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The science behind the 6 pack


For many people, a six pack is a big goal. It’s the ultimate physical display of strength and athleticism. But how do you actually get a six-pack? Is it really all about core strength, or is there something more at play? Are some people more likely to achieve a six-pack than others? Training expert Florian Nock has the answers.

The anatomy of the abs

Before getting into how to build a six-pack, let's start by focusing on the anatomy of the abs.

The abdominals are comprised of four main muscles:

The external obliques primarily help the spine flex to both sides and rotate.

The internal obliques lie beneath the external obliques and assist them in flexing and rotating the spine. Together, these muscles work to rotate the t.

The transverse abdominis or TVA is the deepest muscle of the abdominal wall. It acts to compress the abdomen and helps with core stability.

The rectus abdominis is the six pack muscle you actually see. It’s a fairly superficial muscle and its main function is to flex the spine.

Strong core = visible six pack?

Some people claim that "abs are made in the kitchen". For others, Squats and Deadlifts are the key to unlocking visible abs. Yet more are firm believers that endless crunches are the only way to go.

So what’s the truth? In reality, all of the above factors play a role in crafting a six pack, some more so than others. With proper training, you build and strengthen your abs and with a clean diet, you lose body fat and reveal them.


Eat your way to a six pack

You need low body fat to reveal your six pack. To achieve this, eating a nutrient-dense diet is a key part of the equation. This means cutting out overly processed and sugary foods. It is equally important to eat in a caloric deficit, meaning that you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming. Overtime, the combination of a clean diet with a negative calorie balance, you’ll lose fat, get lean and your abs will become more visible.

The process of losing body fat will be different for everyone. Women in particular generally have a harder time reducing fat on the lower abdomen than men.

Ab-specific exercises

So your diet is helping you get leaner, what’s next? As with any muscle group, if you want to strengthen it, you need to target it. This is what really makes muscles grow.

Adding specific exercises such as Crunches, Hanging Knee Raises, and Plank Twists will directly target your rectus abdominis and help build a more visible six-pack.

Compound exercises

Compound exercises act as a great supplement to core-specific training. By using different muscles, they’re effective for engaging the core, burning calories and building overall strength; think Squats, Deadlifts and Pushups.

How do these work for your core? Well, when stabilizing your lumbar spine during the movement, you're isometrically contracting your various abdominal muscles. But don’t forget: compound exercises will only have the desired effect when done in combination with standard abdominal exercises.

Augment with cardio

While abs are built on the mat and chiseled in the kitchen, cardio can add another dimension to your results.

Endurance training and especially interval runs not only burn extra calories and reduce body fat, but also build your aerobic strength. Cardio can augment the calorie deficit, meaning that you’ll lose even more fat.

Let’s recap:

There are many different factors at play when it comes to building a six pack. Defined abs can only be developed through a 360 approach, not a narrow focus. Nutrition, the right training balance, ab-specific exercises, compound exercises and proper recovery all play an important role in revealing sculpted abs. However, fundamentally, as with all training goals, it ultimately comes down to motivation, dedication and commitment to reaching your goal.