Get Flat Abs & Keep Them All Year
Fit is not a destination, it is a way of life.
For the past 15-16 years of my life, I’ve been on this quest to get my best-looking physique and midsection, and also to figure out HOW to keep it all year. I’ve tried many things that have worked and gotten me the flat abs I was looking for, but they were not sustainable. So, I’d get to a place where I was happy with how I looked, then proceed to see them disappear as I could not maintain the super-strict diet and/or the crazy workout regimen I’d used to get there.
I did not give up. Each failure was just a stepping stone, a way that I learned would not work. I wholeheartedly believed that it was possible to be ‘in-shape’ all year if one wanted to. Over the past 1-2 years, I have discovered and learned a successful way that I think could work for anyone. The keys are in tracking, nutrition, and working out the core with intensity 2-3 times a week. I’ve narrowed down the basics to 7 Tips and a 7-minute Core HIIT routine (that burns up to 100kcal!) to help you in your quest to achieving and maintaining your best.
7 Tips to Getting and Keeping a 6-Pack Year Round
- Track your food. Be conscientious of what you are eating and the amount of calories and macronutrients. My Fitness Pal is a good app to use to track your daily food. One that I use is called My Macros Plus, and I like that one because the format is more macro-tracker-friendly in my opinion. Once you get used to tracking your food, you’ll find that it gets much easier and you may not need to do it as much. If you’re interested in learning what your macronutrient totals should be, this is a great calculator you can use: http://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/. Once you have calculated your ideal macros, your goal can be to hit that total for each macronutrient daily. With a macro-plan, there are no food restrictions and most people are able to enjoy what they want while maintaining their weight/physique.
- Take progress photos every 4-7 days so you stay on track, and measure your waist. The scale is not always your friend or the best marker of success. Photos and measurements give the best indicators (in my opinion) of progress, so that’s why it’s best to use those. Start with doing 2 photos a week, then work your way to where you can stay on track all week and just need to ‘check-in’ with yourself once a week. If you start noticing your photos look worse or your waist expands, go back to tracking your food and making sure you are recording EVERYTHING – the small things can add up like a little nibble, condiments, measuring food incorrectly, etc.Note: For females, hormones can play a large factor in your appearance each month, so if you notice a difference and are sure you are not ‘cheating’ your macros/calories, give yourself a week to let your levels get back to normal.
- Drink 3-5 Liters of water a day, or 1 Gallon. This will help you curb hunger, and keep your body functioning correctly. You can include coffee/tea in this total, and BCAAs are a great way to help get through water each day.
- Prepare food ahead of time. Most of our bad food choices are due to convenience and not having healthy options available. So, cooking/weighing food ahead of time is a great way to make sure you have options – just make sure you also always have a healthy protein/carb/fat with you so you never have a reason to reach for the unhealthy option.
- I’ve found it’s not necessary to make each meal before each week, but having all the proteins (meats) and carbs (like rice or potatoes) cooked and measured makes a huge difference – veggies, fruits, and fats tend to be a little easier to add in throughout the day as you need.
- Rice cakes and popcorn are easy/healthy carbs to keep available, and protein powders are a convenient protein option to have on hand as well.
- Use the Hunger scale to determine when to eat and when to stop eating. The scale goes from 1(ready-to- eat-your- arm-off hungry) – 10 (feeling like you’re going to explode from fullness). You want to eat when you are at about a 3-5 on the scale, and stop eating when you are at a 7-8. I usually can tell my 3 and 8 by the broccoli test—if broccoli sounds good, I’m at a 3-5; and, if broccoli doesn’t sound good, I’m at a 7-8 and my ‘hunger’ is a craving at that point. Using the hunger scale will help you be more conscious of your own body, learn to sense true hunger, and keep you from eating too much.
- Allow green, cruciferous vegetables to be unlimited in your diet. You can of course log these in the food tracker, but if you hit the end of the day and need a little help feeling full, snack on some broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini (my favorite!), lettuce, cabbage, celery, etc. These foods are all very high in nutrient density while being very low in calories. You can pair them with mustard or hot sauce to keep calories low.
- REST. Get adequate sleep every night (7-9hours) to allow your body to recover fully and repair itself. Taking 1-2 days off of the gym each week is also a great way to let your body recharge. If you want to fill that time, use it to do your meal prep for the next week or take a yoga class. As long as you stick to your nutrition plan, you don’t need to worry that you’re going to gain weight by taking a day or two off. In fact, your body will most likely bounce back the next week stronger and leaner. Be nice to your body and it will be nice back.
These are Not easy, but will work. As time goes on, it gets easier to track your progress, use the hunger scale and track macros. Once you get to your ideal physique, keep using these same techniques to stay on track. The times I’ve gone backwards (non-hormone related) were times that I was ‘cheating’ on my food plan – sneaking extra (large) spoonfuls of peanut butter, protein powder, or oatmeal – for a few weeks in a row. But, I learned from it and used that to motivate me to get back to where I was before that time.
7-Minute Core HIIT Workout
Ab workouts do not have to be heavy or long. I know several women with rock solid six-packs who never work out their abs specifically, but rather focus on keeping their core tight during their regular workouts. The Core HIIT workout here is intense and concise; additionally, it will burn approximately 100 calories (for a 150lb female) meaning it also doubles as a quick metabolic booster or cardio workout. You can include this workout at the beginning of a lift or cardio session to fire up the core muscles and tighten them so they continue to stay engaged throughout the remainder of the workout. There is NO EQUIPMENT needed for this workout, so it’s a great one you can do at home or with a running group for a little extra core work. Do this workout 2-3 times a week for best results.
WARM-UP: Start with 5-10 minutes of easy activity and stretch if you need to.
WORKOUT: Do each exercise for 35seconds. Take breaks as you need, but jump back in after a couple breaths. Complete 3 full rounds for your 7 minute workout.
Burpee with a pushup
- Start on ground in push-up position.
- Do a push-up.
- Jump feet in towards hands.
- Jump into air with arms extended up.
- FOCUS: keep abs tight during push-up, and use lower abs to hop feet in
Floor Wide-Leg Pikes
- Start in push-up position with feet in a wide stance.
- Jump feet up to the outside of the hands.
- FOCUS: Use core to pike hips up and jump feet in.
Plie Squats with Knee Lifts
- Start by jumping into a plie squat position.
- Pop up, and lift up 1 leg so your knee touches your chest (or as close to it as possible).
- Jump back into plie squat.
- Alternate which knee you lift each time.
- FOCUS: Keep core tight throughout movement, and use Lower abs to lift knee up.
- BONUS: This also hits the glutes: sit into the glutes in the plie squat.
*** For an extra challenge: Use the following chart to record how many reps you get in round 1, then try to match or beat that in round 2 & 3. ***