Whether you're currently working on building lean muscle mass or you're aiming to lose body fat, along the way one of your priorities is likely to get six-pack abs. Six-pack abs tend to be the "gold standard" for being classified as "fit" for most people.
Unfortunately, getting six-pack abs is something that tends to take a great deal of work, and unless you're using the right methods, it's going to be a long and uphill battle. Here are five things you can start doing right now to take a big step forward toward accomplishing these goals.
1. Watch Your Sodium Intake
The first thing you can do immediately that will have a big impact on your abs is make sure your sodium intake is low. Sodium will quickly add water retention to the abdominal region, so if you have a high-salt meal one night, expect to notice a difference the next night.
It won't take long at all for the effects to be known, but on the bright side, when you reduce your sodium intake, the same principle follows—you'll see results almost immediately.
Because of this, reducing your sodium intake is a very effective way to look leaner almost overnight for when you have some type of special function coming up.
2. Add Instability To Your Workout Program
The second thing you should be doing is adding some element of instability to your workout program. Whenever you reduce how stable you are, you will cause the abdominal muscles to contract that much harder to maintain balance.
You can do this by moving your ab exercises to an exercise ball, performing some of the typical weight-lifting exercises you do on an exercise ball (bicep curls or chest press for example), or doing some exercises while standing on top of a BOSU ball which also helps to reduce stability.
Note that you shouldn't place all your primary weight lifting exercises on an exercise ball since you do want to be lifting as heavy as possible most of the time, but doing one or two per session can be beneficial.
3. Drop Your Carbs
Third, consider dropping your carbohydrate intake. This will work in much the same way as reducing your sodium intake will, as when carbs are reduced it will cause the body to start losing water weight.
You have to watch when dramatically cutting carbs in the first few days because you will typically experience higher levels of fatigue in the workout sessions and may feel slightly "fuzzy" in the mind as the body adapts to the lower carbohydrate level. Within a week or so you should feel better provided you are still getting sufficient protein and some dietary fat.
Be aware when using this technique that the weight you're losing is mostly water though, not pure body fat. Eventually it will be body fat, but right off the bat, you're mostly shedding water weight.
4. Reduce Your Rest Periods To Thirty Seconds
In terms of your weight-lifting workout, one thing you can do that will help to boost the metabolic rate and help you shed fat faster is shortening up the rest periods. Keep in mind that you're not aiming to make the workout a circuit-training program; that will severely limit the total amount of weight you're able to lift, but rather prevent yourself from taking lengthy breaks between lifts.
Keep it short and snappy, so you're maintaining intensity throughout the workout. Rest periods of about 30 seconds—possibly 45 seconds on the larger lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench, and rows—are the goal here.
5. Take One Week Off Cardio
Finally, the last thing you should sometimes do, which is contrary to what you probably think you should be doing, is taking one week off cardio training.
If you're someone who has really upped their cardio training and is doing four or more hours a week, the body may actually be retaining water from all this training. In many situations, once that cardio training is dropped, the muscles actually begin looking leaner, despite the lower total daily calorie expenditure.
Another thing that could be going on with this is that since you are creating such a large deficit between all the cardio plus the diet, your body could be really running slowly, with a metabolic rate that won't do much for fat loss. By stopping the cardio, you reduce the deficit and the metabolic rate speeds up again, which then sparks weight loss to take place. This will not always work to make you look leaner, but if you feel like you never get away from the cardio machines, it may be worth a try.
When it comes to getting six-pack abs, there is nothing that will be more important than a good diet and smart weight lifting. After that, then there are some minor details you can play around with that will help take your progress to the next level.
Here's a quick abs workout to get you started: