Once upon a time, I had access to data on typical gym goals for new gym members. One of the top three goals was to have a six pack. I think it was number two in the list.
It’s great that people set goals. Goals are personal; they should represent only the purest sense of what matters to the setter.
That said, in a world where most adults carry a few extra pounds, it’s as easy to understand the motivation behind the six pack goal as it is the level of frustration with their results.
For someone who is just joining a gym, wanting a six pack is like a 16-year-old getting his license in order to drive LeMans. Sure, it happens, but not that same year.
Besides setting unrealistic goals, there may be other reasons you are unable to achieve coveted six pack. You may be doing the wrong exercises, missing the abs altogether or it may be your intake.
You’re Doing Crunches
For the record, there are no bad exercises. That said, nothing will frustrate you faster than doing crunches until the cows come home.
Do ‘em fast, do ‘em slow, it doesn’t matter. Doing crunches is only going to engage the six pack muscles. It’s not going to make them break through the wall of fat between the muscle and your skin. We’ll come back to that in a second.
What’s worse, the time you’re wasting on crunches is time spent away from exercises that would help you more. Burpees destroy crunches in calorie burn.
The perception for many crunchers is that they are localizing their fat burn because they feel burning in that area. This is not scientifically correct, despite what infomercials sell you.
Your body distributes body fat based on your genetic code, like the way men lose hair through pattern baldness. You can’t burn belly fat by crunching; the body doesn’t work that way.
You’re Training Your Hip Flexors
Believe it or not, there is something even worse for your body and goals than doing crunches. It’s doing crunches incorrectly.
Many crunchers, in an efforts to really feel the burn, engage their hip flexors, not their abs. The two muscle (groups) work together to help us sit up, but they are connected to our skeletons in very different ways.
Tightening your hip flexors is not only an inefficient way to burn calories, it may create pressure on your lower back, causing you to eventually rupture a disc. Then you will be very inactive.
Nothing kills fitness goals faster than an injury, especially a serious one.
If, despite reading this you still insist on crunching, then understand: you should be bending across your belly button, not your hips.
You’re Eating Too Much
Here comes the love…
When I say it may be your intake, I mean it is your intake. The fitness industry is famous for sayings like “abs are made in the kitchen,” and “you can’t outrun a bad diet,” because there is truth in these adages.
Other than the genetic freaks of the world, the rest of us have to manage our intake. It’s an everyday habit. We also understand that no amount of any exercise will overpower a sloppy intake.
The simple math is calories. Despite what diet guru’s and trendy nutrition advisors would have you believe, this is science law.
Eat more calories than your body can use will make it store the extra calories as fat. Eating less than you burn will force your body to use the stored fat as fuel.
You may not find counting calories to be the best answer for lowering your intake, but understand that no matter how you arrive, it will always come down to the calorie equation.
Rather than bite off more than you can chew, start with performance-based goals. Try to first get some good habits in place, ones that you execute like brushing your teeth or putting on pants before leaving the house.
Consider your fitness goals more like lab work that you will always be tweaking, instead of as some test for which you need to cram. This way, you will stay more invested in the everyday process of your health.
One day, you will look up and find you’ve achieved fitness goals you weren’t even aiming for, like six pack abs. Maybe you’ll even drive in the Le Mans.