The Man, The Legend, Tony Horton!
When I started my journey of health and fitness, it was a combination of Martial Arts, eating right, and P90X. Though nothing will ever top the benefits I've received from the Martial Arts, having Tony Horton grab my arm, pat my abs, and vocally affirm what I've done to myself over the years, was pretty cool. :-)
This was such a great event. I love meeting like-minded people in the fitness world. The folks around me were so amazing and we all had a great time supporting the athletic department at Tony's alma mater.
The Elusive Six-Pack: Secrets Revealed!
Finally, I'm going to reveal the secret of six-pack abs to the world. And the secret is...(insert drum roll here)...Nothing! There is no secret. Just like any other muscle in your body, you need to do the same exact thing to get them to show: Eat well and exercise. For most people, it's one of the hardest parts of the body to define, so I'll continue typing to give you more ammo for your personal battle. If you want a formula (although, a simplistic one) for getting those puppies to pop, here it is:
Proper Nutrition + Cardiovascular Exercise + Resistive Spinal Flexion Exercises = Six-Pack Abs
Of course, it's bit more complicated than that, but that's the guideline. Will it work for everyone? That, I don't know; everyone is different. But, it worked for me and it should work for more people. Plus, seeing as how the shortcut junk on the market doesn't work (because there are no shortcuts), I'd say this is a pretty good place to begin. Besides that, it's easy to understand and, in theory, makes sense. Resistive spinal flexion exercises grow the muscle, and a combo of cardio and proper nutrition will keep help decrease body fat.
Let's get a little deeper into this while clearing a myth in the process. The myth of which I speak is that performing plank alone will grant you toned abdominals. This is simply not true. Believe me, I love all things plank. Exercises that include isometric hold of the body are fantastic for stimulation of the rectus abdominis (the "six-pack" or "beach" muscle) and obliques (the ones flanking the R.A.) and strengthening the core (the internal muscles that transfer load between the upper and lower body). While plank does all this great stuff, it isn't going to give us the abs we want (as superficial as a six-pack may be); not alone, anyway. Spinal flexion exercises against resistance will put us on that path because, through growth, more defined separation in the muscle can be created (more on that later). So, what now? Fortunately, we're in luck because the rectus abdominis has mainly one function and that function is spinal flexion. Yay!
The Linea Alba runs vertically down the middle, and the Tendinous Inscriptions that run horizontally, split the two halves into "muscle bellies". Since connective tissue is less vascular than muscle, it doesn't stretch as easily; therefore, it allows the muscle to maintain that separated look.
The key is consistency in nutrition and exercise! Compliance will get you there! Stick with it and don't get discouraged; stay tough. It will come.
Does that mean you shouldn't do plank? Heck, no! Do your plank exercises as they are very beneficial (though, they can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure or herniated lumbar spine, so use with caution). But that's not all you have to do. Think of it this way: If you want bigger biceps, do you hold your arm in and extended position and expect the bicep to grow? No. You contract the bicep against resistance by using the bicep to bend the arm at the elbow just as you would use the rectus abdominis to flex the spine, thereby contracting the muscle. Spinal flexion exercises, like the good, old fashioned crunch, will make it thicken. Oh, no! It's the dreaded crunch. Too bad. Suck it up, buttercup. Do your crunches (or some form thereof)! :-P
So why am I giving this information away for free? Why don't I just bundle it up in a nice little package with some fancy graphics and a price tag to match? Two reasons: 1) This is stuff you already (or should already) know but have either forgotten or are avoiding because you know about reason number two. 2) Hard work and discipline don't sell. There is no magic pill or shortcut to the abs you want. I guarantee you everyone promoting otherwise is lying to your face. So, you can either spend time year after year going from one fad diet or program to another (continuing to be frustrated), or you can take that same amount of time to do it properly and in a way that should last you a lifetime. The abs you see in the image up above were made with all of this information. How do I know this? Because it took me two years to make them like that and it's not something you easily forget.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Strength is made in the gym, physique is made in the kitchen. Basically, grow your muscles in size and strength in the gym and let what you put in your face be the vehicle to trimming away the fat so you can see what you've accomplished. Yes, it's a pain in the butt, but so is going in circles and spending tons of money. The hard way is not always the right way, but it is when it comes to health and fitness. I don't write these articles for my health; I write them for yours. :-) Now, go get it!