Over the last year, several people have approached me and asked me about my abs routine. Questions regarding training are presented in various ways:
How many sit-ups do you do a day?
How often do you work your abs?
Do you combine cable crunches with leg raises?
Sometimes the questions come with a little sparkle. For example, “do you eat … eat food?” or “so how big is your waist?” Theatricality aside and regardless of form, people are asking essentially the same question: how can I get abs worthy of a stage or a beach?
In the vast majority of cases, I think researchers seek me out to recite a list of exercises like an infomercial seen on late-night television. Perform 1000 cable crunches, 1000 scissor leg raises, 9 minutes of front and side planks and finish with an hour of HIIT cardio shirt soak 3 times a week AND YOU WILL ALSO HAVE ABS HARD AS A ROCK.
I honestly think that the aforementioned abs routine, as crazy as it may sound, would be easier to swallow than the cold reality that I hit people with. And here’s the reality: great abs are done in the kitchen and NOT in the gym. Boom!
After he drops this bomb on people, you can see the light from his eyes disappear. Well, not really, but you can clearly see the disappointment. Living a healthy lifestyle is hard work. It takes dedication, consistency, and willingness to give up tasty snacks and adult beverages. Sounds fun right?
The infomercials have done an incredible job of making people think they can have rock-hard abs in less than 6 minutes a day. The truth is, you can’t fight your way to an amazing core. It is impossible.
If you are still reading this article, don’t give up. I’m not all doom and gloom, as the recipe for building great abs is pretty straightforward. And it all starts with the diet. In fact, many people, including me, believe that 80% of developing a great body is diet.
So here are the steps:
Step one: Determine how many calories you need to “run” your body
Second step: Create a caloric deficit to burn body fat.
Step three: Participate in exercises that develop your abs
Now that we know the process, let’s go over each step in detail.
Step one: Determine your calorie needs
Are you ready for a harder love? I hope so because it is about to get tough.
Food is fuel. Period. Food is neither a pleasure nor a comfort. You need to start thinking of food as basic building blocks made up of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. And each of these macronutrients is made up of calories. Fats have 9 calories, while carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories each. Once the depersonalization of food is complete, you are ready to organize these building blocks to build your diet.
Cover model extraordinary Greg Plitt has a great online video explaining how to determine your calorie needs. The video can be found at http://vimeo.com/17389252. In this video, Greg provides calculations to determine your base calories, which is the sum of your static calories plus your metabolic rate calories. Before starting the video, you may want to grab a pencil, paper, and even a calculator if your math skills are rusty. And, if you’re like me, you’ll have to stop and rewind the video multiple times for the calculations to be correct.
After performing the calculations in the video, I determined that I needed to provide 3,140 calories per day. Here’s an example of how I spread those calories across 8 meals:
Only me: 10 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 2 slices of Ezekiel bread, 2 tablespoons almond butter, coffee
Meal two: 3/4 cup oatmeal and 2 tablespoons protein energy
Meal three: 9 oz turkey and broccoli or asparagus
Food oven: 8 ounces chicken and broccoli or asparagus (1 sweet potato on high carb days)
Meal five: 1/2 oatmeal with honey
Meal six: 3 scoops of protein
Meal seven: 9 oz turkey, chicken or fish and broccoli or asparagus
Meal eight: Depending on the calories needed: protein shake, eggs, or even a tablespoon of almond butter
Water: 1-2 gallons per day
Depending on various factors (eg allergies, personal preferences, cooking skills, etc.), your diet may look drastically different from mine. However, there are some fundamental principles to consider when developing your own diet, and they include the following:
1. Make sure you consume at least 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight
2. Stay away from processed foods
3. Drink at least one gallon of water a day.
4. Eat every 2-3 hours
Step two: create a caloric deficit
Once you determine your base calories, you can subtract 500 calories to lose weight. For example, if my daily caloric goal were 3,140, my new goal would be 2,640 calories. By creating a caloric deficit, your weight and body fat will decrease over time.
When I try to reduce body fat, I achieve my caloric deficit through a combination of reducing calories and increasing cardio. For example, I will decrease my food intake by 250 calories while simultaneously doing cardio to achieve an additional 250 calories of production.
Step Three: Build Your Abs
There are a host of exercises you can do to build your abs and strengthen your core. The nucleus is “complex” and must be trained directly and indirectly. Indirect exercises would be compound movements like squats and deadlifts in which your core is really engaged to stabilize and protect your spine.
When performing direct exercise, they should target all three parts of your abs: top, bottom, and sides. Some of my favorite exercises to work the abs are:
Cable crunches (top)
Scissor Leg Raise (bottom)
Side planks (sides)
If you follow the steps above … YOU WILL ALSO HAVE ABS HARD AS A ROCK.