floor by keeping core engaged. Now, use the obliques to lift the right side of the upper body off the mat and twist towards left knee.Pause in the twist & hold. Return to start & repeat on other side for 12 reps total.
(10) Hover Ups: Oooo, the hover up. FYI, major corner burner, always. And especially after push up jacks & bicycles. Get ready. Lay on your back with arms & legs extended. This is a CORE exercise, so try to avoid using momentum and letting the quads & hip flexors dominate the work. You’re going to be using your abdominal wall – from top to bottom, to peel the upper & lower body off the ground, coming to balance on your sit bones in a modified boat pose [knees bent]. Sweep the arms along your side as you pull your rib cage down to your hips to get the upper body off the ground; and simultaneously engage the space between your frontal hip bones, initially pressing your sacrum towards the ground to draw the legs up & in. After you’ve paused in your boat pose, return to start the same way you came up, slow & controlled, but THIS time and from here on out. Return the head all the way to the floor, but hover the arms & legs off ground before returning to boat pose. To understand what modified boat pose [with knees bent] looks like, check out this video. 😉
(11) DB Squat & Shoulder Press: Hold DB’s hovering above your shoulders and sit back into a squat. With the weight at your shoulders, the tendency is to round the back. Engage the core & keep the spine long while chest stays open, collar bones wide. Keep the postural muscles in the back activated at all times to protect the shoulder joint. From your squat, stand up & press the weights up [all in one motion], then return weights to shoulders as you sit back into the squat again. Full range of motion squats, people.
(12) Squat Thrusts: The best way to end any set. 🙂 Hold DB’s at your side & start standing. Lower through a squat to place DB’s on the floor in front of & just outside your toes. Hop or step the feet back to plank, keeping the core strong and not letting your weight transfer back into the feet. Keep weight over the DB’s [shoulders stacked over wrists]. Then hop the feet back up to your squat position and jump up with weights at your sides, landing back in your squat, ready to repeat. Once you get the movement pattern, make it a continuous, fluid motion. Modifications: step back to plank, step forward to your squat and/or just stand at the top instead of jumping up.
ENJOY! And let us know how it goes — please post your workout time & # of rounds you got.
As fitness fanatics ourselves, Regan and I understand the desire to find workout and nutritional programming that works…wherever we are. For the last four months, we’ve been working on creating Macks Mo 2.0 — a 2 week program designed to burn fat, build muscle tone and increase your cardiovascular endurance. The workouts are all balanced and leave your body feeling stronger, totally wiped and buzzing all at the same time. The workouts are accompanied by video tutorials for each exercise, as well as detailed descriptions on the focus and purpose of each workouts.
In 14 days, you also get complete nutritional guidance – including a grocery list with all new and orginal recipes. You’ll be eating real, whole foods the entire time, giving your body the fuel it needs to “macks”-imize all the hard word you’re putting in on the exercise end.
With exercise and nutrition specifically paired together, this program will help you achieve your best fitness and body possible in a short period of time! Regan and I can both speak to you from experience, as we went through the program ourselves before its launch. As individuals, we both pride ourselves on being in good shape. Bu Macks Mo 2.0 took our fitness and body image to a new level. No matter how “good” we are with our nutrition, each and every one of us can stand to clean it up a little. And this “little” [or a lot, in some cases J ], makes a big difference – as you can see in our “after” photos. In terms of fitness, having workouts specifically designed to get you to a certain goals helps streamline your efforts and not only “macks”-imize your time, but also your results.
So, if you’ve got two weeks to fully dedicate yourself [because the efficiency of the program is only as effective as its complete execution], check it out. It can change your body, the way you approach food and quite possibly change the way you workout and see yourself, forever.
[Written July 25, 2012].
When I think of Olympic athletes, I think graceful, athletic, powerful and determined.They are constantly working to better themselves at their sport — take off that extra tenth of a second to a sprint/race, perfect their landings when bounding/jumping, increase the height/distance of their leaps & jumps and so on…
So, in honor of these amazing athletes, I want you to channel your inner athlete. When you’re doing this workout, picture your favorite Olympic athlete training in the same way — how would they move? How would they explode/land? How powerful would their core be engaged through every movement and how focused would they be on maximizing every moment to reach their full potential? You don’t have to be in a sport to train like an athlete — in fact, to me, moving every day is my sport; and one that I intend to play & improve at for the rest of my life. How do you approach your workouts?
Do this workout 3x within the next week, trying to improve your #s each time within the tabata sets. A tabata set is 20 sec of work with 10 sec rest 8x; or if you’re alternating exercises, 4/exercise.
(1) Hop on the treadmill at a 5% incline and run a steady pace @ 6-7mph for 2 min. If you’re outside, run “away” for one minute, then come back to where you’re working out (steady pace – faster than “jog”).
(2) Tabata #1 — alternate between these two exercises:
– Squat with DB Press
– Plank Chest Taps
*When you squat, keep the spine long with core engaged & weights at the shoulders. Ideally, if your flexibility & range of motion (ROM) allows, your goal is to tap elbow to knees. As you stand, push your feet into the floor and press the weights overhead into a shoulder press as you stand. When 20 sec is up, you have 10 sec to transition to a plank position. Feet should be a little wider than shoulder distance and the goal here is to not move the hips at all (i.e. lift or sway side to side). Alternate tapping right hand to left chest then left hand to right chest.
(3) Go back to the 2 min run on the treadmill as indicated in (1) or the run outside.
(4) Tabata #2 – alternate between these two exercises.
– Speed Skaters
– Triceps Push Ups
*Speed skaters = your chance to channel Apolo Ohno. 🙂 Leap to one side and land on your outside leg. Make sure to STICK the landing, landing in a single leg squat with the butt back, core engaged (braced against an imaginary punch) & spine long. As you’re landing, reach your opposite hand across towards the outside leg (so if you land on your left leg, reach right hand across). Make sure you keep the chest & gaze up, the reason you can reach the hand towards foot is because your knee & hip are bent into a squat. For the triceps push ups, do these on your knees with hands lined up like you’re going to do a plank. As you lower down, press the elbows down towards your hips, keeping shoulders away from the ears & tension out of your neck. Hug elbows in towards the midline of your body and push up from the back of your arms with core tight. Doesn’t matter how low you go — but more so that you don’t hold tension in your neck or sacrifice form for depth of the push up.
(5) Go back to the 2 min run on the treadmill as indicated in (1) or the run outside.
(6) Tabata #3 – alternate between these two exercises:
– Lunge hold with biceps curl
– High Knees
*For the lunges, alternate sides each time you get to the lunge. So, for example, start in a lunge with right leg forward & hold at the bottom while you do biceps curls. For curls, keep the elbows connected into waistline and don’t “swing” the weights. Lift through a controlled contraction of the biceps muscle. Once you’re 20 sec is up, you’d do a set of high knees. Make sure not to lean back and pull the knees up. Think more of driving heel towards butt as you lift the knees up, standing tall the entire time with core braced up. Treat the high knees like the fastest sprint you’ve ever done. Pump your arms and “run” hard. After 20 sec, next up is the biceps curl again, this time in a lunge with your left leg forward. Then high knees & back again to lunge with right leg forward. High knees, lunge with left leg forward and last high knees.
(5) For the last time, back to the 2 min run on the treadmill as indicated in (1) or the run outside.
(6) For the final thing, you have a set of building blocks push ups & bent over rows, starting at the #4 and going up to 12. Don’t be fooled by the low numbers at the beginning… 🙂
It looks like this: 4 bent over rows, 4 push ups, 5 bent over rows, 5 push ups, 6 bent over rows, 6 push ups…and so on until you’ve gotten to 12 bent over rows & 12 push ups.
*For the bent over rows, it is so so so important that you keep your spine from head to tailbone in one long line. As you fatigue, you will have the tendency to either round your upper back or arch through the low back. Keep the core as tight as you can — braced is if you’re about to be hit by a tsunami wave or get socked in the stomach by Queen Underwood (Female Olympic Boxer); yes, it needs to be THAT strong. To get in position for a bent over row, from standing, engage the core to lock the spine in its length & pull the shoulder blades down into your back pockets. Then bend the knees as you hinge at the hips and come ideally into a 90 degree angle at the hips (so that your back is flat like table. From there, use the muscles in between your shoulder blades to draw the weights towards your rib cage without arching the back!!! For push ups, your chest/belly buttom/pubic bone should all hit the ground at same time.
Workout shouldn’t take any longer than 40 minutes max max max. Your 2 minutes runs are your active recovery for the interval training done in the tabata sets. ENJOY! And embrace your inner athlete. GO USA!
Got 10 minutes? Try this core burning circuit, each pair of exercises do back-to-back, 2x through then move on to the next:
(1) 30 sec plank & 15 push ups
(2) 20/side bicycles & 12/side side plank with core rotation (from side plank with top arm extended, use core to turn chest to face towards ground, reaching arm underneath, then return to SP)
(3) 20/side mountain climbers & 15 full body roll ups
[(c) Macks Mo, LLC // 2012]
Whether aware of it or not, most individuals are on a perpetual, yo-yo diet; teetering between restrictive and binge eating, making more “exceptions” than healthy choices and always on the lookout for the next quick fix to our weight troubles. The problem with diets is that they are temporary. They don’t equip you with the tools and knowledge to create lasting, maintainable change within your body.
We are constantly flooded with books, articles, magazines, websites, advertisements and health professionals that want to tell us the newest, quickest and best way to eat. I do not claim to have the scientific knowledge or degree of a registered dietitian or nutritionist, but I do know that because of the instant gratification world we live in – where time is money, the single most important factor in creating a maintainable, healthful eating lifestyle is convenience. It’s easy to drum up motivation for 10 days, 2 weeks, a month – especially during this time of year. But what happens when that New Year’s resolution enthusiasm starts to slip? You need a plan that isn’t inconvenient, isn’t restrictive, can easily become part of your daily routine and accordingly, tastes good. A plan that doesn’t send you running to the grocery store multiple times a week, keeps you bent over the stove for hours, or requires you spending loads of money on one recipe.
To me, being healthy means being supported by an eating regime that isn’t a fad diet, but rather a lifestyle that easily fits into your everyday routine – it’s nutrition made simple, convenient and maintainable. Enter my Whitness Fitness eating plan and recipes. Through the plan, I address yourimmediate needs – allowing you to walk away with results to keep you motivated and encouraged; and your lifelong needs – supplying you with a knowledge base that creates a solid framework to guide your decisions for the rest of your life.
But I can’t promote something to you to that I haven’t done myself, right? So, in November, I set myself to creating a collection of recipes that used the same ingredients and could fit into my client’s every day routine. I paired my nutrition plan with Advocare supplements and consistently started doing the same type of workouts that I teach 5-6x/week. The results?
November 2 – 148 lbs. and 23.7% body fat
Right Leg 24.5”
Belly Button 31”
Most Recent – 143 lbs. and 21.3% body fat
Shoulders 40” (1” lost)
Arms 10.5” (1/2” lost)
Leg 22.5” (2” lost)
Belly Button 28.75” (2.25” lost)
Hips 32.5” (2.25” lost)
Butt 38.75” (1.25” lost)
That’s 9.25 total inches, 5 pounds of fat and a loss of 2.4% body fat. My body is bursting with energy and it makes me WANT to workout. If you take my classes, you already workout like I do – I teach how I like to train. 3-4 times a week, I do high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts with weights created by my husband, Regan (my boot camp classes are all HIIT). I also do barre3 3x per week and always take one day off. As you can see – pairing proper nutrition and exercise will turn your body an efficient fat-burning machine.
So the real question is… ARE YOU READY? Are you 100% willing and able to make this commitment for yourself? Because this isn’t about changing your body now, in 2 weeks, or for a month – it’s about creating lasting foundation for lifetime health. Real change, that’s maintainable – PUT MO IN, GET MO OUT.