Though we wouldn’t quibble with Patrick Bateman in the arenas of business card design, his workout needs a tweak. That washboard stomach is in spite of, rather than thanks to, a 1000-crunch-a-day regime that’s more likely to leave him with lumbar problems than a six-pack.
It’s faulty logic that sees a sit-up as the abs version of a bicep curl. It’s an understandable mistake; you curl a weight to pump your guns, so surely it’s the same if you want to get a six-pack? But that ignores two important truths: one, your core is designed to hold you upright, not flex back and forth; two, everyone has a six-pack – it’s just buried beneath your gut.
And we’ll let you in on a little secret: a six-pack is, as the name suggests, not one muscle. So it needs more than one exercise to reap results. “Some of the best six packs I’ve seen in the gym are carried by those who have not done a single crunch in their life,” says Peter Gaffney, founder of PGPT, London’s leading mobile personal training service.
Here’s how to switch up the traditional sit-up for the moves proven to deliver that six-pack – without trading in your PT for a chiropractor with this ultimate diet and exercise guide.
The Six Pack Diet
Sadly, no matter how much the dedicated attendees of ‘Abs Blast’ classes want to believe, you can’t melt fat away from specific areas. When you burn calories, your body finds fuel from everywhere. And – sorry gents – men’s bodies choose to stockpile that extra energy around the middle. Right where your six-pack should be.
That’s why if you want to burn fat and show the world your abs, a good diet is as important as exercise, if not more so. “They do say that abs are made in the kitchen for a reason,” says Sandy Macaskill, Barry’s Bootcamp co-founder and master trainer. “You could have the best abs in the business but if they’re covered by a layer of fat, nobody’s going to know about it.”
What’s in Macaskill’s fridge, then?
“I don’t believe in ‘a diet’ because something you start is by definition something you stop. Much better to make healthy choices part of your ongoing lifestyle,” she recommends. “Cut down on alcohol. Drink more water. Eat smaller portions, more often.
“A simple day could look like this: scrambled eggs first thing, midmorning protein shake, baked salmon and sweet potato salad for lunch, afternoon snack of trail mix, (and while it’s summer) barbecue some chicken and corn for supper and enjoy a glass of wine.”
That doesn’t sound too punishing now does it?
The Fat-Burning Six-Pack Workout
The most effective regime is one that focuses on total-body workouts, which burn as many calories – and as much fat – in as little time as possible.
It’s important that the exercises you choose work your core – the area from your above your hips to below your pecs – so when the fat starts clearing, solid abs start appearing. But equally that the exercises you choose tax bigger (and therefore more calorie-guzzling) muscles at the same time.
Macaskill recommends some serious running training be incorporated into your program. “Interval sprints are a fantastic way of burning fat. Aim for short periods of rest and intense bursts of high intensity. Think how start-stop traffic burns the most fuel. Same deal here.
“To carry it further – the bigger the engine, the bigger the burn. Strength training is therefore crucial. A well designed strength programme helps create a ‘furnace effect’ and keeps you burning calories for up to 24 hours. That’s where you want to be.”
The Six-Pack Circuit
For these strengthening core-focused full-body exercises you’ll need a pull-up bar, a kettlebell (a dumbbell, or any weight will do as replacement) and some floor space. Take 30 seconds rest between each move, and two minutes between circuits.
Aim to do the circuit five times over, three times a week. Can’t do that? Then complete as much as possible and work up to it. Any sweat is better than none.
With arms a little more than shoulder-width apart, hold the bar with an underhand grip. From a dead hang – that’s arms completely extended – pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Pause, then slowly lower yourself back down until you’re back in a dead hang. If your arms aren’t straight, you’re cheating.
Why it works: Chin-ups target your big back and arm muscles, which ups your calorie burn. But by engaging your core to keep your body locked in position, you also work your abs.
Pro tip: “By engaging the core your body stays nice and firm and avoids any of those unwanted swinging movements which unnecessarily tires you out,” says Gaffney.
Finding it hard to complete the reps? Don’t quit. Jump up to the top position of the move and slowly lower yourself down as slowly as possible.