How to Get a Six Pack

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Lots of people like six-packs because they look good. But a six-pack isn't just for show. Working your abdominal muscles will strengthen your core, which is vital for your overall fitness. It's also great for posture, confidence and preventing injury when you work out. In fact, a strong core will actually help you perform better in every aspect of your life.

So how do you get one? Believe it or not, the food you eat is just as important as the exercises you do when it comes to sculpting a six-pack. Any personal trainer will tell you that you can't out-train a bad diet. You can do all the crunches you like but it's pointless if your muscles are hidden under a layer of fat. Follow these six nutritional rules to get rid of unwanted fat and build muscle:

1. Avoid processed foods. Nourish your body with fresh, whole foods including plenty of veg and only snack on nuts, seeds and fruit.

2. Eat little and often. Have six smaller meals a day instead of three large ones. This will keep your metabolism steady and avoid overloading your body.

3. Protein builds muscle so you will need to eat a lot of it. Lean meat, such as chicken breast and fish, is best because it includes all eight essential amino acids, or 'building blocks' of muscle. If you're vegetarian, eggs, beans, pulses, quinoa and low-fat dairy and soya products are also great sources of protein.

4. Drink plenty of water. Muscle cells grow faster when they're well hydrated.

5. Eat wholegrains rather than refined white carbs which release energy too quickly and cause you to store the excess sugar as fat.

6. Get enough sleep. Sleep regulates appetite so you'll be less likely to overeat or make unhealthy choices.

Once you've started working on your six-pack from the inside by eating the right foods, you can then turn your attention to the outside. You will need to 1. lose fat and 2. build muscle. Unfortunately, there is no way to spot reduce fat so you won't be able to take a short cut and just shed the pounds from your belly. You'll have to lower your overall body fat percentage, and the best way to do that is with cardio. This is anything that speeds up your heart rate, such as running, cycling, swimming and dancing.
 
You'll also need to do plenty of large muscle moves, such as squats and lunges, and weight training. If you're a woman, don't worry that you'll bulk up and look 'manly' by lifting weights; you won't. You'll just create a sleek, lean physique. The great thing about building muscle is that it burns fat even while you rest. On a side note, muscle weighs more than fat so don't worry if you seem to be gaining weight as you train. Try not to weigh yourself at all if you can help it.
 
Now we're eating right and getting our bodies into tip-top condition, it's finally time to start work on those abdominals!

The five exercises below are all effective at tightening your torso. Do 10-12 reps per set and as you improve, increase the resistance, not the amount of reps. Try adding weights to make it more challenging.

1. Crunches

 
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your hands behind your head but don't use them to lift yourself up. Contract your stomach muscles and lift your shoulders off the floor. Make sure to keep your lower back on the floor and your neck straight. Lower back down into the starting position to repeat.

Once you've mastered the basic crunch, you can move on to more advanced moves such as the reverse crunch, the side crunch and the twist crunch.

2. Jack Knife Sit-Ups


Lie on your back with your arms extended straight out behind your head. Contract your stomach muscles and raise your arms and legs at the same time, keeping them straight, and try to touch your toes. Lower back down into the starting position to repeat.

3. The Plank

 
Lean on your elbows and forearms, with your upper arms at 90 degrees to your body and your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds at first and build up to one minute or more as you progress. Rest for 20 seconds before repeating. You only need to do 3-5 reps of this exercise.

4. The Side Plank

 
Planking exercises are one of the best ways to improve your core strength and stability. This is a variation of The Plank, and slightly harder because you're on your side and only using one arm to support yourself. Make sure to do this one on both sides.

5. Ab Wheel Roll-Outs


Buy yourself an ab wheel or use one provided at the gym. Get onto your knees and, holding the wheel with both hands, slowly roll forward as far as you can go. Hold for a few seconds then slowly roll back into the starting position to repeat.

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