STEP 2 // STRIP AWAY THE EXCESS

No amount of abs work will get you a six-pack if your abs are covered in a layer of fat but fortunately some simple dietary shifts can make all the difference. Nutritionist Laura Street (laura@laurastreet.co.uk) takes you through the essentials.

Drink more water

“If you’re still knocking back soft drinks you’re undoing all your hard work,” Street says. “Stick to water, which has zero calories and helps with recovery, energy and metabolism.” Aim for a minimum of two litres a day.

Ditch beer, drink vodka

“Beer generates excess oestrogen, which can result in weight gain. A good alternative is to drink clear spirits such as vodka in moderation. And if you drink, don’t do it every day.”

“Protein provides satiety, which means you’ll be satisfied for longer and less likely to snack. Evidence suggests that eating protein at breakfast leads to decreased food consumption throughout the day. Include fish, meat, eggs, lentils or beans in every meal or snack.”

Eat more protein

“Trans fats are found in processed foods such as biscuits and are responsible for the build-up of visceral fat around the abdomen. Replace them with good fats. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, olives and seeds are all good fats, while mackerel is the king of the sea in terms of omega-3 content.”

Eat good fats

Earn your carbs

“If you’re training hard you can afford to moderately increase your carbohydrate intake. If you’re not training, taper your carbs accordingly. And avoid refined carbs such as bread, which can give you sugar cravings and derail weight loss.”

STEP 3 // MASTER THE ULTIMATE ABS MOVE
The standing abs wheel rollout will give you a midsection that’s hard as steel and also ranks among the greatest gym show-off moves ever. Jim Bathurst, founder of the exercise website beastskills.com, shows you how to nail it.
“First, master the knee rollout,” Bathurst says. “Tense your abs and keep your upper body tight before you roll out. Keep your head down and chin tucked so your back stays flat. If you can’t roll all the way, use a wall to limit your range of motion until you’re stronger.”

1

“Going from the knees to the feet is pretty tricky. To help with the transition, try rolling up an incline bench. Move further away from the bench as you improve. If you find your legs bending, do hamstring stretches to improve your flexibility.”

2

“Once you can do three sets of five incline rollouts, try one standing. Keep your lower back flat and tilt your pelvis forward slightly. Don’t keep your arms under your body — it feels easier, but will cause you to lose form. When your chin is almost touching the floor, roll back up.”

3

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STEP 4 // UPGRADE THE PLANK
The standard plank is one of the greatest abs moves in existence. Here’s how to make it even better.

The Standard

First, make sure you’ve mastered the basic plank. The form: elbows below your shoulders, hands clasped in front and body in a straight line. Once your hips start to sag, end the set. Aim for three lots of 60 seconds.

The Upgrade

“The plank shoulder touch is one of the most effective ways to make the plank harder,” says strength and conditioning specialist Joe DeFranco (defrancostraining.com). “You increase the load and stability requirements.” To do it, perform a standard plank, then take one hand off the ground at a time to touch the opposite shoulder. Go for three sets of 10 reps each side.

The Variation

One of the simplest and best plank variations is to keep both hands on a medicine ball as you’ll be forced to brace your core to stay stable.

The Super-Plank

Once you can hit 90 seconds in the standard plank, make it harder instead of just pushing for more time. “Move your arms further out and your elbows closer together,” Contreras says. “Lock out your knees and contract your glutes as hard as possible.” Aim to get to 30 seconds without relaxing.
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STEP 5 // DE-STRESS AND LOSE THE BELLY
The stress hormone cortisol is the six-pack’s natural enemy because it causes fat storage around the abdomen and impairs your body’s ability to burn it. Defeat it and watch the fat melt away.

The easiest way to reduce cortisol is to sleep more and better. Aim for eight hours a night. “To sleep soundly, stay off the computer for an hour before bed,” says trainer Sally Moss of Ultimate Performance Fitness. “And keep your bedroom totally dark.” Stressed at work? Oranges can help. In a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, doses of up to 3000mg of vitamin C were effective in reducing cortisol rises from psychological stresses such as public speaking. In 2003, a French study determined that oily fish (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids) can reduce cortisol release caused by mental stress. As a bonus it’ll reduce cardiovascular stress and help with a host of other health problems. Many studies suggest that meditation can lower cortisol levels, even in the inexperienced. If you’re not sure how to do it properly, apps such as Simply Being ($1 from iTunes) can take you through the basics.

Sleep better

Eat oranges

Eat salmon

Meditate

Chew gum

Chewing gum was linked to decreased cortisol levels by research from Tokyo Medical and Dental University. It can also temporarily stave off hunger, reducing your urge to snack.

STEP 6 // BLAST YOUR RESERVES
If you’ve followed all the steps, your six-pack should be visible by now. Enhance your muscle definition with these proven fat-burners.
Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which causes your nervous system to run more quickly, burning calories. Research indicates three cups a day is the perfect dose — add lemon for a tasty kick that also helps control blood sugar. Studies have found that capsaicin, the compound that gives chillies their heat, can increase energy expenditure and burn calories, though the effects are stronger in people less used to spicy food. Make that curry a hot one. Piperine, the substance that gives black pepper its taste, can block the formation of new fat cells, according to research published in the Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry. Apply liberally to your protein-rich steak or poached eggs. Cinnamon has thermogenic properties, which means it’ll help you burn fat. Studies show it lowers the glycaemic response to meals, making you less prone to storing fat. The easiest way to get the benefit? Add it to black coffee.
PHOTOGRAPHY DANNY BIRD, SHUTTERSTOCK MODEL RICHARD PEARCE@WATHLETIC

Drink… green tea

Cook… chilli peppers

Season with… black pepper

Add… cinnamon

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STEP 7 // ACCELERATE THE PROCESS
With your diet under control, it’s time to hit the fattorching afterburners. Here’s how it’s done.

Snatch

Kettlebell snatches provide a similar calorieburning hit to “running six-minute miles… or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace”, according to a study from the American Council on Exercise. They’re actually better, in that they have less impact and more strength benefit.

Swing

“The metabolic hit of kettlebell swings is incredible,” says strength coach and author Dan John. “If all you have is 10 minutes, a set of kettlebell swings will work wonders.” Try the 30/30 format: 30 seconds of swings, 30 seconds of rest for the entire time.

Sprint

In a recent study, two groups of athletes sprinted for two minutes and jogged for 30, and their overall oxygen consumption, a key indicator of metabolism speed, was nearly identical, according to results published in the International Journal Of Sport Nutrition. The lesson? If you’re short on time, add short, intense sprints to your workout for a fat-burning boost.

STEP 8 // TAKE THE DIRECT APPROACH
As well as hitting the abs muscles directly, these moves will improve your all-round lifting ability and should be part of every abs workout, says Ultimate Performance’s Justin Maguire.

TRX rollout

Perform rollouts grasping the TRX rings instead of a barbell or dumbbells. “This is a great abs strength builder and the instability it adds brings other benefits,” Maguire says. “It boosts strength and flexibility in your glutes, hips and shoulder/pec girdle, which will help you lift heavy in a huge array of other abs-building exercises.”

Toes to bar

Grip a pull-up bar and slowly lift your feet as high as you can, bending at the hips and doing your best not to swing. “Keeping a slow tempo engages the hard-to-hit lower abdominals,” Maguire says. “It also helps improve your posture, which translates into an ability to lift big in other moves for greater gains.”

Decline crunch

Place your feet on a bench and crunch. For maximum benefits, do the move while holding a dumbbell in front of your chest. “Dumbbell decline crunches will strengthen your core stabilisers, which apart from helping you carve out your abs will stabilise your spine and stop you injuring yourself with other moves,” Maguire says.
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STEP 9 // FILL IN THE GAPS
Having a strong core means more than just a six-pack. Balance out your midsection with these key moves.

Best for the internal obliques: Pallof press

This move (pictured) is an anti-rotation exercise, which means you’re stabilising yourself against resistance coming from the side. Stand side-on to a cable machine with your feet shoulderwidth apart, chest out and shoulders back, and hold the cable with both hands in front. Press out so that you feel the weight pull you to the side, then pull back in.

Best for the external obliques: Bodysaw
Assume the plank position with your feet on a small towel. Keeping tension throughout your body, push yourself backwards using your forearms. Pull yourself forward again and continue in a sawing motion.

Best for the erector spinae: Kneeling cable lift

This is an advanced version of the cable chop. To do it, kneel on one knee — the knee furthest from your cable station should be raised. Hold the cable in both hands and chop it upwards across your chest. Pause, lower, repeat.

STEP 10 // THE FINISHING TOUCHES
Put the finishing touches on your six-pack with some advice from expert trainers.
“Because the abdominal fibres are predominantly fast-twitch, they respond to intense overload and lower reps,” says MF muscle guru Charles Poliquin. “Sure, you’ll strengthen your abs by doing thousands of reps, but it won’t be as effective as training hard and heavy, then cutting fat by sprinting, eating right and minimising stress.”

Train heavy

“One of the simplest ways to control your hunger is to eat a salad before your meals,” says strength and conditioning coach Chad Waterbury. “This is especially effective at night when you want to pig out. It takes time to chew, and allows your brain to process feedback on how full you are.”

Start with salad

“Include loaded carries in your workout,” says lifting coach Dan John. “They’ll force your core to work to stabilise the rest of your body and burn fat at the same time. For a hit on the obliques, use the suitcase carry — carry a heavy dumbbell in one hand up to 40m, then switch hands for the walk back.”

Carry things

80 | MF | DECEMBER

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