Ripped abs are the hallmark of a lean, muscular body. It is not necessarily a sign of elite fitness, but rather very low body fat.
However, having a 6 pack is not just for 20-something genetic freaks. Anyone can get there, it just takes some consistent effort and dietary discipline.
If you are middle-aged or older and busy with a career, you can still follow these 5 steps to achieve a 6 pack. The fundamentals are the same, no matter your age. You will see many other benefits as well, such as improved core strength which greatly improves your lower back health.
The first and most important thing to know, is that ripped abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. A full 80% of the effort is a lean diet, not doing 3 hours of sit-ups. It is a very common misconception that to achieve a 6-pack, the most critical thing is doing thousands of crunches. It is just not the case, so make sure your effort and focus is pointed in the right direction.
- 80% Clean, nutritious diet
- 20% Ab work and an effective overall fitness plan
The reason diet is so important is that to get ripped abs you must be around 10% body fat, no way around it. Forget BMI, it is truly worthless if you are a fitness buff with a lean, muscular build. Body fat percentage is the real measuring stick, and you must be down around 10% for your abs to shine. When I am at peak shape around 10% to 15% body fat, my BMI shows I am nearly obese. BMI is now considered by most experts to be inherently flawed.
This is an accurate tool to measure your body fat % (much better than calipers, and simpler to use). So, here is the blueprint…
Step #1 – Protein With Every Meal
Try to eat at least some protein with every meal, and there are two reasons for this:
Protein is the most important micronutrient you can eat to build lean muscle and develop ripped abs.
Protein is the most thermogenic of the micronutrients, so it will burn the most fat. If you are an endomorph like me, then you need to really watch your carbs. They will pack on the pounds, so I am always very leary of carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, etc).
Some great lean proteins to have with every meal:
- Salmon (great for your heart, as well as your skin)
- Canned chicken or tuna (this is a little higher in sodium, but so convenient to get a quick pop of 15 grams of protein)
- Egg whites
- Turkey Breast
- Lean Steaks (Top Sirloin is Best In Class here)
- Grilled Chicken (no skin)
- Lean Burger (4% to 8% Fat)
- Protein Shake (this is a great one post-workout, and my favorite is Muscletech – Nitro Tech – milk chocolate). Mix this with skim milk in a mini-Blender and it is delicious and great for your body.
- Skim Milk (great for bones, great for your body)
Step #2 – Achieve 10% Body Fat
Now we all know this one is much easier said than done. But it is still doable. I would highly recommend you purchase a body fat calculator, and check your body fat once a week at the same time and day each week (when you wake up).
The most important thing is a clean, nutritious diet to get to 10% body fat. If you need to lose weight, you will need to burn more calories than you consume.
As I said earlier, I am an endomorph which means I gain weight easily. So I have to be very conscious of my calories, and I keep carbs to a minimum most days.
Step #3 – Focus More on Building Lean Muscle Than Doing Daily Cardio
Getting to 10% body fat and losing your belly fat is really a simple process. But it is certainly not an easy process. The simple part is this…
- Eat More Calories than You Burn = GAIN Weight
- Eat Less Calories than You Burn = LOSE Weight
So, this is why building lean muscle is more important than daily cardio…
The average moderate cardio session burns approximately 300 calories. This is equal to a few slices of bread. Don’t get me wrong, cardio has many benefits beyond burning calories (improved heart health, improved circulation, better overall health, and more). But for losing significant weight, you have to do a ton of cardio to have a significant impact.
However, building lean muscle is a key to creating a fat-burning furnace within your body. The reason is simple…muscle burns more calories that fat. It is a scientific fact. There is a wide range of debate on how many more calories each additional pound of muscle will burn, but the important thing is that you will burn more fat, and be on your way to ripped abs. The general consensus is that each additional pound of muscle burns 10-15 calories per day.
So if you consistently are building lean muscle through resistance training, than you will always be improving your furnace-like activity, and on the path to ripped abs.
Step #4 – Make Sure You Have a Great Ab Workout Routine
To get ripped abs, it is true that you don’t need to spend hours doing crunches. However, you do want to have a well-rounded ab workout routine. Don’t believe the hype that it is all diet, and that you can completely ignore your workouts (see #3 above). I do notice a difference in the definition of my abs when I am consistently working them.
Overall, it makes sense to work your abs as part of an overall workout strategy. There are many benefits to doing this:
- Build abdominal lean muscle to see more definition
- Strengthen your core muscles
- Reduce lower back pain and also reduce the chance of lower back injury (learn my experience about this here) – ab work does reduce lower back injury
Click here for a very effective and very simple ab workout to build your ripped abs.
Step #5 – Cheat Days…We All Have Them and That’s OK, BUT Here is the Key
We all have cheat days on our way to 10% body fat. They’re unavoidable, and quite honestly, they are absolutely necessary for mental sanity. They are also a good way to “fool” your metabolism as you diet down.
When you are cutting weight you will need to be burning more calories than you consume most of the time. Without the occasional cheat day, your body goes into starvation mode.
When I was in Ranger School many summers ago, we all lost a ton of weight in the first several weeks on 1 meal a day. And don’t get me wrong, we continued to lose weight, but not at the same clip because our body morphed into starvation mode. Your body learns to preserve every calorie because it has figured out that not many calories will be entering your body.
The same is true of everyday life. So cheat days are a good thing, usually 1 day a week to keep your metabolism burning calories.
Here is the KEY – keep your cheat days somewhat in check. It’s good to load up on a cheeseburger, pizza, ribeye steak, or some great cocktails. However, if your BMR is 2,500 calories, then shoot for 3,500 to 4,000 calories. That’s a really good eating day. Don’t go nuts and hit 6,000 calories. That is gluttony, and I speak from experience. It takes an extra couple of days during the week to make it up when you go crazy with a whole box of oreos in a late night binge.
I have learned that I can have just as great an eating experience at 4,000 calories as I can at 6,000. And I feel much better the next day. Have a great cheat day, just set some reasonable boundaries.
And before you know it you will be at 10% body fat and have those ripped abs to show the world!