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Those two phrases are probably the biggest truths you’ll ever hear from the mainstream fitness media:
“You can’t out-train a bad diet.”
Let’s face it, a six pack is what 99% of gym goers want. Even if you don’t desire a completely ripped mid section, with veins popping out around your hip flexors and obliques, or a serratus anterior so shredded it looks like you could grate cheese on it, a six pack is the gym’s holy grail.
It would make sense that to get your abs to look great, you’d do exactly what you would if you wanted big biceps, muscular legs or a thicker, wider chest.
Going by this theory, your gym time should be devoted to numerous ab exercises. While the most common ab moves everyone knows are sit ups and crunches, there are hundreds, if not thousands of others to choose from.
You have rotational exercises such as Russian twists or cable wood chops, anti-rotation moves like the side plank or Pallof presses on a cable machine or with a resistance band as well as anti-flexion exercises such as rollouts. That’s before you get to your standard flexion moves too – cable crunches, the ab crunch machine, leg raises, or knee raises and so on. When you rack your brains, you can probably think of 50 or 60 different ab moves.
The trouble is, ab training isn’t like training your other muscles.
When you hit your arms, back or lower-body with a hard weights session, your intention is to break down the muscle fibers, so they rebuild bigger and stronger. Over several months and years, the muscles get visibly bigger and your physique improves.
When it comes to ab training though, there are two issues. Firstly, the abs will only grow so much – you’re never going to get to the stage where the muscles bulge out 10 inches over the waist of your pants. Secondly, most people don’t want big abs, they want ab definition, and this is the key to a six pack.
“Okay” you may say, “but when I work my abs hard, I really feel the burn. I know I’m burning calories so I must be burning fat from my abs. Therefore ab training = six pack.”
It doesn’t quite work like that though. You are indeed burning calories by working your abs, but your body decides where you’ll lose the fat from.
The other main issue with abdominal training as a form of exercise for a six pack is that it doesn’t really burn that many calories.
Big, compound moves that work your whole body tend to be best for six pack fat loss, as they burn more calories and give your metabolism a far bigger kick. Think squats, lunges, clean and presses, deadlifts and pullups – these will do far more for your six pack than a few medicine ball twists ever will.