Around this time of year, a chiseled midsection sure would come in handy, right? Trouble is, most guys assume it’s only possible for pro athletes, muscle mag cover models and the occasional Photoshopped celebrity, not regular dudes like themselves. Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible. And it’s easier than you probably think. Just follow these six simple rules and you’ll be as ripped as, well, one of the stars of this weekend’s R.I.P.D.
1. Eat Healthier, Cut Calories
Abs are made in the kitchen. As I’ve written many times, 80 percent of your body’s makeup is determined by what you eat. If you want a slimmer midsection, the first step is to eat healthier. There are tons of ways you can cut massive calories, but a few major ones are: eat smaller portions, ditch the sugary foods and colas, and limit the bad snacks. Replace them with lots of fruits, vegetables and water. Also, commit to getting six to eight hours of sleep every night. Studies show that if you don’t get enough rest, you’re more likely to crave sugary foods. Rest up, buttercup.
2. Work Below the Navel
Ironically, the most effective way to carve six-pack abs in the gym is to exercise below them. See, contrary to popular belief, you can’t burn fat in just one area. You have to burn fat everywhere. The best way to do that is by targeting your body’s three biggest muscle groups—your quads, hamstrings and glutes. If you work these muscle groups with exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges, you’ll not only burn the most calories right away, you’ll also achieve what’s known as the after-burn effect, where you’re burning calories long after your workout is over. Sweet deal!
3. Say No to Crunches, Yes to Planks
Most people think getting a six-pack requires lots of crunches and sit-ups. Wrong. Sit-ups and crunches are actually a pretty poor workout for your abs. They recruit only seven muscles in your abdominal cage. Planks, on the other hand, recruit up to 20 abdominal muscles. So to build a strong core—and ultimately a six-pack—switch to planks. Some other great abs exercises: side bridges, squats and lumberjack chops, where you’re squatting down low and slamming a medicine ball on the ground. Which has the added benefit of looking pretty badass.
4. Stand Tall and Always Maintain Great Posture
This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you stand tall, your stomach naturally subsides. So the fastest way to take inches off your midsection is simply to stand up straight, with your shoulders back and your chest out. Also, always work on improving your posture and tightening your core throughout the day. For example, when you’re brushing your teeth, stand on one leg. When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, alternate between contracting your glutes and contracting your abs. When you’re stuck in traffic in your car, squeeze your ab muscles in an explosive manner for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat as often as you can. It’s slightly more effective than, say, playing air drums.
5. Vacuum Your Abs
The easiest way to start flattening your gut is to work your invisible abs—a.k.a., your transverse abdominis, a layer of muscle that resides below the surface and supports your core. Here’s how: stand up straight and pull your belly button toward your spine. Hold it for eight to twelve seconds while breathing normally. Then release, relax for a few seconds and repeat four more times. This is a simple exercise you can perform multiple times per day, no matter where you are. Each time you do it, you’re essentially vacuuming your abs. That’s a good thing.
6. Stay Consistent
Stay motivated! Just think how much R.I.P.D. actress Marisa Miller values abs.
The final key to a six-pack is consistency. Sure, you can have a cheat day every once in a while, but for the most part, commit to staying on track with your diet, sleep and exercise. Set dietary and workout goals for yourself, create a schedule and stick to it. If you’re like most guys, you drink things you probably shouldn’t drink and fill your body with crap on the weekends. To avoid or at least limit this practice, weigh yourself on Friday morning. Then weigh yourself on Monday morning. Make sure those numbers resemble each other. It’s OK to have a good time on Friday night. Just make sure you’re back on schedule by Sunday afternoon. Your future washboard stomach will thank you.
Jay Cardiello is Made Man’s fitness and nutrition expert. As a top certified strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Cardiello has worked with Hollywood A-Listers, Fortune 500 CEOs and NFL stars. His accelerated body transformation program, JCore, is available here, and his new book, Cardio Core 4×4, is available here. Got a question for Jay? Leave a note in the comment section, and he’ll do his best to address it in a future column.