How to Actually Get a Shredded Core
People hit the gym for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for aesthetic purposes, like losing or maintaining weight or building muscle, or for building up strength and explosive power.
One thing is certain, however: regardless of what your fitness goals may be, rocking an absolutely shredded core is something we all want but that few successfully accomplish. We’re not talking about the abs you can only see in particularly good lighting or with some ridiculous Instagram filter, but the type of abs on the cover of fitness magazines, the envy of us all.
But is getting such a ripped midsection actually achievable? With a lot of hard work and some time on your side, the answer is a resounding yes!
Enter a Calorie Deficit
A popular saying about abs that you may have heard is that they’re “90% nutrition and 10% exercise.” While those numbers may be a bit off, the gist of the saying is absolutely true: the most important ab work will be done in the kitchen, not in the gym.
You can blast your abs with the most intense gym workouts, but if your body fat percentage isn’t where it should be, you’ll have what is commonly referred to as “stealth abs” – abs hidden underneath a layer of fat. To achieve the goal of revealing your own personal set of jacked abs, you must enter into a calorie deficit, where the calories you consume are less than the calories you burn.
There are several calorie calculators online that take into account your height, weight, exercise frequency, and many other factors so you can figure out how many calories you’ll need to consume each day to support your muscle gains in the gym while also shedding unwanted body fat.
Start off with a moderate to low calorie deficit. This will help you get started on shedding some pounds without shocking your body. As you get the hang of things, increase your calorie deficit as necessary to burn off that winter layer of belly fat.
Blast Your Abs Frequently
Ab recovery time between gym sessions is fairly short, especially compared to other muscle groups. Work your abs multiple times a week if possible. When it comes to exercises, there are definitely some workouts that are better than others.
Doing full sit-ups on flat ground has become quite a popular workout, but it is definitely not the best core workout and may actually lead to injury. Research shows that doing this exercise can lead to lower-back pain and discomfort.1
Focus on both bodyweight and weighted ab exercises such as:
With weighted ab exercises, focus on both high and low rep ranges, increasing the weight and lowering the reps as necessary.
Don’t Skimp on Full Body Training
Just because you’re focusing on abs doesn’t mean you should skip out on full-body strength and endurance training.
Implementing a consistent amount of resistance training and cardio will help build overall muscle mass and also boost your weight-loss efforts. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at a resting rate.2
To increase calorie burn during resistance training, focus on compound movements like the chest press, squat, and deadlift. These exercises recruit multiple muscle groups to perform the exercise and tax your body more than isolated movements like one-armed bicep curls – although it wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw in curls to burn out at the end of your exercise session.
Time to Meal Prep
To help you get some impressive abs, you’ll most likely need to meal prep. Meal prepping will help you make eating choices that are in line with your fitness goals and help prevent you from eating unhealthy, albeit convenient, fatty foods.
To help build muscle and chip away at the fat you’re trying to lose, focus on getting enough protein throughout the day, whether that means munching on some almonds or packing up some containers with pre-prepared chicken, steak, tuna, etc. Protein consumption can help improve muscle recovery and also helps suppress appetite3 so you can feel full throughout the day and start burning body fat.
Complex carbohydrates like brown rice or sweet potatoes can be a good source of long-lasting energy for your workouts, too, so throw some of those in your prep containers.
Don’t neglect leafy greens and those important micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) for a well-rounded diet to help keep you feeling sharp inside and outside the gym.
Record Your Progress
Let’s face it, getting abs is a hard process, and to be successful you’ll need to make sacrifices—but also be realistic. Do you need to step on the scale every morning or stand in front of the mirror every night to assess your gains? Not necessarily. But you will need to implement some sort of process to keep track of your improvements.
It’s so easy to get discouraged if you aren’t keeping track of your progress. Results come with hard work and time, so it’s recommended you get yourself a workout journal (or use the notepad on your phone) to keep track of your workouts and progress. Keeping track of your fitness and diet will help you notice the small improvements and keep you motivated for the bigger picture.
Write down your workouts so that you can plan accordingly for your next gym session and increase weight, reps, and sets when necessary, otherwise you’ll stay stagnant. Download a calorie-counting app so you can keep track of your meals and overall calorie intake throughout the day.
Push Through Adversity
Whatever you do, don’t give up. You’ll most likely hit a few roadblocks along the way to building your chiseled abs. You’ll have to be willing to make some lifestyle changes, both big and small. Exercising self-control will be just as important as exercising your abs. Be willing and dedicated enough to say no to indulging in cheat meals, skipping planned workouts, or other things that will get you off track.
Remember: consistency is key, so be willing to adapt your training and nutrition along the way, and if you are persistent enough in your workouts and diet, you’ll make it.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
- Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups. Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School.
- Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories. Mayo Clinic.
- David S Weigle, et al A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr July 2005 vol. 82 no. 1 41-48.