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Posted by wmagnus On November - 9 - 2009

Anyone who has ever watched late night TV or wandered the lesser known channels of their cable or satellite TV system has seen them. Countless infomercials touting the latest snazzy machine that promises ripped abs in only minutes a day, many without ever having to perform a traditional abdominal exercise. Amazing.

Fitness videos abound as well, from dance ab programs to promises of easy yoga. All of these have the same promise: shredded abs. Too good to be true? You bet.I’ve said before that fitness is a journey. If shredded abs are the goal then the journey can head ab-ward. But that takes time and dedication.

Every home exercise routine that I have ever reviewed has had an ab focus either centrally or as an add on. Take a look at the DVD reviews on this site. They all have ab videos grafted on. Why? Everybody wants a ripped six pack. Not everybody can get one, though.

Why not? It’s pretty simple, really. A visible six pack requires a lower level of body fat that most home exercisers or even most athletes will never realistically achieve, or frankly even want to achieve.

The American Council on Exercise uses the following categories based on percentage of body fat:

Women Men
Essential fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32% or more 26% or more

Why is this important? For men shredded abs don’t really start to appear until body fat drops under 10%. Sure abs might be visible with body fat between 10% and 15% but we’re still looking at a body fat percentage far below where most people looking for weight loss and fitness are are willing to go.

No matter how nice it would be, spot reduction simply doesn’t work. The fat has to be lost overall to reveal those abs no matter how much time on the Ab Seat or Abba-dabba or Ab-Rack or how many crunches on might do.

Rock hard abs are comparatively easy. Those can come through lots of crunches and floor routines, targeted weight lifting, yoga, kickboxing or dance based routines. From rock hard abs comes the shredded six pack, albeit slowly. Keep pushing and over time as the fat comes off small shadows will begin to appear, eventually with diligence that six pack will peek out from behind the disappearing veil of fat.

His Take: I’m a decade into regular fitness and constantly changing routines and ratcheting up the intensity. It wasn’t always like this. I was happy just to keep the weight off and joked about wanting to one day have that six pack. The last year, it’s become a goal. It’s still a ways off. At 11% body fat, those shadows appear in the mirror. I look pretty good and at this point nobody believes I was ever fat. I still don’t have the shredded six pack. I might never get there but I’ll keep trying. I also haven’t spent money on any crazy ab machines.

Her Take: Every fitness expert and personal trainer will tell you that spot reducing won’t work. Sure you can enlarge and define muscles with targeted exercises, but it still won’t show if those muscles are covered in fat. So why does every workout have a special ab routine? Because it’s important to have strength in your core: the muscles not only of your abs, but also of your lower back. Strong arms and strong legs without a strong core is like having a car with a big engine and no transmission. Luckily,  comprehensive workouts will get into your core if you pay attention. For example, holding a good flat plank during push-ups or using your abs to lift your legs during high-knee or kicking exercises will work the core in a manner that balances with your other activities. But the 6 pack? That takes more than just exercise; it requires a lifestyle. For the record, that’s me in the side banner. You can see my obliques, but the 6 pack is lacking.

One Response to “Abdication”

  1. The ONLY solution to consistently lose your abdominal fat and keep it off for good is to combine a sound nutritious diet full of unprocessed natural foods with a properly designed strategic exercise program that stimulates the necessary hormonal and metabolic response within your body. Both your food intake as well as your training program are important if you are to get this right.