When it comes to physical attraction, a survey by "Men's Fitness" magazine found that women ranked a six-pack of abs as one of the most attractive muscle groups. But getting strong abs isn't just about vanity. Your abdominal muscles play a core role in everyday movements, such as lifting and bending, and protecting yourself from injuries. However, reaching a fitness level where you have visible abs isn't easy. If you want to get a shredded, washboard torso as fast as possible, you have to change what you do in the gym, kitchen and bedroom.
Forget Crunches and Gimmicky Ab Devices
Leave the "As Seen on TV" ab workout devices on your television screen, and forget the old advice of doing endless sit-ups or crunches. An American Council on Exercise-sponsored study, conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University, reviewed some of the most common ab exercises. Researchers concluded that the bicycle maneuver was the most effective at working your abs, helping you to focus your exercise strictly on your rectus abdominis muscles so you get the fastest results. To do the bicycle maneuver, lie down on your back. Put your hands behind your head and raise your legs into the air so your thighs are perpendicular to your torso. Contract your abs, then bend your right knee up while simultaneously bringing your left elbow forward. Your knee and elbow should meet together above your body. Pause for one or two seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat with your left knee and right elbow.
Get Highly Intense
An American College of Sports Medicine study published in the "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise" research journal found that high-intensity aerobic exercise done three times per week, paired with a couple days of low-intensity aerobic exercise, was the fastest way to change body composition. In fact, it found that high-intensity exercise helped people to quickly lose fat from around their abdomen. By reducing your stomach fat, you reveal the ab muscles you've been working on strengthening. ACE recommends interval training. While the council notes that there isn't any one correct or incorrect way to do interval training, it suggests breaking your aerobic routine into alternating high-intensity and low-intensity periods. For example, if you're cycling, cycle as fast as you can for two minutes, slow down to a gentle speed for two minutes, and repeat back and forth for half an hour.
Use the Secret Recipe for a Six Pack
Many personal trainers say abs are actually made in the kitchen, not just the gym. When paired with ab-strengthening exercise and fat-burning exercise, a good diet can get you the results you want as quickly as possible. Add fiber to every meal, as research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that people lost 3.7 percent of their abdominal fat for every 10 g of extra fiber they ate per day. Boost your protein intake, since a study in the "Obesity" journal reported that making protein 35 percent of your calorie intake improved your fat-burning metabolism and specifically lowered fat deposits from your ab region.
Get Shredded in Your Sleep
Research in "Sleep," a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, noted that not getting enough sleep was linked to greater fat accumulation around the stomach region. That's because when you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. This boosts your appetite, often leading you to overeat and gain more fat. However, cortisol also causes you to retain more fat and lose more muscle mass. Thus, aiming to get enough shut-eye every night -- try to sleep for seven or eight hours -- can help you keep fat at bay and maintain a trim, toned torso.
- Men's Fitness: What Women Want in a Man - Her Favorite Body Parts
- American Council on Exercise: Core Training for Injury Prevention
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Bicycle Crunches
- American College of Sports Medicine: High-Intensity Exercise Best for Improving Body Composition
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- Science Daily: Soluble Fiber Strikes a Blow to Belly Fat
- Obesity Journal: Increased Protein Intake and Meal Frequency Reduces Abdominal Fat
- Well and Good NYC: Do You Have a Dirty Little Dietary Secret?
- Sleep Journal: Sleep Duration and Five-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort
- Dr. Oz: Reset Your Hormones to Beat Belly Fat
- Men's Fitness: 3 Secrets Personal Trainers Don't Want You to Know