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5 Shortcuts to Six-Pack Abs

Achieving a six-pack takes more than just ab work, a fitness expert maintains. 

When it comes to abs, achieving a "six-pack" is considered one of the biggest accomplishments. But what exactly does that mean? "When someone talks about six-pack abs, they're usually talking about the rectus abdominis muscle," explains Daniel McKenna is one of the most in-demand celebrity fitness trainers in NYC, a former tread & strength instructor at Peloton, and creator of The Irish Yank Fitness App. What do you need to know about the muscle – including how you can achieve six-pack abs once and for all? Best Life has the answers. 

Low Body Fat Makes a Six-Pack Visible

paloff press abs woman

If a person has low body fat, you can often see the 4-8 rows of muscular segments that make up this muscle, explains McKenna. "What people don't quite know about this muscle is that it's actually pretty superficial," he revealed. "It doesn't do much to stabilize your spine. Also, the  shape of your six-pack is determined by genetics, "not your workout routine."

You Also Need a Strong Core

Man doing leg lift

"Having a strong core and low body fat will determine whether or not your core muscles are visible, but there's no workout you can do that can change the number of connective bands in your rectus abdominis," he adds. "You can't go from a four-pack to a six-pack with a workout." Here are five shortcuts to getting six-pack abs. 

Clean Up Your Diet

fruits and vegetables

Eat a diet full of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, suggests McKenna. "There's a saying that 'abs are made in the kitchen.' While it's important to build up your core strength and strengthen your muscles in the gym, maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet will help you to see the physical results you want  – especially when it comes to cutting down on refined and processed foods, which tend to be high in calories," he says. 

Drink Water

woman outdoors drinking water in front of sunset, cute water bottles

McKenna also maintains that drinking water is crucial. "When you're dehydrated, your body is more likely to retain excess water, which could make you bloat and hide your abs," he explains. "Staying hydrated will help to eliminate bloating, and it's a great practice to build into your routine, as hydration is important for everything our body does."

Incorporate Cardio Into Your Workouts

man and woman exercising cardio workouts for men over 40

"Strengthening your abdominal muscles is important when you're trying to build your core, but you also have to remain in a caloric deficit to lose fat and have your muscles show," McKenna points out. He suggests finding a form of cardio you enjoy, like running or cycling, "and do it consistently."

Get Enough Sleep

woman sleeping on her side

Also, abs get built when you are sleeping. "If you aren't resting your body properly at night, it won't be able to rest and recover enough for your workout to make an impact. Meaning that even if you're completing a hard workout every day, it's not going to make a huge difference unless you're giving your body enough time to recover from your gains," says McKenna. "A lack of sleep can also cause bloating."

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Finally, Do Core Work

Exercise, push up

Finally, McKenna maintains that you need to do core-specific exercises. "This one may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure that along with compound movements and regular weight training, you're setting intentional time to strengthen your core with exercises like planks, crunches, forearm planks, and dead bugs."

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more
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