Swole 101: The Elusive Quest for a Six Pack

Female and Male Abs

Nowadays, it seems everyone is after a toned midsection. Some people won’t even stop until they achieve shredded washboard abs. A six pack has come to be an important quest for many persons, however, many are misled as to the method to obtain it.

One common misconception is that cardiovascular exercise is the most important aspect of dialing in a six pack. Another misconception is that doing 1000 crunches a day is most important. Wrong on both accounts! Diet possibly plays the greatest role in obtaining a six pack. Let’s see why.

The Myth of Crunches

The first myth that needs debunking is the idea that doing thousands of crunches and sit-ups will get you a six pack. The reality is that no matter how many sit-ups or crunches you perform, your six pack will never show unless you reduce your body fat to a level that your abdominal muscles are visible. Everyone has abs but it will not show unless you get rid of the layer of fat above the muscle.

You cannot target specific areas of fat on your body, which some people falsely think they are accomplishing when they perform one million sit ups and crunches. Abdominal exercises strengthens the abdominal muscles but does nothing to get rid of the fat above. Therefore, you are wasting your time doing hundreds of sit ups and ab related exercises. What is needed is high intensity full body training to reduce overall body fat so that your abs can be visible.

Cardio is Not King

The second myth that should be dispelled is that long, frequent endurance cardio sessions are highly effective at promoting fat loss. Many people think the best way to reduce your body fat is through cardio such as running, walking or jogging; exercises that increase your heart rate and body temperature so that you can burn fat. Endurance cardio is effective to some extent, but it is hardly the ‘best’ way to train for fat loss.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of cardio that will allow you to burn fat and elevate your metabolism for a full 48 hours after performing the HIIT session. HIIT sessions are also much shorter in duration than endurance cardio. An effecive HIIT workout can be accomplished in just 20 minutes.

Two HIIT sessions a week are all that is recommended in addition to a weight lifting routine when trying to lose fat. Any more cardio than that could be detrimental to retaining muscle, and could put you into a state of overtraining. An occasional endurance cardio session can be used in conjunction with HIIT and regular weight lifting, but it is really not necessary if your diet is on point.

It All Starts with Nutrition

Nutrition is responsible for at least 75% of your fat loss progress, and unless you have a skinny-guy metabolism, a proper diet is essential if you want a six pack. You should stay away from processed foods and eat as natural as possible. A lot of fruits and vegetables should be incorporated into your diet. You need to ensure you have a balanced diet with the recommended percentages from each food group. A healthy, clean diet is essential to low body fat.

You also need to know how to make wise food choices by differentiating between good and bad carbohydrates and good and bad fats. Sugary foods and white carbs like bread, potatoes, and pasta are not recommended on a fat loss diet. Unhealthy fats like fried food and animal fat are not recommended, nor are high fat condiments like mayonaise and salad dressing. Lean protein intake should be high, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats should be moderate, and total calories should be below maintenance levels.


Obtaining a six pack takes a lot of patience and hard work. Nutrition is the key as what you put in will be what you get out. Forget about doing hundreds of ab related exercises and long low-intensity jogs on the treadmill. Start focusing on lowering your overall body fat by incorporating heavy weight training and high intensity cardio into your training, and you will be on your way to an amazing set of abs.

This first draft of this post was written by Chris Brown, who blogs at Gain Build Muscle

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5 Responses to “Swole 101: The Elusive Quest for a Six Pack”

  1. Steve, I am a personal trainer, all I do all day is preach good eating habits, good workout habits and the evils of too much indulgence of fat, alcohol and sugar. All my clients think that great abs come from crunches. Honestly, it’s my business to look good, but my six pack comes from yoga and a really clean diet.

  2. Steve,
    Having a six-pack takes hard work. Good clean eating, weight training and HIIT. Most people are not willing to put in the effort and are constantly looking for a quick fix. Maybe that’s why there is about a thousand fat burning pills on the market.

    • Hey Chris. Thanks for the guest post. I edited some of it because it was not entirely in line with some of my beliefs regarding cardio and dieting. I hope you don’t mind. Generally though, you were right on track.

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