We all know at least one person who has perfect six-pack abs, but does absolutely nothing to get them. We watch them scarf down food, mess around at the gym, and avoid sit-ups. They have seemingly been blessed by the ab gods. “All humans have a beautiful set of washboards abs,” said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise, to Men’s Journal. “It’s just that most men’s six-packs are hidden beneath a layer of fat.”
Things like genetics, gender, and stress can all play a role in weight loss or gain, making it very difficult to offer step-by-step instructions on how to achieve the much-coveted shredded midsection. One thing, however, that can help get you started on the road to abs is seeing past myths and hearsay. It’ll help you come to the realization that it takes hard work and determination to get a perfectly sculpted stomach.
Here we break down five common myths, and dispel ab fact from fiction.
1. Exercising will cancel out a bad diet
False. Eating bad food is in no way going to help your abs, even if you’re working hard at the gym. Great abs are not made in the gym but in the kitchen, meaning it’s time to kick start a clean-eating diet that’s void of junk food. So make sure you opt for healthy, natural food, cut back on sodium intake (which reduces bloat and water retention), and take notice of your portion sizes, because it’s still possible to overindulge with healthy foods.
2. Eating carbs will hinder your six-pack
False. Men’s Fitness notes that carbs will not kill your abs, because they’re an essential nutrient that your body uses for fuel. In fact, a strict low-carb diet will reduce your ability to replenish muscle glycogen, which can make building and maintaining muscle a challenge. The majority of your carbs should come from foods such as brown rice, potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, legumes, beans, oatmeal, and vegetables. As a general rule, try not to eat more than two or three grams of carbs per pound of your body weight.
3. You must do crunches and sit-ups to get abs
Absolutely not true. Sit-ups are outdated and do not activate all the muscles in your abs. Although they may be the two most popular ab exercises, they are far from being your only ab-exercise option. So, if you don’t feel like getting horizontal, go vertical. That said, between the two, crunches and sit-ups, crunches are much more effective. Keep with your crunches and make sure to also vary your exercises and reps. Also, add resistance and weights to create a stronger midsection and more defined abs.
4. Slower reps help build abs
True. A Spanish study, that was reported in Muscle and Fitness concluded that faster reps enabled the muscle activity in the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and spinal erectors to increase. Additionally, another effective approach is to mix up the speeds of your reps to increase the strength of your abdominal muscles.
5. Spot reduction works for abs
False. There is no such thing as fat spot reduction, and you can crunch until the cows come home but if you have a layer of fat covering your abs there is no guarantee whatsoever that they’ll show. As previously mentioned, a strict diet paired with a steady training regimen is an excellent way to reduce body fat; do keep in mind that there remain outside factors that come into play as well. For example, when you’re stressed out your cortisol levels rise and can impede your ability to lose weight. So heed all other words of advice, and slowly but surely your abs will begin to make their grand debut.