Many people exercise with the goal of sculpting swimsuit-worthy, chiseled abs that would make them proud to show off their midsection. You may be doing gut-busting ab workouts while wondering when all of your hard work and sweat will pay off. However, there are a number of factors that will determine how soon your six-pack will show through, and some have little to do with how many crunches you do.
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Burn the Bulge
You may be hoping that spending hours on ab workouts will earn you a flatter stomach. However, you can't spot-reduce fat in your midsection with strength training. You have to burn fat throughout your body to reduce the layer of fat covering your abs before that six-pack is visible. You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat; if you reduce the number of calories you eat by 500 each day, you can safely lose a pound a week. Doing no less than 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, aerobic exercise each week will help you burn more calories and speed up your weight-loss efforts. According to the American Council on Exercise, body fat should be 6 to 13 percent for men and 14 to 20 percent for women for you to see your abs if they are developed.
Keep It Consistent
In addition to burning fat, you have to simultaneously condition your core muscles to get a toned midsection. If you are only doing a few crunches every now and then you may not see results in terms of muscular strength and definition. You have to work your core intensely and consistently to see an improvement. If you are looking for abs that pop, do weighted ab workouts and choose a weight that only allows you to do eight to 15 reps per set. If you want a strong core and are training for muscular endurance, use little or no weight and go for more reps. Train your abs three to four times a week allowing rest days in between for recovery and growth. The harder you work, the faster you'll see results.
Build the Whole Core
If you want a toned midsection, you have to exercise all of the core muscles including your abs, lower back, obliques, hips, glutes and even upper thighs. This will allow you to develop a full six-pack as well as a balanced waistline. You can't do this with crunches alone, since crunches only target the front and sides of your stomach. Include planks, side planks, side bends, hyperextension exercises, stability ball knee ins and squats in your core routine to see your six-pack sooner.
You Can't Change Genetics
When it comes to the amount of time it takes to see your abs when strength training your midsection, genetics definitely play a role. Your genes determine your body type including how much body fat you have and where your body tends to store that fat. Some people may have a lower percentage of body fat but tend to carry it more in their midsection and hips. This can make it take longer to see a firm stomach. Genetics also determine your ability to build muscle. Some people build muscle bulk more easily, while others may gain muscle endurance before they gain size and definition. These genetic factors can make it difficult to forecast how soon you will notice your abs.