The truth about training for a 6-pack

Wash… Board…. Abs…. It seems to be an obsession that motivates people to continuously put their abs through endless sit-ups and core exercises. But will targeting your abs everyday help build that 6 pack? Reduce fat around the stomach? Can you overtrain your abdominal muscles, rendering the exercise detrimental?

I can’t tell you how many infomercials I have seen, spruiking the latest and greatest piece of equipment ‘to help tone and strengthen your abs, giving you wash board abs for summer….’ We are led to believe that 10mins a day of twisting or crunching will give us amazing results. Suddenly we will lose the layer of fat surrounding the abdominal muscles and by some miracle, out will pop a glistening, beach ready, 6-pack.  All for the low, low, price of 6 easy payment of $19.95 + postage and handling… Sound too good to be true? IT IS!! Abs don’t just appear no matter how many crunches or twists you might perform. There are so many factors that attribute to being able to see the abdominal muscles, let’s take a look at a few…

The role of the core during weight training

The abdominals work as part of a team, the core, which works to stabilise your body during your workouts. So during big compound movements, the core often works to protect the spine, being the stabiliser muscle to prevent injuries. Often trainers will say ‘engage your core’ or ‘brace your abs,’ that’s because you need to be using them throughout your entire workout. So without noticing it, you’re actually working your abs all the time.

Diet diet diet!

No matter how hard you try, you cannot ‘out crunch’ a poor diet. The only way you will be able to see your abdominal muscles, is by lowering your overall body fat percentage. No matter how strong those rock hard abs are, if they have a layer of fat in front of them, we will never see them. And before you ask… no…. there is no way of specifically targeting your stomach fat. Everyone’s body loses fat in different places, we have no control over that. Some diet tips:

  • Avoid refined and processed foods
  • Increase lean protein
  • Enjoy yoghurt
  • Increase your water intake
  • Snack on nuts
  • Increase fibre intake
  • Reduce alcohol intake


The abs are a bit of a unique muscle, in the sense that they are utilised all day, every day and can withstand a bit more punishment than the other muscles. Some trainers believe you can train abdominals every day, for about 10 mins, whilst other believe 3 days a week is enough otherwise they get overtrained. I find that if I work my abs with high intensity, they are generally sore the next day. So I will incorporate ab training at the end of my workouts, every 2nd day, this ensures they have a chance to rest and recover.

Don’t forget the obliques, transverse and rectus abdominis and erector spinae

Only working abdominals on one angle, limits the muscles being worked to the abdominals. By incorporating twists, extensions, side bends and rotations, you are ensuring a more well-rounded workout of the muscle group.

Incorporate some variety into your workouts

No longer do you have to suffer through endless sit-ups to achieve a strong core. There are so many variations you can try which will achieve great results. Such as:

–          Planks (side planks, single arm, shoulder taps)

–          Russian twists (sit-ups with a Russian twist)

–          Pike roll out on a fit ball

–          Cable crunch

–          Ab wheel

–          Barbell Russian twist

–          Flutter kicks

–          Horizontal cable wood chop

–          Hanging knee raise

Just to name a few…

Bottom line… before undertaking a super intense abdominal workout, take a closer look at your diet. Are you setting yourself up for 6-pack success? Or flabby failure?

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