While your chances of sporting a fat-free belly and a sleek set of abs largely hinges on the foods that pass your lips, the time you spend in the gym & how you use it shouldn’t be underestimated. You can supercharge your results, if you do the right thing. Below we’ve assembled 5 golden rules for success. Follow them and you’ll hit the gym fresh and energized, train smart and reap the maximum benefits from every workout – guaranteed!
BECOME A CARDIO-KING!
Regular cardio training (swimming, skipping, cycling, running, rowing – whatever your mode of choice) plays a critical role in stripping away the fat that keep your abs in hiding, and yet most people go about it in entirely the wrong way. The solution starts with ditching the mentality that you need to do more long, boring cardio to reveal your abs. You don’t! Instead, save time and lose more fat by revamping your existing cardio routine with a belly-busting bout of interval training.
HERE’S WHY IT WORKS: Unlike steady-state exercise (think a 5km jog), interval training calls for you to slash your total training time and dial up the intensity on your cardio with short-sharp bursts of activity interspersed with periods of recovery. Here’s an example: 30sec max sprint effort, 1 minute walk (repeat x 10). The benefits of this high-to-low intensity technique allows you to burn more calories faster while spending (much) less time in the gym.
As an added bonus, this turbo-charged training style unleashes a bout of extended post oxygen consumption (EPOC) where your heart rate and metabolism remain elevated long after you’ve stopped exercising. THE RESULT? You’ll continue to burn calories while you chill out!
As a final payoff, interval training actively strengthens your heart & lungs which helps to combat sensations of breathlessness and fatigue. GET MOVING! Find an activity you enjoy, apply the principles (go hard then ease back for a minute or two, repeat) 3 times a week and start watching your gut melt and your abs take shape!
WITH ABS, LESS IS MORE
With the tempting thought of sporting a washboard-waistline sooner, many people fall into the trap of working their abs each time they set foot in the gym. How many times have you seen regular gym-goer’s performing crunches day-in-day-out with no real results? It’s quite common.
THE REALITY? Instead of turbo-charging your midsection make over, this over-zealous attitude can sabotage your belly-busting efforts and lead to a permanent state of over-training (mental/physical burnout) and decreased six-pack definition.
The key to getting a six pack (and keeping it) is to think of your abs as any other muscle group which respond best when given sufficient time to rest and recover. As a rule of thumb, aim to leave a minimum 48hr recovery window between training the same body part. THE PAYOFF? You’ll feel fresher and hit the gym harder.
UNLEASH YOUR ABS WITH TOTAL-BODY MOVES!
Isolation exercises (which work only one muscle/muscle group) such as the ab-crunch, are great for adding eye-catching definition but they fall short when it comes to their ability to torch the fat that keep your abs in hiding. Instead, to accelerate total-body fat loss and draw maximum benefit from each of your workouts, your focus should be on performing large, multi-muscle moves (known as compound exercises) that work the large, muscular areas of your body like your chest, legs and back.
The science behind this strategy lies in the amazing ability of muscle tissue to supercharge your fat burning motor (metabolism). Your number one rule heading into the gym should be to engage as much of this fat-fighting tissue as possible. Think of it this way, by ‘bringing online’ more muscle with each exercise, you’ll transform your body into a fat burning furnace where your metabolism is cranked up and continues to run in high gear, all day, every day. THE RESULT? A body which incinerates belly fat on autopilot.
Better yet, a workout based around compound, total-body exercises is a faster paced method than the ineffective ‘isolation moves’ routine traditionally used to manage your middle. THE PAYOFF? You’ll shave precious minutes off your workout while working your muscles with maximum efficiency.
Largely considered to be the king of all compound exercises is the squat which recruits several large muscle groups of the lower body and the abdominal core. Other great multi-muscle moves include the lunge, shoulder press, step-up, push-up, dead-lift, lateral pull-down and dumbbell chest press. For quick results, look to make these exercises a regular staple of your exercise arsenal.
BUILD A ROCK-SOLID CORE!
You wouldn’t build a house without first laying a steadfast foundation – the same is true of building a better body without first dedicating some time to strengthening your core. While the ab-crunch is a great way to define a beach-ready six-pack once your belly is fat-free, it doesn’t reach the core ‘stabilizer’ muscles that lie deep within your abdomen that prove critical in keeping you upright and warding off injury.
A CLOSER LOOK AT YOUR AB’S: The abdominals are multi-layered and go beyond the outermost visible six-pack region that most people focus on. In reality, the abdominal core forms a wall of five interlocking muscles (internal/external oblique’s, rectus and transverse abdominis and the pyramidalis) which work in tandem – flexing, stretching & twisting during all exercises.
For this reason, look to perform exercises which actively engage your entire core and work the muscles closest to the spine to form the basis of your routine. Great exercise examples include the dead-lift, the squat and variations of the plank. The payoff for time devoted to strengthening these key stabiliser muscles will not only enhance your posture and lifting technique, but provide an unshakeable foundation for your six-pack and the rest of your body to grow back stronger, leaner and injury-free.
BOOST YOUR BALANCE SKILLS!
You might think, what has this got to do with losing belly fat and getting abs? Well quite a lot, actually. One of the most effective exercise techniques for fast abs involves purposely placing your body into a position that decreases its natural stability. This forces your entire core into overdrive to counteract unstable movements and maintain your center of balance.
GET EQUIPPED: The use of Swiss-balls, Bosu-balls and wobble-boards all provide ideal surfaces of instability for you to work with and provide a broad variety of unique exercises that vary in difficulty for you to practice. Great examples include basic front and side Swiss-ball crunches, bosu-squats/lunges, Swiss-ball Russian twists and Swiss-ball roll-outs.
To make any of the ‘balance moves’ you already do more challenging try holding a light plate, dumbbell or medicine ball throughout the movement for added levels of resistance. Given that muscle tissue will only grow when an overloading stimulus is placed upon it, this introduction of weighted abdominal work is a great way to fuel muscle growth and craft deep and shapely contours through your middle.
BURN BELLY FAT SITTING DOWN!
No matter your size or fitness level, a short stint on a rowing machine can help you get fit, live longer and burn the fat covering your abs – all while sitting down! Unlike most other types of cardio activity, like jogging, rowing provides a total-body workout. Everything from your quadriceps right up to your forearms are working here and as discussed above, that’s great news for fast and effective fat loss. Better yet, your size poses no hindrance on the rower. In fact, the bigger and stronger you are, the faster you’ll row and the more fat you’ll burn! So, while your working on speed, you’re also getting a workout that’s going to incinerate belly fat and increase lean muscle mass – another potent fat burner. Any rowing-type exercise is great but for fast results look to alternate short vigorous bursts of rowing (15 seconds) with ‘active recovery’ periods of slow/steady rowing (45 seconds). Repeat for 20-30 minutes.
DON’T BE A COUCH POTATO!
This is the bottom line when it comes to stripping away belly fat. It’s great if you’re committed to working out 3 days a week, but if you’re not getting regularly active for at least 30 minutes a day, you’re not doing yourself (or your belly) any favours. Any activity is good activity and contributes to your daily calorie burn, so get moving! Getting up and out of the house is always good, but ditch the car (unless you’re using to get to the park or beach). Your mindset should be one where you’re always looking to take advantage of any and all opportunities to get active, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. These small things can quickly add up to measurable changes, so be creative and think what you can do!