But alas, this process doesn’t happen overnight. And by now, the washboard abs industrial complex has produced such a dizzying volume of exercises, tricks, and gizmos promising to transform your midsection into a Hemsworth brother’s midsection that even after you’ve settled on a strategy, it’s hard not to wonder whether all that diligence and discipline is really making a difference.
So why so much chest, back, and arms work? Ironically, showcasing your newfound six-pack won't be just about the abs. By building up your entire upper body, you’ll create more shape that will help define the midsection. Your volume of muscle building will also increase your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories in the process. Remember, it’s all connected. You'll thrash your abs three days a week along with some interval cardio activity for 30 minutes, and bang out some other muscle groups or hit a second helping of arms with whatever time you have left. Your other three days per week will be dedicated to chest, back, and arms exercises, so that your upper-body mass grows—increasing the V-angle and minimizing the chance of having a belly.
Let’s take push-ups for example. The maximum number of push-ups you can do in a training session will increase quickly from, say, 20 to 30, 30 to 50, 50 to 100 in a matter of weeks. What will you do next to achieve progressive overload? You can’t increase your reps of push-ups forever. Who wants to do 300, 400, or 500 pushups in a single training session? That would take too much time. Luckily, you don’t have to do that. Once you hit a reasonably high number of reps, you will stop adding reps and start shortening the time it takes to complete those reps.
If you want to get fit faster and burn more calories in less time, don't spend all your time in the so-called fat-burning zone. Instead, add some High Intensity Training (HIT) to your workouts a couple times each week. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you can burn more calories in less time with short, high intensity exercise. You can also boost your overall cardiovascular fitness with this type of training. Be sure to slowly ramp up your intensity, however, or you could wind up with an injury.
"My goals six years ago was to 'get abs' and I used to think cardio and crunches would get me there. But it wasn’t until I started lifting weights and varying my abdominal exercises that I started to see a major change. You don’t realize how much you use your core muscles in order to perform powerful rapid movements like deadlifts!" — Shante Franca, @shantefranca
“For me, getting a six-pack was about paying attention to what I was eating and lifting heavy weights at CrossFit. I do have a semi-strict diet, and I loosely count macros (focusing on daily carbs, protein, and fat intake rather than blindly counting calories) to stay balanced and on track. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Eventually, it just became a part of my lifestyle, and it’s something I enjoy doing. I even started a custom meal-plan business based on macros because I had such great results!” —Tina Haupert, @carrotsncake