You’ve heard it said over and again – abs are made in the kitchen. You may have heard it so often that it has become cliché. However, there is simply no getting away from it – what you put in your mouth will determine what your waistline looks like. In this article, you will discover why – and, more importantly, how to get it just right.
So, what does the saying that abs are made in the kitchen really imply? Well, it really comes down to two things.
- Fix your diet
- Stop eating so much
However, that’s not that what it actually says. Strictly speaking, abs are not made in the kitchen; they are revealed in the kitchen.
Abs are made in the gym or wherever you happen to be when you exercise in the sense that it is then that you build and strengthen the muscles of the abdominal wall, just as you do any other part of your body. But, unless you get rid of the fat layer that is covering the abdominals, you will never get to see them – and that is where the kitchen part comes into the equation.
Unlike most of our other muscles groups, the abs are covered with a layer of adipose tissue that prevents us from seeing them. Adipose tissue, or fat, is simply stored energy or calories. In order to get rid of it, you need to burn more calories on a daily basis than you take in.
When you exercise you do burn calories. A 30-minute session on the treadmill at a constant speed will consume around 250 of them. That may seem pretty good going until you realize that that is about the equivalent of two mouthfuls of a Big Mac!
The reality is that you can never exercise enough to overcome a bad diet. The foods that you eat are too calorie dense and the exercise you do just doesn’t burn off enough energy.
The only realistic way to get rid of that fat that is sitting around your stomach is to reduce the number of calories that you consume. If you are burning off 2500 calories per day but only taking in 2000 calories, then you have created a daily deficit of 500 calories.
Over the period of a week that equates to 3,500 extra calories that your body has had to burn off in order to meet your daily energy needs. With one pound of fat containing 3,500 calories, you should lose a pound of fat over the course of that week.
The other factor to consider is the types of foods that you choose to eat. The most effective long-term weight loss strategy involves high proteins, medium healthy fats, and low carbohydrates.
Protein is great because it provides the building blocks of muscle (amino acids) while also delivering a feeling of fullness that prevents us from snacking and over-eating. Healthy fats, such as nuts and macadamia oil, promote fat storage, muscle growth, and mental sharpness.
Meanwhile, processed, sugar-laden carbs do the opposite. They make you lethargic, lazy and obese. By restricting yourself to fibrous carbs and those derived from fresh fruit, you will go a long way to combating the belly bulge.
Creating a caloric deficit over a sustained period of time will definitely help you to get rid of the spare tire that is sitting around your waist. But does that mean that you will be left with a clearly defined set of six-pack abs?
Of course not.
The abdominals are a muscle group just like any other. If they are regularly trained the right way they will respond. If not, they won’t. Just as you wouldn’t expect a person with too much fat on their thigh to suddenly have thickly muscled, rippled and striation bearing quads after losing the excess weight, so it is ridiculous to expect anyone to lose fat from their middle to reveal washboard abs unless they have been training hard to achieve that result.
For the untrained person, losing the weight will make then skinnier, not more muscularly defined. If you want to end up with defined abdominal muscles, you will have to train for them. But, until and unless you can bring your body fat level down to somewhere in the 11-13% body fat level, you will never see your abdominal muscles.
The key area to train for ab development is known as the rectus abdominus. This is the muscle that gives that impressive six-pack result that we are familiar with (an envious of). But to really bring an impressive looking mid-section you need to also be training the intercostals and the external obliques. So, what sort of training should you do to most effectively target these areas?
Training for a Six Pack
In order to train to bring out impressive abdominal development, you have got to train the abs through all of the ranges of movement. But you don’t just want your abs to look good – they also need to be functional and athletic.
Your abdominals need to carry out a number of different roles. As a key component of your core, they are at the center of nearly every movement that your body makes. As a result, they have to be strong, provide endurance, have the ability to accelerate, provide anti-rotational control and stability and provide reactive strength.
Let’s consider these aspects of ab training one at a time:
Training for Ab Strength
Training for abdominal strength involves doing some variation of weighted ab exercise. There is a false perception out there that any weighted ab exercise will result in your abdominals becoming blocky and thick. The truth is that your abs do not really have a great deal of hypertrophy potential. In addition, if you are able to bring them out slightly, you will end up with a more defined six pack once you get rid of the body fat that is covering them.
A great exercise to train for ab strength is called the Otis Up. To do it lie on the floor with a dumbbell in one hand positioned directly over your chest. Choose a weight in the 20 to 30-pound range. Your goal on this exercise is bringing your torso up to about a 45-degree angle from the floor without using momentum and solely by contracting the core to come up. Keep your arm and the dumbbell in line with your body as you go up and down. Aim to do 8-10 reps on each arm with this move.
Training for Ab Endurance and Anti Rotational Stability
The Bar Walk is a great exercise to develop the intercostals and exterior obliques while also providing anti-rotational stability. It will make you stronger on all of your other weight training lifts and will enhance your overbalance and proprioception.
Hold an unweighted Olympic bar overhead. Now begin to take short steps forward allowing the momentum of the bar to move it side to side as you go. Your job is to use the contractile strength of your core to prevent the bar from moving more than an inch or two with each forward step.
To develop resilience in your abs, do the Medicine Ball Throw. Stand a few feet away from a wall with a medicine ball held at the level of your waist and to one side. Now throw the ball against the wall as hard as you can. As the ball comes back to you, your goal is to catch it and move into the next throw while preventing the backward rotation that naturally results from the momentum generated. This will require key abdominal activation.
ECCENTRIC LEG RAISE
The Eccentric Leg Raise is a tough exercise that allows you to hit the often-neglected lower abdominals. This is also a great exercise for building abdominal endurance. To do this move, you will need to grab hold of a pull-up bar with an overhand grip. Without allowing momentum to swing your body, bring your legs up so that they are at the level of your chin. You should be lifting from the pelvis with core engagement, not just the legs.
Now concentrate on the lowering part of the exercise. Try to take 3-4 seconds to lower back to the starting position.
Another great move to target the lower abs and build endurance is the Wall Plank. You do this by getting into a traditional plank position, but instead of having your feet on the ground, you plant then about 12 inches up the side of a wall. Hold this position for as long as you can.
For total ab development, you also need to train for reactive abdominal strength. This is the ability to absorb and recover from abdominal pressure. A great exercise to do this is the Alphabet Plank on a fitness ball. This exercise makes use of the instability of the fitness ball to totally engage every area of the abs and core.
To perform the Alphabet Plank, place a fitness ball in front of you and position yourself so that your feet are planted on the floor with your body in a straight line and your elbows resting on the ball with hands clasped together. Your task now is to use your elbows and forearms to go through all the intricate motions that spell out the 26 letters of the alphabet. By the time you get to ‘Z’, your abs will be burning.
The Bottom Line
Abs are not made in the kitchen. They are made in the gym – but they are revealed in the kitchen. It is the combination of sensible reduced calorie eating and total abdominal developing exercises that will bring out the six-pack that you desire.
To get rid of the bodyfat that is hiding your abdominal development you should reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories each day. Rather than consuming six larger meals, eat five or six smaller ones. Each of those meals should contain a lean source of protein (4-6 oz) along with a quality source of healthy fats (such as walnuts or avocado).
As far as carbs go, stay away from all processed forms. Stick with fibrous vegetables and fruits. Your macronutrient ratio should be 65% protein, 25% fat and 10% carbohydrate.
Your ab training workouts should be done four time per week. Here is a routine for total ab development based on the exercises we have discussed in this article.
Sets / Reps
3 x 10 (each side)
3 x 10 steps
Eccentric Leg Raise
3 x 10
1 x as long as possible
1 x alphabet
Getting down to 11-13% bodyfat takes a great deal of focus, consistency and hard work. That’s why so few people have visible abs. In this article you’ve been shown exactly what to do to get them – the application is now over to you!