Abs: What's the secret?

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Can't get a flat stomach or abdominal definition? Think again with Dax Moy's tummy-flattening home truths

Woman doing sit up
Open just about any magazine even slightly related to health and fitness and you'll find some variant or another of 'six weeks to a six-pack' or 'awesome abs' or 'core-training secrets of the stars' or the like.

Well, as much as you'll hate hearing it, the truth is that most 'celebrity six-packs' have very little to do with the special core routine of their favourite personal trainer.

You'll rarely, if ever, catch a well-conditioned track athlete, martial artist or gymnast even entertaining the idea of crunches, let alone doing one, yet they all get to sport the sort of year-round leanness and definition that most people would kill for.

Why is that? Why is it that, while some of us are spending hours every week hitting our waists from every angle, we still look soft around the middle when these abdominal-training atheists are able to achieve such great results? I can tell you up-front, you're not going to like the answer!

First though, some basic anatomy. That muscle you think of as 'the six-pack', the one that runs from your groin all the way up to your ribs is called the rectus abdominis and is just one of several very important muscle groups that create your waist or 'core' as it's now popularly known.

Every single movement you make: standing, sitting, walking, running, bending, twisting, pushing and pulling, all originate here and so, far from requiring even more training, your core muscles are already there and already looking like that six-pack you've got your heart so set on.

Right there, buried under all of that fat you've worked hard all winter (maybe longer) to lay down is a six-pack that any bodybuilder or gymnast would die for. The only reason you can't see yours is because it's buried! (I told you this was basic.)

The only thing stopping you from 'un-burying' your six-pack is the lack of discipline required to control what goes into your mouth on a daily basis, along with the dispelling of a few myths that are conspiring to keep you soft around the middle.

Myth Number 1 - You can't spot reduce

Most of us seem to know this already, at some level, yet still it's common to find six-pack seekers grinding out rep after tedious rep of myriad variations of curls and crunches.

Listen up. The body just doesn't work that way! Let's get this straight once and for all: when the body burns fat it takes it molecule by molecule, gram by gram, from the whole body, not just from the area you're exercising. What's more, by performing such small, isolated exercises you're not burning many calories or much body fat anyway!

The answer is to get off your backside and carry out more of your exercises from a standing position and using many more of your muscles each time you train. That way, without even directly targeting the abdominals you'll be burning many, many more calories and conditioning your core at the same time. You're far more likely to see your six-pack this way.

Myth Number 2 - Cardio is not king if you want to get lean

Especially if you do it the way most people do. Just look around the gym next time you're there. How many of the cardio junkies that are glued to the treadmills, rowers and crosstrainers are sporting the look you're after? Not many, I'll bet!

And the reason is, they're doing so much cardio that the hormones that keep them going for those extended periods are actually commanding their bodies to give up muscle more rapidly than fat. The net effect is that they end up slowing their metabolism way down and creating bodies that are potentially fatter than before.

To get lean you need to work harder for a shorter duration. Short circuits, intervals, relays that get you breathing hard, then rest. Five minutes at a time is all you need if you train this way.

Better still, skip those boring machines anyway and use strength exercises with bodyweight or free-weights to send your metabolism into warp drive. I call this type of training my '600 rule'. In short, you have 600 or so muscles. Incorporate exercises and movements that challenge as many as possible at once. Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, jumps, forward bends, deadlifts. Y'know, those 'old-fashioned' exercises that people used to use before gyms got hi-tech.

Myth Number 3 - you've got to cut calories to get lean

Well, I've got to admit, this is partly true, especially if you overeat often, but much more important than cutting calories is to cut the rubbish foods out of your diet altogether. You see, your body fat is used as a 'toxic dump', a waste-ground when your system is overburdened by foods it can't handle. When too many toxic foods find their way into your body, regardless of the calories you eat, your body will dump these toxins into wherever you hold your fat. Your waist among other places.

So if you truly want to get lean, you've got to get clean! That means removing many of the foods that your body considers toxic like:

Alcohol

Caffeine

Processed foods

Sugar (or substitute)

Anything with a number or unpronounceable word in it and most wheat products

Replace these foods with wholesome, nourishing foods that offer support to your body and you'll almost immediately see fat beginning to strip off. Foods like:

Fresh meat

Fish and poultry (especially organic)

Fresh fruit and veg (organic where possible)

Nuts and seeds, olives

Fresh, filtered water

These are the fundamentals of any healthy diet yet few people come anywhere near these basics within their own eating and lifestyle plans, opting instead for quick-fix, processed, toxic foods. You can cut calories all you want but if you're still eating foods from the top list and not enough from the bottom then you'll always end up back where you started.

If you follow this plan for 30 days you'll have a body to be proud of and you'll have achieved what only a tiny percentage of people ever do. You will have reached your goal.

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