Episode 106: September 10, 2012
by Ben Greenfield
The new movie Magic Mike features a group of male strippers who have, among other things, very sculpted abs. And of course, it seems that trainers and nutritionists have jumped on the bandwagon and are churning out lots of advice about how to get abs like the main character known as Magic Mike.
I’ve been reading some of this advice, and it includes standard tips such as “do lots of focused ab work (like crunches),” “eat lean proteins,” and “more whole grains.” Unfortunately, much of this advice is at best a slow way to get nice abs and at worst, completely ineffective. So in this episode, you’ll learn how to get abs like Magic Mike, and learn the truth about getting nice abs.
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How to Get Abs Like Magic Mike
Tip #1: Don’t Do Crunches
Sure, a movie may show some ripped celebrity beginning or ending their day by doing dozens of sit-ups or crunches on their bedroom floor, but as I explained in the article How to Get a Flat Stomach, crunches only work one part of your abs (the rectus abdominis), and don’t even work that part of your abs very efficiently.
The reality is that there is no single special exercise you can do that will tone a specific muscle or body part or make fat there disappear. In the episode How to Tone and Lose Fat in One Body Part, you learned that when your body needs energy, it doesn’t get it from a single specific area of the body. Instead, it takes fat from everywhere and converts that fat into free fatty acids.
So when you’re doing all those crunches, sure, you might use a little bit of fat from your waistline for energy, but you’ll also use fat from your thighs, your calves, your forearms, your chest, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have a fat forehead, maybe from there too. In fact, your body is so efficient at taking fat evenly from all different regions of your body, that the dent make in your waistline from all those crunches will be pretty small.
Instead, the best way to get a flat, sculpted stomach is to do a workout made up of exercises that target all the different components of your abs - the rectus abdominis, the external and internal obliques, the transverses abdominis, and also the postural muscles of the low back. All of these muscles must be included because from a functional standpoint, the stomach is a crucial connecting point between your upper body (the chest, shoulders, and arms) and your lower body (the butt, hips, and thighs).
So an ideal ab workout should include moves such as bending (hanging leg raises), extending (deadlifts), twisting (cable rotations), planking (front planks), and heavier lifting (barbell squats).
When combined with calorie-burning through consistent physical activity and brief bouts of high intensity cardiovascular exercise (as well as the dietary tips I’ll give below), this strategy will get you a nice, flat stomach with sculpted abs.
And if you decide that you still want to include crunches, at least make sure you try these crunch variations to make your workouts much more demanding.
Tip #2: Avoid Grains
Healthy cereals and whole wheat bread are often advertised as a fast-track to a flat stomach. But in most cases, carbohydrates (and especially grains), are refined, processed, and full of empty calories. It probably comes as no surprise to you that these empty calories can result in a small layer of fat on the waistline, since these types of sugars are easily converted into fat by the liver.
But in many cases, unless the grains are soaked, sprouted or fermented, grains can also be difficult to digest, which results in gut inflammation. When your gut is inflamed, it can appear bloated and lose muscular tone. This concept is the basis of the book Wheat Belly, which I highly recommend you read if you want more information about why grains may be holding you back from getting abs like Magic Mike.
So if you’re trying to get a flat stomach, instead of getting your carbohydrates from grains, I’d recommend that you instead choose starches such as sweet potatoes, yams, fruit, and starchy vegetables like carrots, parsnips, or beets. Remember that many healthy protein sources such as seeds and nuts also include carbohydrates.
Tip #3: Eat Fat
It may seem counterintuitive that eating fat can help to make your abs more toned, but if you’re not getting enough healthy fat in your diet, then you won’t be giving your body the building blocks that it needs for making steroids and hormones – which are crucial to your energy levels and your workout quality.
Your body can use fatty acids as a fuel very efficiently, but the key is to not consume high amounts of carbohydrate-based fuel in a diet that includes healthy fats. Once you add in carbohydrate, your body will preferentially burn sugar instead of fat.
For example, I maintain six-pack abs and 6-8% body fat year round. I do this by eating a diet primarily comprised of full fat coconut milk, seeds, nuts, nut butter, avocadoes, olives, fatty fish, and fatty cuts of meat, with very limited amounts of carbohydrates, starches, and sugars.
One final component of getting nice abs is ensuring that your ab workout is appropriate for your specific body type. To learn more about making your workouts work for you, simply visit http://www.GetFitGuy.
*As a special bonus for Get-Fit Guy fans, you can download some full body workouts that I’ve designed exclusively for you. Just click here!
If you have more questions about how to get abs like Magic Mike, then join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!
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