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Getting visible abdominal muscles - abs, or a six-pack - is a common fitness goal for many men and some women too. But it's also a minefield of unreliable advice and disinformation. Let's look at how it's really done.

Getting a six pack.  Abs.  Cut.  Whatever you want to refer to it as, a lean body with visible abdominal musculature used to be the preserve of the very young and the very athletic.  Now, though, both men and women want to get the look.  

Why abs?

Different aspects of the body have been fetishized at different times.  Hard as it is to believe, men like John Wayne were once thought the perfect shape for an action hero.  Chest muscles and biceps were fetishized in the 80s, while earlier times aspired to chest size, working the upper back and buying manuals on how to swell the chest.  While it hasn't received as much attention as the constant and invasive gazing on the female body by popular culture, the male body has been objectified and fetishized too.  While size is a sign of dominance, though, a six-pack is more usually a sign of youth.  Without specific training only the young who are also very fit have visible abdominal muscles, and strength coaches quickly tire of explaining that 'visible abs' and 'a strong abdominal wall' are only the same thing in sports with weight categories, where every ounce of spare fat must be cut to improve weight-to-power ratios.

So by having visible abs we're trying to look younger, stronger and fitter all at the same time.  Nothing wrong with that.  

How do we go about it?

Visible abs are a result of two things: Strong abdominal muscles and low body fat.

Everyone has a 'six-pack'  

Those muscles are there on everybody, but in most of us, body fat obscures them.  Technically, abdominal muscles start to become visible when bodyfat gets down into the single figures for men.  The lower your body fat the more visible they'll be, but genetics play a part; for most of us, the kind of appearance professional bodybuilders carry onto the catwalk, where striations in the muscles are clearly visible, is possible only the way they do it: with performance enhancing drugs and obsessive training.  No-one responsible advocates those methods and I certainly don't.

While you and I and the next person all have a 'six-pack,' though, it is possible to make your abdomen look better with exercise.  That's not to remove the fat; that takes a combination of diet and full-body exercise designed to shift body fat systemically until your body fat is pretty low.  Shifting a percent or two with spot reduction methods is possible, but it's not worth concentrating on.  Making your abdominal muscles stronger, tighter and bigger is possible, though, and that's a good idea for all kinds of reasons, not least that the easiest way to look like you have a strong core is to get one.

So this article will offer some tips under two headings, fat loss and core muscular strength, to bring you closer to that rippling six-pack you want.  Stick with it and results will come, but they won't be immediate - you should expect to wait four to six weeks before there's any noticeable effect from any training program, so bear that in mind.

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