Welcome to ‘We Asked The Experts’, where our professional know-alls answer the questions that have been puzzling you. Today on the segment, strength coach, Stephanie Sanzo and Nike Master Trainer, Steph Bruckner, break down the common conundrum: how do I actually get a six-pack? … Got a question you want answered? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spoiler alert: doing sit-ups won’t give you a six-pack … no matter how many you do.
“Before you embark on a mission to sculpt a flatter stomach, there are a few important things you need to understand. Your stomach is shaped by two major elements: muscle and fat. Think about making a bed. Your muscle is the sheet, the first layer on the bed and the fat is the blanket which overlays the sheet to complete the bed. Before you can see the shape of the sheet (muscle) you need to first take off the blanket (fat),” explains personal trainer, Stephanie Sanzo.
“The major problem I see people make when they embark on a mission to achieve a flatter stomach is not making any dietary improvements and performing too many muscle building movements of the abdominals.”
“The major problem I see people make when they embark on a mission to achieve a flatter stomach is not making any dietary improvements and performing too many muscle building movements of the abdominals. Examples of these types of movements include excessive crunches, leg raises etc. The problem with these movements is that if you’re only working on building muscle and not losing fat surrounding the muscle, your stomach may push out even further—the last thing we want to encourage!”
Steph Bruckner agrees. She says you can crunch until the cows come home but it won’t give you visibly defined abs. “Choosing exercises that isolate your core will help strengthen your abs but not necessarily make them visible, as visibility comes down to reducing body fat with great nutrition and structured programming.”
So where do we begin? First off, the girls recommend assessing your diet. “Eating lean and clean food is always a good way to assist with keeping your body fat percentage in a healthy range,” says Bruckner. But she reminds us that this doesn’t necessarily mean restricting or cutting out food groups. If you’re unsure of how to proceed, she recommends seeking guidance from a nutrition coach.
But diet isn’t the only thing that’ll help shed that winter blanket; exercise is important too. Sanzo recommends firstly performing workouts that promote fat loss and indirectly target the abdominals (like this one, HIIT workouts or even Kayla’s BBG program). Then, when your stomach is lean, you can incorporate the more traditional abdominal exercises.
But the stomach is intricate, what exact muscles need to be targeted? “All of them! Working the muscles of the core as an integrated system is an efficient way to get your abs popping. This means choosing multi-directional/rotational movements to target and assist in their development and function,” says. Bruckner. Exercises she recommends are:
- Plank variations
- Pendulum Legs / Hanging Toes to Bar
- Hollow Body / Low Boat
“We have multiple ‘no equipment’ workouts on our Nike+ Training Club app which strengthen and tone your abs. A favourite of mine is a workout called ‘Cut to the Core’. It incorporates full body movements as well as movement that targets your abs. I finish knowing I have burnt some calories to help reduce/maintain my body fat levels and I’ve targeted my abs to keep them strong and defined!”