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Eating For Ultimate Abs: Six Tips For A Six-Pack

Just about everyone I know who’s ever trained seriously, in almost any discipline, has focused in on their abs at one point or another. I know I have. There’s no denying that abs are a core (pun intended) component of perceived physical perfection, so it’s pointless to resist. Almost every magazine cover, advertisement, and billboard shows images of chiseled abs. “Ideal” waistlines have gone in and out over the years, but as a culture, we continue to celebrate abs more than ever.

Beyond that, abdominal training is simply important to all types of athletes. You use your abs every time you lift, twist, or even stand up. A powerful set of abs, along with a strong, balanced physique are big parts of the formula for overall physical health. And to everyone who says “visible abs aren’t necessarily strong abs,” I answer: That may be true, but I can still recognize a strong set when I see one.

Still, as this site and many others are happy to point out for you, you can’t train your way out of a poor diet. While there is an extraordinary amount of conflicting “expert” testimony when it comes to proper nutrition, there are tried-and-true techniques that millions of abs—sixes of millions of them, in fact—can agree on. They might blow your mind or they might be old news, but listen up either way. If you’re not following them, then it probably shows.

1 Fire It Up

First things first: You need to be aware of what you eat. The best way to do this is to prepare as many of your own meals as possible. When you cook for yourself, you can stay on top of exactly what every single ingredient is, and how much you use in preparation. The more knowledge and power you have the better.

When consuming foods made by others, you don’t know much for certain, and particularly when you dine out. Many times, even when prepared by “healthy” restaurants, meals are often served in oversized proportions and laden with gratuitous amounts of empty calories and chemicals. I’ve seen salads and sides that boast more than 1,000 calories per serving. No one will get abs eating like that on a regular basis.

2 Go Green

A lot of folks think I eat nothing but pull-up bars and tattoo ink. They’d be surprised to see how many leafy greens I consume on a daily basis. Everyone knows that green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, nutrients, calcium, and dietary fiber, but many don’t realize what a large role eating foods like spinach, kale and broccoli can have in sculpting amazing abs.

“People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want.”

Greens, along with most vegetables, are extremely low in caloric intake. People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want. Load two thirds of your dinner plate with veggies, and you’ll fill up with quality nutrition and decrease the temptation to make sketchier choices.

3 Avoid Processed Sugar

If you consume extra sugar and don’t metabolize it quickly, it will be stored as fat. Many of us, men in particular, tend to store this fat on our bellies. Clearly, a diet high in sugar will hinder you on your quest to a six-pack.

Processed sugar is among your abs’ greatest foes. By this, I am not just referring to white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but to just about any product where everything has been removed but the sugar. This includes “raw” and “natural” sugars, not to mention many other misleadingly labeled sweeteners on the market, including such as “nectars,” “syrups,” and “cane juice.”

The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables do not fall into this category; they have never been processed and are un-stripped of their natural fiber. They therefore metabolize slowly over time. An apple is not only sweet, it’s filling and free of processed sugar, making it a great snack for ultimate abs.

4 Drink More Water

One of the worst things about sugar is that it’s added to virtually everything. While it’s obvious that beverages like cocktails and soda will stand in the way of the quest for abs, many well-intentioned individuals still drink their sugar unknowingly in the form of flavored waters, sweetened iced teas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and other treats. These products should be consumed minimally, if at all.

“Water improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner.”

Make it a habit to look at ingredients and nutritional information and take nothing for granted. Drinks are not always what they seem! A glass of orange juice has more than 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. Water has none. The importance of taking in adequate H2O cannot be overstated.

Water also improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner. It hydrates and moisturizes, increasing your skin’s suppleness and enhancing your abs’ appearance. Furthermore, water removes toxins and reduces aches and pains, helping you train harder and recover faster.

5 Eat Less

There are many paths one can take in the quest toward ultimate abs. Lots of diets and eating styles have the potential to help you get lean, and I’m not here to tell you why one is better than another. But here’s a thought: Although there is no single weight-loss method universally proven to work perfectly for everyone in all situations, simply eating less comes close!

Having a ripped six pack requires having low body fat: 10 percent or less for men as a general standard, and 20 percent or less for women. A number like that simply is not attained without good old-fashioned restraint. Assuming you’re like most of us, if you want to show off that hard-earned definition, you will simply have to eat less. There is no way around it.

6 Live Life

Practicing restraint is one thing. Subjecting yourself to deprivation is another. The line between them is one you have to find for yourself, but a system that leaves you constantly wanting more will inevitably leave you dissatisfied. Long-term deprivation can lead to a backlash of bad habits, and usually counter-productive. I think it’s best to have a healthful, holistic approach to training and life. Look at the big picture. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and with the right mindset, you can do so and have your abs, too.

“Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally.”

Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally. This principle is true for desserts, “cheat” meals if you’re inclined to call them that, and even Thanksgiving dinners. They’re all fine because they’re occasional. Just make sure to be honest and hold yourself accountable; it’s not a “cheat” if you do it every day.

If you have good eating habits, there’s almost nothing you’ll have to avoid 100 percent of the time. This will leave you and your six-pack abs free to live happily ever after together. Keep the dream alive!


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About The Author

Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s most established and respected personal trainers.

New Ways To Build Bodyweight Strength!

Over the last few months I’ve been getting more emails than ever, but often the same questions keep coming up. And for every person who writes to me, there are probably 20 more thinking the same thing but just not bothering to type out a message.

That’s a big part of why I love to publicly answer questions I get from my readers! In this edition of Ask Al, I discuss everything from how to get better at pull-ups, to how to use speed to your advantage, to why I’m such a big sellout.

Feel free to drop me a line in the comments if you have a question about how to keep growing and progressing in the difficult world of bodyweight training!

QI’ve been training pull-ups for almost a year now. When I first started I went from 2 pull-ups to 10 in only a few months. I’ve been stuck at 12 reps for the last two months. What should I do?

What you’re experiencing is common. It’s simply a matter of diminishing returns; the better you get at anything, the harder it gets to continue progressing. Be prepared to put in the time and effort if you want to take your pull-ups to the next level. It might feel like you’ve been at it a while, but in the grand scheme of things a year is not a very long time. Having said that, here are a few methods you can experiment with to hopefully increase your reps:

Pull-up supersets

Try doing a set of Australian pull-ups immediately after a set of standard pull-ups. Take a long break, then repeat the superset again. It’s a great way to keep working your pulling muscles beyond failure once you can no longer perform any more pull-ups. You can do this 3-4 times in a single workout, but make sure you give yourself a few days rest afterward.

The rest-pause method

After a brief warm-up, do as many pull-ups as you can, and then continuing to hang on the bar for a few seconds. After you catch your breath, try to do one more, then one more, and then maybe even one more. You might be surprised at how many extra reps you can squeeze out this way, and you will get an amazing forearm pump from all the extra hanging!

Pyramid sets

Start with one pull-up, then come off the bar and take a short break. Next, perform two pull-ups, then after another break, do three. Continue this pattern until you reach the point where you can no longer add another rep. Then start working your way back down.

QI work a job where I spend several hours a day loading boxes and moving things. I want to start training calisthenics, but I’m worried about overdoing it. What do you recommend?

Well the good news is you’ve probably built a decent base of strength already just by being active on a regular basis, but it’s great that you want to do more. I recommend starting with just one or two days each week of bodyweight work to give your body time to adapt. Try doing your workouts on days where you don’t have to work, so your muscles have recovery time. Ideally if you have two consecutive days off, do your workout on the first day and then take a rest day the next day.

Since you’ll only be able to train a couple of times per week, full-body workouts are going to be the best way to go. You might eventually build enough strength and stamina that you can add in more days of training and possibly train calisthenics on the same days that you have work, but you will see how that goes as you progress. Be patient, respect your body, and give yourself recovery time when you need it.

QI read somewhere that it’s best to exercise slowly when practicing calisthenics for strength, but I see most people cranking out their push-ups as fast as possible. Which is the right way?

Though some coaches insist on slow, deliberate reps for strength training, I believe that there’s room for variety when it comes to rep tempo. Super-slow training can definitely help build control and stability, especially when you’re working through the sticking point on certain difficult exercises, but it’s not the only way to approach your training.

For example, explosive movements like jump squats and clapping push-ups are better for building power. In my opinion, it’s good to practice your exercises at different tempos. Once you’ve honed a move, you should be able to control it and make it graceful at any speed.

QI read an article you wrote that basically said training certifications are a bunch of crap. It seems a bit hypocritical to now offer your own cert with the PCC. I mean, really, a certification in bodyweight training?

I’m flattered you’ve been following me closely enough to have read those earlier writings. You actually remind me a lot of myself—I’m always questioning everything! I bet we have a lot in common. And you’re right, there are a lot of crappy PT certs out there. That’s part of why I wanted to do the Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Though it may seem unnecessary to you, with the current popularity of calisthenics training, the demand for a bodyweight strength certification was undeniable. It was going to happen eventually with or without me, so I figured, who better than me to teach it?

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” By leading my own certification, I can personally make sure that quality knowledge is bestowed and high standards are upheld. PCC has a physical test to establish a baseline of competency in performing the fundamental exercises, something that is lacking in almost every mainstream fitness certification. It’s scary that there are personal trainers out there incapable of doing proper pull-ups or even bodyweight squats, and who got certified simply by memorizing and regurgitating information. That’s why a theoretical understanding of exercise will never be enough to pass the PCC!

I’ll still be the first one to tell you, however, that just having a certification—even the PCC—doesn’t mean that you are going to be a successful trainer. I can help point people in the right direction, but it’s up to each individual to take the journey for themselves. In fitness and in life, we’re all personally responsible for our own success or failure.


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About The Author

Al Kavadlo, CSCS is one of the world’s leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics.

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