How to get a six pack (and why I don't have one!)
For me the answer to why I don't have a six pack is simple..
In truth I am not committed enough to a healthy diet to have a low body fat percentage. We all have a 'six pack' but it's hidden underneath whatever fat we are carrying on our abdomen. Therefore abdominal work is not the key to having a flat stomach. The key is getting your body fat low enough for them to show. You need a certain level of fat to maintain hormone function. For women a body fat percentage between 19-25 is considered healthy. Athletes will have a body fat percentage around 14-20% in their peak phase of training. To get your abs to shine through you are likely to need a body fat percentage under 20% which takes a lot of work and commitment. If you are serious about getting a six pack these are the components you need to have right:
Doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been seen to be the most efficient way to lose fat, especially when combined with weight training. In terms of getting your fat percentage below 20% this is the most efficient way to do it.
Compound movements such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and bench presses engage most muscles and require the abdominals to work to transfer the forces between the arms and legs. These exercises provide more 'bang for your buck' than isolated movements alone. This is where doing abdominal crunches are not enough, they are isolated and easy to get wrong. Also you're doing a flexion based exercise (where your abs are getting shorter) rather than lengthening so you're encouraging them to stick out! This is where doing them correctly comes in....
If you don't actually use your abs whilst exercising they're not going to develop! When doing any exercise including curls, bicycles, planks your abdominals should be engaged to ensure they're working. It's the difference between pic A and pic B below:
A = core off (note the arch in the back)
B = core on (no more arch!)
It is often said you can't out train a bad diet. Whilst this is the main reason I don't have the defined stomach my training should promote; I can appreciate there are simple steps that should allow for a more stomach flattening appearance. By making sure your diet has minimal processed foods and you are timing your carbs around your workouts you can avoid the bloating that can cover your abs.
You're under recovered
If you are training too hard that you don't give your body a chance to recover and your stress levels can increase. Cortisol leads to fat retention which will cover the abs. The same goes for poor sleep quality, it causes hormonal imbalance which can lead to fat clinging on to your stomach.
You stick to the same old routine
By mixing up the stimulus your putting your body through you challenge it to adapt and change. If you do the same routine each week you can't expect to see much change as your body will find it easier and easier.
Sadly a washboard stomach comes even harder to women given that we store more fat naturally. So even though instagram might make it look like abs are easy to achieve, the commitment needed to get these aspects right is pretty full on. I admire those who are that disciplined and maybe one day that will kick in for me but for now I'll keep trying to see if you can outrun your diet!
Boutcher, S. H. (2011). High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity, 2011, 868305. http://doi.org/10.1155/2011/868305
Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M. and Rebuffé-Scrive, M. (1994), Stress-Induced Cortisol Response and Fat Distribution in Women. Obesity Research, 2: 255–262. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x