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Abdominal Axioms: 9 Rules For Better Abs

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people may enjoy better abs. Declare independence from your soft stomach this summer. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms!

Thinking you could look like that fitness model is a lot easier than actually looking like him, especially if you're groping the bottom of your popcorn tub for that last kernel. It might be June, but it's never too late to try for a chiseled six pack. Even if it doesn't happen this summer, you'll have plenty of other days in the sun to show off your great body.

Remember, achieving six pack abs won't happen overnight. It requires dedication to a clean diet and a great training program. To really see those etched abdominals, you'll have to have an aggressive approach. Abide by these nine abdominal axioms and you'll see some great changes in your physique.

1 / Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Weight loss requires creating a calorie deficit. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so in order to lose pounds you must create a deficit equal to the number of those calories. Losing one pound per week, for example, would require only a 500 calorie deficit per day (3,500cals/7days). That's fewer than the number of calories in a king-sized Snickers bar! Unlocking better eating habits is the key to uncovering your buried six-pack.

Bear in mind that "better eating habits" does not mean you should jump on the newest crash-diet bandwagon. As tempting as it may be to go on some ultra-low-calorie diet to cut corners and get those abs sooner, resist. Sure, you might lose some weight at the beginning, but drinking three gallons of lemonade and honey per day is not sustainable. As soon as you reap the temporary results, returning to regular or even healthier eating habits will result in weight gains. Your metabolism will still be stuck in slow motion—not cool.

Skip the cycle and choose an option that will work long-term.

2 / Eat Fish for Fat

Add fish to your dinner plate just a few times each week to help trim some fat from your diet. Fish like salmon, mackerel, or tilapia are great substitutes for a Rib-Eye steak, because they are leaner. The Omega fats found in fish will also boost your insulin sensitivity, guarding against a blood sugar spike and crash. Healthy omega fats also foster a leaner body composition.

Remember, just because the meat is lean doesn't mean you get to smother it in butter or deep fry it. Healthy, lean meat doesn't stay that way if you boil it in a vat of vegetable oil. Plenty of healthy seasoning and cooking options can keep your body and taste buds happy.

3 / Go Au Naturale

Twinkies and Wonder Bread don't belong on your plate. Processed starches spike insulin levels, keeping dieters on the sugar-binge roller coaster, and also have no nutritional benefit.

Almost anything which comes wrapped in a package needs to stay on the shelf. Closet-eating Pop-Tarts won't land you anywhere closer to your six-pack goals.

Don't skip starches altogether. Instead, get the carbs and nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables. If it doesn't come from the ground or a tree, you probably don't need it.

4 / Just Say No to Sauces and Condiments

Sauces and condiments, though delicious, can wreck your diet regimen; it's where a great deal of your excess sugar likes to lurk. Sauces and condiments are also full of sodium. Sodium increases water retention; so even if your eating habits are spotless, your abs might just be hidden under that bloat hanging out above your pants.

Kick the ketchup and soy sauce and save yourself hundreds of calories per day. Instead, flavor dinner with sodium-free and sugar-free spices and herbs.

5 / Don't Drink Your Calories

Be picky about the fluids you put into your body. If you regularly quench your thirst with fruit juice, energy drinks, sugary coffee drinks, or fruit smoothies, it shouldn't be a surprise that you pack around a few extra pounds. A good rule of thumb: If your beverage contains calories, don't drink it.

If you just aren't ready to break up with your favorite Starbucks barista, then switch up your routine. Try an Americano or green tea instead of your usual large Orange Mocha Frappuccino, and hold the whip.

6 / Lay Off the Booze

As hard as this may be, cutting alcohol out of your diet will eliminate empty calories that attach themselves to your waistline. Drinking also slows down the fat-burning and muscle-building processes. If your body is ridding itself of those beers you had, burning fat or building muscle will get short shrift.

If eliminating alcohol is simply not an option, stick to wine. Red wine has a little less residual sugar than white wine and has the natural benefit of antioxidants. Yet both types are similar in their calorie content. Liquor is the next best option, so long as it is not mixed in sugary cocktails.

7 / Pursue Muscle Mass

Without some muscle under that adipose tissue, your 6-pack won't be too impressive. Resistance training adds lean muscle to your frame, which revs metabolism and burns more calories. Adding muscle mass also makes your body stronger, shapelier, and better defined.

That muscle mass doesn't come from doing a few biceps curls and calling it good. Lift heavy and lift hard. If you want some extra calorie burn, shorten your rest periods, or do some sort of cardiovascular activity between sets. High intensity resistance training is the most powerful fat loss weapon in your arsenal. It burns calories during and after exercise, and it increases the secretion of hormones that stimulate fat breakdown.

8 / Keep Crunches in Their Place

Don't let your quest for great abs rule your workout routine. Some ab isolation movements are helpful, but you need to spend most of your time under a barbell or rocking some dumbbells. If all you do is crunches or cycle for an hour, you won't burn enough calories or build enough muscle to make a difference in your physique.

Spend 10-15 minutes three times per week doing isolation ab work in addition to your intense resistance training routine. But keep in mind that your abs are more than the washboard-looking rectus abdominus, so don't focus on them. Perform a variety of movements to strengthen the external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus.

9 / Sleep Your Way to Better Abs

Sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate and synthesizing essential hormones and protein needed for muscle growth. Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced more abundantly when you sleep; you'll need it for growth stimulation and cell reproduction.

Sleep also encourages better eating habits. A not-so-restful night might mean reduced leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone) levels.

So, if you ever wake up from a fitful night craving nothing but carbs, lower leptin levels might be the reason. Sleep well and your diet will feel easier.


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About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

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DGerathy12

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DGerathy12

Good tips, especially the muscle mass. The best thing for a 6 pack is all the compounds.

Jun 24, 2013 7:03pm | report
tigeriron

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tigeriron

true!

Jul 27, 2013 6:46am | report
jstanek

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jstanek

Alcohol really does it for me, recently slowed my drinking and now looking cut after only 6 weeks.

Jun 24, 2013 8:11pm | report
bsalkeld

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bsalkeld

Great article.

Question: If I up my daily calorie burn during my workout (e.g from 500cal/session to 900cal/session) and maintain my calorie intake, I'm assuming that will account for a 400 cal deficit (as opposed to dropping cal intake) for cutting? - Thanks

Jun 24, 2013 11:38pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 15'10"
  • wt: 190.7 lbs
  • bf: 12.0%
LopezFreak1

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LopezFreak1

Yes, as long as your in a caloric deficit you will loose fat.

Jun 26, 2013 4:06pm | report
bsalkeld

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bsalkeld

Thanks @LopezFreak1

Jul 10, 2013 5:31pm | report
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godspeed1

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godspeed1

Good article...but how many hrs of sleep should we have in 24 hrs after a good hard training...? pleez reply.

Jun 25, 2013 1:47am | report
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  • ht: 13'4"
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FVN20

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FVN20

8/9 hours should be enough

Jun 25, 2013 3:44am | report
BaBbu38

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BaBbu38

7-8hrs not bad :)

Jun 25, 2013 5:11am | report
Janskistar

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Janskistar

Most studies say 8 hours

Jun 25, 2013 12:25pm | report
Kovenant

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Kovenant

8 hours is enough.
Remember when we sleep we enter in different stages from Stage 1 thru 3 then REM which is the most important one, if we don't hit REM sleep we wake up more tire than before sleep of not well rested also REM sleep works with memory retention and also every 90 min of good sleep we release Human Growth hormone (HGH).

Jun 25, 2013 4:41pm | report
mateus634

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mateus634

Yes, 8 hours is a good time.

Jun 25, 2013 5:02pm | report
mateus634

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mateus634

Yes, 8 hours is a good time.

Jun 25, 2013 5:02pm | report
RowanBox

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RowanBox

Required sleep depends person to person, best way to tell if your getting enough is how many mornings your already awake when the alarm goes off, if it is less than half the time your probably not getting enough.

Jul 2, 2013 10:22pm | report
ritchie684

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ritchie684

at the very least 6 hours but its recommended to get around 7-8.

Jul 11, 2013 4:20am | report
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Robertsy69a

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Robertsy69a

Atleast 8 hours sleep a night so that our bodys can rest efficiently.

(feel free to add me people)

Jul 14, 2013 2:17pm | report
Antrozous

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Antrozous

Sweet, I already do most of these

Jun 25, 2013 9:43am | report
rey023

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rey023

nice art :))

Jun 25, 2013 10:01am | report
bhopejones

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bhopejones

There are some good tips in this article, but unfortunately, "Weight loss requires creating a calorie deficit" is wholly incorrect. I tell people all the time that I never, I repeat NEVER, count my calories. I USED to - last year, when I was doing 1200 or under (usually "or under") and doing about an hour and a half of cardio (often HIIT) every single day. However, this year I've started lifting and not only do I have definition now, I'm 10 pounds lighter than I was last summer. And to PROVE that I don't count calories to those who keep asking, I finally did record what I ate throughout a normal day - ready? a whopping 2,368 calories. that's roughly 1100 MORE calories than I was eating last year and I've seen TWICE the amount of weight loss.
The difference is this: it's not the QUANTITY of the calories you take in, it's the QUALITY. Those 2,368 calories came from things like lean protein (tilapia, chicken breast, etc), a kale salad, a banana, a kiwi, baked asparagus, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened almond milk, etc etc. I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm not, and I eat whole un-processed foods. And the result is that I eat ALL the time, I absolutely do NOT teach my body to run off of less calories - because what the heck happens when I start adding calories back in? I would gain weight almost immediately - and I eat food (LOTS of it) that's good for the body.
And, to answer the question that most usually follow that up with, NO, I do NOT have a high metabolism. My genetics are wholly against me. My dad was roughly 400lbs throughout my childhood. He's now around 250 but my point is, those are my genetics. I gain weight easily. However, I've created the need for more calories. Muscles are metabolically expensive - they need MORE calories to simply sustain them. Therefore, I'm taking in 2300 cals a day, every single day, but my muscles are the ones burning them off.
those muscles, of course, do include my abs, which for the first time ever, are there. :)

Jun 25, 2013 10:31am | report
mrwseattle

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mrwseattle

You go girl! That was awesome advice. I love "Muscles are metabolically expensive." So true! I eat clean as well, and I'm 48, so the fight to rev that metab is supposedly against me. However, doing all the tips you said, hold true for me as well.

Jun 25, 2013 10:50am | report
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Janskistar

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Janskistar

So true! Thanks!

Jun 25, 2013 12:33pm | report
RellRell

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RellRell

You should have never went under 1500 calories in the first place.....that's not healthy for anyone

Jun 25, 2013 12:49pm | report
eladophir

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eladophir

The only thing you might have proven is that you might need to brush up on your math.

Countless studies have proven that in order to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit, and vise versa for gaining weight.
So if you are losing weight there are two options here:
1. You re miscalculating your caloric intake.
2. Your TDEE is higher than the number of calories you are putting in.

So please, no more voodoo talk - read a book.
Thank you.

Jun 25, 2013 12:50pm | report
justin999

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justin999

A calorie deficit is totally what s needed, the reason you struggled to get as lean before is because your metabolism was running so slow due to the tiny amount of energy being fed in as opposed to the high level of energy being expended, when these extremes are made the body needs to survive and so it adjusts it metabolism to preserve the only form of energy it can rely on and that is body fat. Youve obviously continued to repair the situation and admirably so by training and eating smarter, clean or dirty calories are calories, but now because of engaging in resistance work therefore forcing the body to build muscle and so increase it resting metabolic rate. I was in the same situation for the last 2 years prepping for shows, not enough calories in and way to much cardio, my metabolism was truly messed up and so when i did at first increase my calories i gained a tonn of fat, and so for the past year i have been slowly increasing my calorie load to a high enough level so that now while i am prepping for my 3rd show i had somewhere to drop it back to without it falling so riciculously low, i am actually heavier, leaner and still eating carbs and doing no cardio at all. Occasionally i may do a very quick HIT cardio session maybe once a week if i feel i need it or if im not lifting weights that day. But i guess the take home message here is people need to stop concerning at first with getting cut or lean, but instead, of eating a good solid healthy diet, yes lots of natural foods from across the food groups, eat to build and repair, then after time maybe even upto a year, then start to look at either increasing some activity or reducing some calories to create a better deficit in order to lose some body fat. Rome wasnt built in a day, and so this has to be a lifetyle! Hope some of this makes sence, cos now when i read it back im wondering if this may get missunderstood. Either way thanks for reading :)

Jun 25, 2013 1:39pm | report
iVika

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iVika

totally agree with #eladophir, calorie is just unit of energy and quantity of the calories is important.

Jun 25, 2013 1:48pm | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 75 Comments

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