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The elusive six-pack is often seen as the pinnacle in male physique goals. Everyone has a six-pack, it's just a case of stripping the fat on your stomach to reveal a muscular, chiseled mid-section underneath. Perhaps surprisingly, ab exercises alone won't do much for your six-pack. According to the American Council on Exercise you can't pick and choose where you lose fat from; it's simply a case of controlling your diet and increasing your calorie burn to shed fat 1. However, you do need some ab training to build and shape your mid-section to get the full six-pack look once you've burned the fat.
Cut down your serving sizes. This doesn't mean living off nothing but lettuce and boiled chicken -- it means paying closer attention to calories. You need to eat fewer calories than you burn to strip abdominal fat, so reduce your calorie intake by 500 per day. While you may want to get your six-pack as fast as possible, you can lose muscle by going too low on your calories, warns nutritionist Dr. Layne Norton, so avoid big calorie drops. The average man needs around 2,500 calories to maintain weight.
Eat protein, vegetables and healthy fat at every meal, advises Darren Burke of "Men's Fitness" magazine. Sample meals include a mixed vegetable omelet, chicken breast salad dressed with olive oil, lean rump steak with broccoli, carrots and a handful of almonds -- or a salmon fillet with spinach and cauliflower. Consume higher-carb items such as bread, pasta, cereals and fruit before and after intense weights or cardio workouts.
Weigh yourself once a week and take a progress photo once every two weeks. If you don't appear to be getting leaner, reduce your calories by a further 100 per day. Aim for one to two pounds of weight loss per week. If you're losing more than this, it could be a result of muscle mass loss, rather than faster fat loss, so increase your calories by 100 per day to help maintain muscle.
Stick with your current strength training plan. The best way to maintain muscle mass is to stay with the same principles that built it. Light weights for higher reps do not tone muscles, notes strength coach Jim Smith. To look ripped and toned, you need a degree of muscle mass and heavy weight training is the way to go.
Train your whole body three times per week. Include two leg exercises and four upper-body exercises each session for three to five sets of five to eight reps each. Full-body sessions burn more calories than working muscle groups on their own, so these types of sessions lead to faster fat loss.
Pick moves that work multiple muscles. Just like full-body workouts versus muscle group split workouts, multi-joint exercises burn more calories than single-joint ones. A workout combination of deadlifts, lunges, bench presses, shoulder presses, rows and chin-ups would be far more effective for six-pack abs than a session consisting of leg extensions, leg curls, flyes, lateral raises, curls and pushdowns. These compound moves lead to faster fat loss through the increased calorie burn, but also recruit your core muscles as stabilizers and strengthen your abdominals.
Group exercises together into mini circuits, advises strength and conditioning specialist Travis Stoetzel. Performing three exercises back-to-back increases your work rate and speeds up fat loss. Complete a set on one exercise, move straight to your next one, then into a final exercise before taking two to three minutes rest. Repeat this for your desired number of sets, then move on to another three-exercise combo.
Include an abdominal circuit after your compound lifts. Pick three movements such as planks, side planks, dumbbell side bends, reverse crunches, or ab wheel rollouts and performing a maximum number of repetitions on each in 30 to 45 seconds. Rest for 45 to 60 seconds and perform the circuit twice more.
Add 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity to the end of each weights workout. This can either be a steady paced workout on the bike, treadmill, rower or elliptical, or a tough, high-intensity workout, such as hill sprints, kettlebell circuits or a spin class.
Consult your doctor before starting a diet or training program.
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