I overheard some folks at the gym the other day talking about abdominal training. They had just finished “torching” their abs and were discussing how different exercises affected their abdominal development. Most of the discussion centered on how one exercise or another was responsible for ripped abs. One of the fellows mentioned how they were amazed at a friend that has “shredded” abs, even though he doesn’t work out.
This scenario is a popular one, and a key to the mystery of great abs lies in their final observation of their non-working out friend. To have defined abs, or any muscle for that matter, requires low body fat. Everyone has muscle; it is just that there are varying amounts of body fat that people carry over that muscle. Shredded is a term that describes very low body fat levels. This is achieved by consistently eating fewer calories than you burn, while ideally meeting your nutrient and protein needs (so as not to lose muscle). The point here is that it is not the specific exercise you do that makes you lean, it is simply that you exercise (calorie burning). But that is not enough; you must be in a calorie deficit as well. Exercisers who eat too many calories are quite common. They are the ones NOT seeing results consistently while getting frustrated, leading them to seek out the magic exercise or system. The friend the gym members spoke of? He was obviously an active person who controlled his calorie intake, whether consciously or not. Obviously it wasn’t exercise that led to his ripped abs, right?
So, if you are stuck at a plateau and are not happy with your muscle definition, eat less. Or move more. Or both. You will begin to see results. As you lose the fat over your muscles, they will become more “defined”. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.