"No matter how hard I work, I just can’t get my abs to show!”

Perhaps the most common frustration amongst everyday exercisers is the seemingly impossible quest for washboard abs. Whether male or female, a person may have a relatively “flat tummy”, but they just don’t see any definition. Where is that darn six-pack?!! And before you quip that “it’s hiding behind the fridge”, do be prepared to contend with the absolute reality that ABS DO, IN FACT, SHOW UP IN THE KITCHEN. There’s no way around it. But before we elaborate, let’s first put to rest some foolish, but mainstream midsection myths.

  1. MYTH #1- MY ABS Just Aren’t the Six-Pack Type. Hmmm...I suppose your biceps aren’t the bicep-type, either?? This is a bogus notion, and you shouldn’t adopt it just because you’re afraid you won’t get results. When you see somebody else’s super-shredded stomach, it’s easy to assume it’s way too difficult, or that they must have better genetics. They probably don’t, and it doesn’t have to be. If you’re sitting on the couch eating potato chips, it may seem impossible (in which case it would be), but change your actions and you’ll change your results. It’s not EASY but it’s relatively simple. You just have to know what to do and want it bad enough to do it.
  2. MYTH #2- I Need to Run off my Belly Fat. Nope. Sorry, not going to happen. Running and fat loss are pretty much opposed. Take it from this has-been runner turned pro body- builder. At twenty pounds heavier than I was when I was marathoning, I am FAR MORE lean and ripped now. Steady-state cardio kills more muscle than fat. That said, I’m not against running and cardio in general, but if it’s definition you’re after, you won’t find it on the treadmill or in your aerobics class. This is the most difficult mindset for exercisers to change, but it couldn’t be more critical: to cut fat, you have to cut back on your extended runs and hours of steady cardio. The choice is yours.
  3. MYTH #3- Increased crunch count is an effective solution. More crunches do not equal more definition. I will say it again. MORE CRUNCHES DO NOT EQUAL MORE DEFINITION. Crunches isolate only a part of the abdominal complex, and doing more of them (and this goes for any other muscle group) WILL NOT spot reduce fat in that area. Furthermore, ridiculous amounts of crunch-work can be straining for the low back, especially if done improperly. Remember, your abs are more than just lines on your tummy. A well-conditioned midsection comes from strategic use of core control— full-body exercises that work the stabilization muscles. Announcement to the only-crunchers: it’s ABSolutely time for more hard-core strategies. (expert puns intended!)

So where does all this de-bunking leave the abs-seeker who is down but not yet defeated? First, come to grips with reality: midsection definition is about one thing, and one thing only- body fat percentage! If your body fat is low enough, your abs will make an appearance. If it’s not, they won’t. Period. You can’t out-exercise a poor diet, ever. BUT!!! Here’s the most important piece of advice you haven’t yet been told... sometimes even a “healthy” diet, and consistent exercise aren’t enough. [Gasp! What?] This is especially critical information for those who eat healthy, exercise often, and don’t see results. No, nothing’s wrong with you, but something IS wrong with your regimen.

Understand this: “eating healthy” does not insure that your fitness activities are properly supported, and improperly paired nutrition & exercise habits often result in wasted effort.

Abs are about proper exercises paired with appropriate nutrition. Low body fat, and fat burning is all about metabolic (energy) efficiency. If your diet (healthy or not) does not pair well with your exercise regimen (ideally a strategic one), you will become metabolically inefficient, and consequently will struggle to burn fat.

My encouragement to you is this... you CAN have the abs (or body) that you want to have! But you MUST be informed and intentional about selecting a well-paired food & fitness plan that are designed to move you toward your specific goal. You work far to hard and diligently to arbitrarily select a healthy meal plan from a magazine and pair it randomly with whatever fitness activity you choose. Get advice, think it through, and execute. Confidence that your efforts are producing results is the best and only place to work from! If this resonates, and you would like more guidance on ab-specific food & fitness strategies, make sure you subscribe and follow our upcoming installments on Ab-Happy Eating and Hard-Core Hacks for everyday workout.

For expert tips on developing a strong core, and ideas for supportive, healthy habits, follow us @theabscompany and @darcydefrees