If you’re reading this on the iPad while doing crunches on the floor, go ahead and take a breather. Sure, you might feel a tighter tummy the next morning (not to mention a stiff neck), but chances are, the next 400 reps aren’t going to get you anywhere near that six pack.
While those hundreds of sit-ups and crunches can’t get the job done, these five tips will.
Eat less calories. You’ve heard them all: “You can’t outrun your fork,” or “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Cliches aside, you can kill it all you want at the gym, but it won’t count for pickles unless you find a way to reduce your body-fat and increase your muscle. Lose the flab, find your ab(s). Gosh, I just made that up.
But get what you need. Starving yourself isn’t going to do it either. You need to make sure that your body doesn’t start preserving fat in anticipation of the End of Days and a diet based around those few successful squirrel hunts. If it help, keeps a calorie journal to stay accountable while making sure you are still hitting your quotas for survival. Here’s a great one that’s even got a smartphone app.
Strengthen your core. A strong core is crucial for physical performance. Whether you’re balancing on a tight-rope over lava or lifting up your three-year-old (what on earth you feeding that kid?!) your core keeps your hips and back from injury by improving their coordination with one-another. Your core also serves as the foundation for those stomach ripples. So crunch all you want (be careful with that neck, though!) but set aside some time for planks, bridges, hip raises, and twists. More on these another day.
Do some cardio, and make it count. You already know that you need to get out there, on the bike, in the pool, around the track, whatever it is you do to get your pulse thumping like a rabid bunny. If you’re in reasonable shape, you can increase your gains by adding intervals to your workout. Research shows that high intensity interval training (HIIT) promotes fat burning while preserving muscle.
Take your time. Abs aren’t going to show up overnight. (certainly not after 20 sit-ups.) Stay on program at the gym and maintain that discipline at the dining table. You’ll find that as the flab goes, the exercise and energy will come easier and easier. See that person in the mirror, 8 weeks from today? I wouldn’t pick a fight.