Most of us can only dream of having a washboard stomach, so what’s the best way to get one and how long does it take?
We challenged four exercise-shy guys to see if they could get the perfect six-pack in six weeks.
What is the six-pack and why do we worship it?
“The beauty about a sixpack is that everyone’s got one. But what’s holding it back is a layer of body fat over it,” says James Short, President of the Personal Trainers Council of New South Wales.
The so-called six-pack has a medical name rectus abdominus. It’s a muscle slung between your ribs and your pubic bone and you really feel it when you do sit-ups. If you work them hard enough some experts believe it’s possible to develop an eight-, or even a 10-pack.
So if the trick to revealing your six-pack is to get your body fat down, what’s the best way to go about it?
For our test we took four friends Cameron, Luke, Jeremy and Chris. They’re all in their early 20s but have already begun developing pot bellies.
“At the moment I’ve just got one big keg. So to downsize to a six-pack could be pretty good,” said Jeremy.
To find out how much body fat the boys are carrying we sent them off to Dr Jarrod Meerkin from Body Composition Australia. They were each scanned to determine their percentage of body fat. This yielded some interesting results: the guys shouldn’t be carrying any more than about 20 percent in body fat, however, Luke recorded the best result at 17.6 percent but Jeremy’s was the highest at 27 percent.
Dr Meerkin: “Jeremy, unfortunately, has, I think, a bit of an issue with his weight.”
Each of the four guys were given a different method to try and achieve the perfect sixpack.
Cameron Cameron was given an ab machine, the type you see advertised on the television in the early hours of the morning.
Luke For six weeks, Luke was put on a diet.
James James focused on his lifestyle the biggest thing was no alcohol!
Chris Chris was our sit-up man a program of front and side crunches for six weeks.
Jeremy Jeremy was put on an intensive cardiovascular program, with some extra abdominal exercises thrown in for good measure. One hour, four times a week. Jeremy has the most varied program but he also had the most body fat to lose.
Three weeks later
At the half-way mark it’s time to catch up with the boys starting with Cameron on the ab machine.
Cameron: “I’ve been given a program of three sets of 15 normal reps, and then three sets of 15 obliques. I have to turn on each side and do that. I’ve been doing it religiously every night and I haven’t felt as much burn as I thought I would.”
Luke’s big dietary challenge was to say goodbye to fast foods, as well as giving up the grog and the soft drinks. So what can he consume? Breakfast is a generous serve of untoasted muesli with fruit and skim milk; lunch is two sandwiches on multigrain, tuna or chicken with salad; dinner is salad with steamed vegies, lean meat or fish.
“Because I’m eating healthy I find it easier to do more active things because I’ve got more energy. Rather than walking somewhere I’ll just start jogging because I’ve got more energy because I’m eating better,” says Luke.
Chris, our sit up guy, has been working hard. In week one he was doing 60 crunches a day, but now?
“At the moment I’m doing about 200 sit-ups a day. I’m noticing a real change down the middle. I can’t seem to lose the flab over the top though.”
Finally, for the last three weeks Jeremy has been getting up early, four times a week for intensive cardio workouts could he feel all that fat falling off?
“Before it was just one big blub of blub and now it’s starting to trim down,” he says.
But will all that cardio training bring Jeremy a sixpack?
Six weeks after they began, the boys went back to the lab for a body scan with Dr Jarrod Meerkin.
Jeremy recorded the most significant body fat ratio reduction, dropping from 27 percent to 24 percent after all that full-on cardio work.
“You’ve actually lost 30 percent of central abdominal fat, which is great, so you’ve lowered your risk particularly of type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr Meerkin.
Back at the gym, the good news continued with another round of measurements showing he had lost eight centimetres off his waist and shed a whopping 13 kilos in weight. While he hadn’t developed a six-pack just yet, he was well on the way.
As for the other participants, after the six weeks, the before and after shots didn’t show such an obvious improvement. No-one had got the six pack just yet, but who did James Short pick as the front runner? Luke. He was the one who dieted without doing anything else his vitals tell the full story:
His weight dropped from a very respectable 67 to 65 kilos.
His waist shrunk from 83 to 79 centimetres.
Body fat was reduced from 17.6 percent to a lean 15.7 percent.
Thanks to all that untoasted muesli, fruit, salad and fish, Luke’s well on his way to the coveted six-pack.
“I feel twice as fit as I have in the last two years and will definitely carry on, he says.”
Luke’s journey to the six-pack would have been made even easier by combining cardio workouts with his diet.
So, what of the other two? Cameron’s ab machine was helpful in building his abdominal strength, but his body fat was unchanged on 22.6 percent. Chris, the sit up guy, also improved his abs, but his waist circumference went unchanged.
So why was there no six-pack with our ab-intensive workouts?
“Even though they’ve got some great strength gain, there’s still that layer of body fat over the top of those muscles,” says James. And this point is vital unless you pare back that body fat, you’ll never get a six-pack. “If you’re someone who has a family history of carrying a lot of body fat around the trunk region, it’s going to make your job doubly hard,” James says.
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