1. Is it true that “abs are made in the kitchen?”

It’s true. The recipe for a six pack begins with fresh vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates.

Everyone has abs. The key to unveiling them is shedding fat through:

  • Calorie deficiency: Eat fewer calories than your body burns each day. Make sure those calories are from quality energy sources like chicken breast, lean beef, broccoli, peppers, and zucchini. Take it a bit easier on the carbohydrates. When you do eat carbs, keep them clean. Think quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
  • Cardio: To shed the most amount of fat, try high intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Weightlifting: Lifting weights will strengthen your abs. But more importantly, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns at rest, which means you’ll quickly shed the layer of fat covering your abdominal muscles.

While it is true that what you eat has a greater impact than the work you do in the gym, you’re not likely to get six pack abs from diet alone. A steady exercise regimen will burn calories while strengthening the abs underneath excess fat. You have to increase the size and strength of your muscles so they’re visible beneath even the thinnest layer of skin and fat.

2. Are there really foods that “cut belly fat?”

Yes and no. Unfortunately, there’s no magic potion or berry that can spot-reduce belly fat. However, there are foods easily found in your grocery store that can help you lose total body fat. For example, cruciferous vegetables are high-fiber, low-calorie choices that will fill you up, but not add heavily to your daily calorie totals.

If losing belly fat is your goal, focus on your overall diet, but also aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep and overall stress increases cortisol levels, which can increase the fat around your middle.

You might also consider fat burning supplements like Shred XD, which contains components proven to help accelerate your metabolism to burn fat. 

3. Is it possible for everyone to get a six pack?

Developing a “six pack” is essentially uncovering the layer of fat covering the abdominal muscles. However, strengthening your abdominal muscles will allow your abs to pop through a thinner fat layer.

When you’ve lowered your body fat percentage enough for your abs to be visible, you may or may not see the model abs you’ve envisioned. Genetics play an important role in the abs you uncover. Some may have a large split between the rectus abdominis muscles (the muscles that make up the six-pack) or “uneven” ab muscles.

Some men and women are fortunate enough to have thick muscle bellies. This means that the highest point of their muscles is plumper, which makes the muscle more visible.

4. How often should I train my abs?

Just like any other muscle, your abdominals need a break from training for proper recovery and muscle growth. You could either train upper and lower abdominals on alternating days, or train every other day for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

Why so little time? Remember that many of the other movements you’re doing require the use of your core muscles. When you’re deadlifting, doing pull-ups, or even walking, you’re working your ab muscles already.

5. How many reps of ab exercises should I do?

If you’re able to knock out 500 crunches in a row, continuing to do as many reps might increase your endurance, but it’s not likely to contribute to muscle growth. If you want to create more bulk and definition, it’s better to shock the muscles with high resistance / low rep work. If you’re plateauing when it comes to your abdominal muscles, try adding weight to your ab workouts. Hold a plate while completing your floor-based exercises, do weighted cable crunches, or add a medicine ball to your movements.

6. Do any of those ab machines I see on infomercials work?

It depends on the product. While some may require movements that strengthen your abs, you’ll probably get a better (and cheaper) workout from bodyweight exercises or by using basic gym equipment.

7. Are crunches the best exercise for creating a six-pack?

Crunches do work part of your abdominal muscles. But, relying solely on crunches for rock-hard abs is like trying to get perfectly sculpted arms with bicep curls alone -- you’re results will be disappointing. Instead, aim to strengthen every area of your abdominals with a variety of exercises.

8. Why do ab exercises feel like they’re working my back rather than my abs?

Some popular abdominal exercises put more strain on your back and hip flexors than others. For example, crunches, sit-ups, Russian twists may not work well for people with weaknesses in these areas. If you’re still feeling strain it may be the result of:

The best way to avoid pain or strain is to avoid exercises that are uncomfortable until you consult a personal trainer or other fitness expert to critique your form. If weak ab muscles are the problem, try variations of your favorite exercises. For example, lower to your knees when doing a plank. You can also try Dead Bugs and Bird dogs to strengthen your abdominal muscles.

9. Is a six pack just one muscle?

Three types of muscles make up your abdominal muscles:

  • The rectus abdominus: This muscle runs from the front of your rib cage to your pubic bone. This makes up the bulk of your “six pack” muscles.
  • The Internal and external obliques: These run on either side your torso from your ribs to your hips.
  • The transversus abdominus: This muscle runs deep and horizontal across your torso. You may not be able to see it externally, but strengthen this muscle and it will act as a girdle, slimming your torso.

When selecting ab exercises for your fitness routine, choose ones that work each area of your abdominal section.

10. My abs look weird - why is that?

The appearance of your abdominal muscles, just like height, dimples, and hair color, are largely dependent on your genetics. If both you and grandpa are rocking six packs, odds are they will look similar.

The shape of your abs depends on the natural thickness of your muscle belly, the middle part of the muscle, and your tendons, the connective tissue between your muscle. Your muscle belly will determine if your abs resemble a thick cobblestone street, or something more akin to a smooth brick wall. The number of tendons can also determine if you’re sporting Arnold’s famous four-pack, Lou Ferrigno’s five-pack, or another combination.

Regardless of the shape and thickness of your muscle, if you’ve cut up enough to sport a set of washboard abs, enjoy the fruits of your labor.