Looking for those abs?

We all want them, those elusive well defined abs that we see all over our socials. The problem is most of us don’t know how to go about getting them.

As a trainer, I get asked a lot by members. Can I have more ab work in my programs so I can get abs. 

But what people don’t understand is that everyone has abs, it’s just that most people have to much fat on their stomach’s to see the abs.

First of all lets all understand that abs are nothing more than a muscle; and like all muscles we can train them to grow and get bigger.

But if you grow a muscle without reducing the fat around that muscle, all you do is increase the size of that area.

So if you have a 90cm waist and you build your ab muscles without reducing the fat that is covering them, all you do is increase the size of your waist and your pants. And I’m pretty confident that is not what you are looking for.

Before you need to worry about ab exercises, you need to look at reducing your body fat. This involves addressing lifestyle factors.

– How are you eating? Are you eating too much? Are you drinking too much?

– How are you sleeping?  

– What are your stress levels like?

Lack of sleep and high stress levels increases the hormone Cortisol which increases the amount of fat we store; particularly around the midsection. You’ll be amazed at how your body changes if you get consistent good nights sleep and learn to manage stress or better yet remove some of it from your life.

Addressing your nutrition, sleep and stress levels will help to reduce your body fat levels, but it’s important to understand that you can’t spot reduce with body fat. It comes off wherever it chooses to.

Fat reduction is a process – our body first uses intramuscular fat. This being the fat stored in your muscles. By reducing this fat the size of that area will decrease. This is where your waist circumference may reduce without you feeling firmer in the midsection.

Once the intramuscular fat is used up the body then turns to the subcutaneous fat – that’s the fat we store under our skin. And this is the type of fat that is hiding those much desired abs.

Understanding that the body must first use intramuscular fat before it starts reducing subcutaneous fat is important and can help people to understand and trust the process and practice patience when working on unveiling the abs

So when is a good time to train those abs?

If you’re exercising , chances are you are already doing ab work. Classes that involve abs will help to increase the strength and endurance of the ab muscles but will not focus on increasing the size of them.

Lifting weights? You’ll be bracing that core and strengthening those abs. You may even notice they show more after a good heavy session.

So you see, without even really trying you are already working your abs.

But to build them you ideally want to wait until your midsection is relatively tight, so you don’t just increase the size of your waist without creating definition.

Building ab muscles is just like any other muscle. They respond to progressive overload. Putting as much tension as possible on them and working to increase the stimulus will force your muscles to adapt and grow. Working in the 8-15 rep range is ideal for the muscle fibres that make up abs. Increase the stimulus by increasing sets or the time under tension. Leave at least a day between ab workouts to let them rest, recover and build.

So if you want to build those bricks in time for next summer, follow these steps below and be consistent.

  1. Lifestyle factors. Is your diet dialled in? Have you reduced or learnt to manage your stress levels?
  2. Focus on fat loss first
  3. When you’ve lost a reasonable amount of fat and your midsection is tighter then you can start to work on building those bricks, without just increasing your waist size.
  4. Be patient.  You will not do this in 12 weeks, depending on your lifestyle and your body fat levels it may take a year.  Patience and consistency are key.