All humans are born with six-pack abs, but for most people, they’re hiding behind a layer of abdominal fat. Being able to see your six-pack muscles only indicates that you have a low body fat percentage. Working your six-pack muscles with specific exercises will help build them to be bigger and more defined, but other factors also influence how well they are seen.
Here are four reasons you may not be seeing your six-pack as well as you’d like:
1. Your body fat isn’t low enough.
Just because you don’t have six-pack abs doesn’t mean you aren’t strong or fit. It might just mean that your body fat isn’t low enough. Focusing on your calorie intake and making sure you’re eating a balanced diet is a good first step. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is great for burning off the extra pounds while maintaining your muscle mass.
2. You’re retaining water.
This is often because you’re eating too much sugar, salt or both. Salt causes your body to retain water, especially around the belly. Similarly, sugar can also increase belly fat and encourage water retention.
3. You’re doing the wrong kind of exercises.
Crunches are not your solution to six-pack abs. In fact, they can often make things worse, especially if you’ve had a baby. You may be doing the wrong exercise if you can see a noticeable separation of the muscle called the linea alba or if you feel like your posture is off kilter and your tummy pokes forward. It’s a sign you may be imbalanced and need to ease off the rectus abdominal work.
4. Your hormones are off.
Many factors can lead to hormone imbalance – sleep, stress, medications, etc. However, it’s not just a female issue. Men can also have a hormone imbalance that can cause fat retention and affect how well their six-pack is seen. There are a few natural ways to boost growth hormone (GH) levels in your body which naturally decline as we age. Getting enough sleep, exercising and consuming a well-balanced diet are great places to start. For managing your cortisol levels, using stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga are all good strategies to consider.
Doing a comprehensive, well-rounded exercise routine that effectively burns fat, strengthens your muscles and works the core is an efficient way to help you see the results you want – especially if you’re looking to see your six-pack. But remember, spot reduction is a myth and your body parts don’t “own” the fat that covers them. So, doing all your ab workouts correctly is just a small part of getting a body you love. When you’re standing in front of the mirror, take a second to be proud of your work from the inside out.
By SAMANTHA CLAYTON
Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness, Herbalife Nutrition