Get a 6 After 35 Part 1
Getting a six pack is one of the Holy Grails for many clients. This is especially true for clients who have already lost some weight, and now want to take the next step. It is a quest I am only too happy to help with, because most people at this stage have already made good progress and proven they have great motivation. Very importantly – if I have done my job properly – they have built a great foundation of knowledge, skills and attitude towards being ALIVE that makes this next level a logical step.
First, let me be clear. When I say “six pack”, I don’t mean this…
No rather I mean this:
Why a Six Pack?
A nice, trim waist has always been a marker for health and conditioning. Aesthetically, it’s where the eyes are drawn to because it’s the natural connection between upper and lower body. Clinically, fat accumulation in the belly is an indicator of the amount of visceral fat you have, which is the dangerous type of fat that wraps around your internal organs.
When you’re over 30 and heading to 35, metabolism can really slow down, and few things signal “getting’ old” or “over the hill” like an overflowing waistband. So for many clients, training and eating to actually be able to see a waist is a remarkable feat, especially in this age of sedentary lifestyles and predominantly chairbound work.
Once you’re there, the next level up is a six pack.
A chiseled midsection goes beyond just having a waist. It’s not enough to have low body fat. You must also develop abdominal muscles so that they pop out, just like any other well-developed muscle does, shapely and rounded. In other words, the demands in training and eating go up a notch. Or five.
It’s the difference between getting a B and an A, or an A and an A+.
Let’s Get Real
Let me take a minute to reassure you about what we’re not trying to achieve here: a bodybuilder’s turtleshell abdominals:
The reason is simple.
We’re real people.
AA35 is about real people, real professionals with real responsibilities of work, business and family. We don’t have the luxury of training and resting full time like bodybuilders, personal trainers and fitness models do. Many intense training methods they use are unsuitable and unsafe when you’re less fit, or if you have a condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. Most bodybuilders are on steroids which help them build muscle fast AND recover quickly. The cost? Putting an unnatural substance in the body with many side effects. That’s definitely not the health tradeoff anyone who wants to a full, natural Life could accept.
There’s more. In order to get very low percentage bodyfat, you not only need drugs, you must be super strict with your food intake. That doesn’t work when you’re a working professional or family member who doesn’t want to alienate others socially by being too extreme and expecting them to ‘understand’.
Finally, many simply find it ugly. In addition, getting such low body fat for women means losing breast tissue, and risking amenhorrea, and that is not something any of the women I work with want.
He Who Has a Strong Enough Why…
Okay, so we’ve established we don’t want a turtleshell, just a nicely delineated six pack. That being said, it’s not going to be easy.
In fact it’s probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It requires discipline, time management, and an internal motivation to keep you going when things get tough.
“He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
You need to really decide for YOURSELF why you want it. It has to be more than just for showing off. Most people will never know if you have a six pack. If you were reasonably trim with a waist, anything beyond that will often ever be known by just person – YOU.
3 Pillars to a 6 Pack
Think of getting a 6 pack as getting to a new pinnacle in your goals. That’s represented by the roof of the house in this diagram.
A six pack is supported by a platform of two components.
Component 1: Lose fat – You need low body fat so you can see your abdominal muscles. Many people ask me: do sit ups help you get a six pack? My answer: yes, but it doesn’t help if that six pack is hidden under a sea of fat.
Component 2: Build muscle – if you just lose fat, you would get a waist, but nothing else to show for it. In order to have a six pack, you need to build not just the muscles making up the six pack (the rectus abdominis), but the muscles surrounding it as well (the obliques), providing a nice frame to your six pack stack. This ‘boundary’ is drawn in black in the picture below.
Supporting the platform of losing fat and building muscle are 3 pillars.
Let’s get into them.
Pillar 1: Proper Exercise
I believe in designing training programs that are real for each person, depending on fitness level, available time, personal preferences, and other unique considerations. But there are some general principles that hold true for everybody.
Sadly no, there are no ‘six pack shortcuts’ invented by Chinese scientists in a secret lab somewhere.
But there are creative, scientific, and interesting ways of exercising that give you the most bang for your buck in terms of time and enjoyment.
There are three main categories of exercise you will do:
Cardio – There’s no way to spot reduce your abs in any meaningful way. So you have to do cardio. Don’t let anyone kid you with claims of after burn from weights making cardio useless. Don’t buy into new-fangled training methods or fancy vibrating platforms. To remove fat you will need to accumulate amount of calories burnt, and for most people it will have to be with cardio.
Once we’ve built up a basic foundation, we can try many different options such as HIT, fartlek training, burst training, and circuit training.
Resistance – Resistance exercise for the whole body will help with burning some calories, not just during but a little time after each session. But I especially like their role in maintaining strength and muscle mass during this tough time of cardio and dieting. They may also help keep your metabolism from slowing too much from the dietary changes you’ll be making.
There are a variety of choices: bodyweight calisthenics, elastic band training, weights and machines are just some equipment you can use for this.
Ab/ Lower Back/ Core Exercises – Here’s where you target the midsection. You won’t just be building the ab muscles, you’ll also be working your lower back and core muscles in concert. That will give you not just the six pack, but a midsection that is healthy and injury free.
If you don’t train correctly, know just the plain old sit up and crunch, OR swing to the other extreme of doing crazy, exotic exercises that are unsafe, you won’t get to your six pack goal.
You must use the right exercises to target the different components of the 6 pack area.
That’s it for now. Next time, we’ll talk about the remaining two pillars: nutrition and rest!