The truth about abs

Written on 02/11/2020
Jamie Gilliam

The truth about abs! 
No doubt training your core is important, but how do you train your core? 

If your goal is defined abs or a 6-pack, is this possible and if so...what is required? 

1. YOUR CORE IS YOUR ENTIRE TRUNK, from your shoulder girdle to your thighs. Yes! Your hamstrings and quads are also part of your core movement system and help produce force and deceleration during movement. 

Many people think of their core as just their abs, but it is so much more! 

You have three core systems: local stabilization (muscles attach directly to vertebrae), global stabilization (muscles attach from pelvis to the spine), movement system (muscles attach the spine and/or pelvis to extremities). 

While the muscles of the shoulder girdle aren’t directly part of the core, it is important to understand that these muscles impact the function and strength of the lower back and abdominal muscles.) 

Bottom line: to effectively train your core, you must train your entire body. 💥 

This ties into the bottom line from #1. You want ab definition? Reduce your bodyfat percentage. You cannot choose where you lose bodyfat. There is no such thing as spot reduction (although most of us ladies tend to lose fat in our boobies first😉.) 

You simply cannot break your body into segments and say, “I wanna lose fat right here.” However, you can target specific muscle groups.  What does this mean? 

If you have a high bodyfat percentage (i.e. you need to lose a considerable amount of weight), you need to focus on fat loss (no this doesn’t mean endless amounts of cardio, which I’ll explain in another post about fat loss.) You need to reduce your overall bodyfat percentage if you want to see your muscles! 

With that said, you can target specific areas like your booty, but if your overall bodyfat percentage isn’t low enough, your fat simply hides your muscles. 

Bottom line: Shed bodyfat. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve nice abs, but understand that the people with incredible abs you see in magazines and all over social media are genetically gifted people in peak condition....and then there’s good lighting, professional photography and....sometimes there is photoshop😆. So be realistic and focus on training to achieve YOUR best YOU, not to look like someone else. 

Now, let me explain genetics a bit further....
While there are many things you can do to work with your genetics, your body is your body.  There’s only so much you can do with the genetics you’ve been given. When it comes to your abs, the rectus abdominis (the vertical muscle) is divided into 6 or 8 ‘packs’ by tendinous inscriptions. These are the horizontal lines that subdivide a six pack. Genetics will determine the configuration. Some of us have a 6 pack, some of us have an 8 pack. Some of us have even lines while some us have crooked lines. 

Along with how your abs are designed, you also must consider your skin elasticity. I’ve trained so many women over the years, and many have excess skin in the abdominal region (this happens for a variety of reasons like pregnancy, excessive weight gain and sometimes just because). It all comes down to how well your skin can stretch and snap back to its original shape. While you can work to combat and minimize the appearance of loose skin, if you have an extreme case excess skin, surgery is often the only option. 

Bottom line: Train your body to achieve YOUR best body, not to look like someone else. We are uniquely designed and created humans. Own that. 

If you have this condition, you will not get defined abs no matter how low your bodyfat percetage is or how much core work you do (unless it is the right kind of core work). Instead, you’ll have a soft protruding belly (how pronounced it is depends on the severity of the diastisis). This condition also interferes with your ability stabilize your core and can lead to chronic pain and other dysfunction. 

What can you do? I always assess my clients from head to toe to check for conditions and dysfunction. If diastisis recti is found, I provide a series of corrective exercises as part the overall training plan. I also ensure clients with this conditions avoid movements and weight loads that will aggregate the condition and/or increase risk of injury. If the diastisis is severe, corrective exercise can help to a degree, but cannot repair it completely. I often recommend severe cases see a specialist and also recommend pelvic floor therapy in combination with corrective exercise. 

Bottom line: Check your midline. A simple test can determine if you have this condition, where along the midline it occurs and the severity. 

I’m sure you’ve heard, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Well, your entire body is made in the kitchen.  What you put into your body impacts how your hard work in the gym shows up on your body. 

If you want a washboard stomach, you have to be extremely dialed into your nutrition. You must manage your calories, macros and micros consistently. It requires discipline and for some, it simply isn’t worth the effort. The more disciplined you are with your nutrition, the more defined your abs will be. So, ask yourself, “how much definition am I wanting, and am I willing to work for it. 

Bottom line: Obviously, your nutrition impacts your bodyfat percentage which brings us back to #2. Before you focus on your dream abs, begin with focusing on fat loss!