The topic of six-packs in particular makes male fitness enthusiasts (or those who are tormented) sweat on their foreheads, because the widespread myth of “six-pack training” still makes them think of “traditional”, inefficient and often even harmful training methods. Hundreds of sit-ups or crunches are not the primary success factor for optimal training results in six-pack training. Rather, abdominal muscle training depends on an efficient mix of irrepressible ambition and well-thought-out training. Only one thing is time-consuming: The diet.
Myth six-pack training: What really makes visible abdominal muscles
When the “six pack” is spoken of, one actually means the upper part of the straight abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis muscle), which runs the entire length of the trunk and is made up of ten muscle strands , each separated by tendons. The intermediate tendon , which divides the abdominal muscles horizontally, is called “Intersectiones tendineae”. The linea alba, which runs to the right and left of the navel, provides the vertical division . From an anatomical point of view it can happen that these tendon-like subdivisions are little or no visible or pronounced in some people.
In addition, there may be genetic differences in the natural fat storage in humans, especially with regard to gender. Women in particular are genetically more prone to increased fat storage in the area of the legs (thighs) and the torso area, while in men mainly on the stomach the unpopular ones Hold in love handles as depot fat.
The three most important factors for visible abdominal muscles
- Body fat percentage (KFA in%)
The basic requirement for attractive and visible abdominal muscles is a low percentage of body fat. If the abdominal muscles are hidden under thick layers of fat, it doesn’t matter how trained and voluminous the abdominal muscles are. They are just not visible.
A distinction has to be made between two types of body fat tissue that also function as an energy source in an emergency:
The subcutaneous fatty tissue lies directly under the skin surface and in particular takes on heat-regulating functions. The subcutaneous fatty tissue acts primarily as an insulator.
The visceral fat tissue is located in the immediate vicinity of the organs and muscles and also protects them from physical or external mechanical influences. From a physiological point of view, the body usually first burns the visceral fat tissue around the organs before the insulating subcutaneous fat tissue is burned in the event of an energy deficit in order to mobilize the necessary energy reserves from the depot fat. This fact implies a very low KFA as a basic requirement for visible abdominal muscles.
For women a KFA of around 17-20% can be sufficient to make the abdominal muscles visible. In men this value is (genetic) at a KFA of about 10-13% . However, these values are only a rough reference and depend on other factors such as depends on the electrolyte balance and the amount of water bound in the body.
- Effective abdominal muscle training
… does not necessarily have to be integrated into the fitness training in isolation and individually. Anyone who uses a conventional 2 or 3 split training plan, in which some abdominal exercises are already integrated or demanding basic exercises such as squats (squats), rowing or deadlifts fill the exercise repertoire, can calmly dispense with the additional six-pack training. However, explicit abdominal muscle training can make sense if the training conditions cannot guarantee sufficient muscle stimulation. With specific exercises, not only the straight abdominal muscles, but also the oblique and transverse abdominal muscles can be specifically strengthened and stimulated to build muscle. Solid abdominal muscles are essential for even antagonist training!
In addition to conventional muscle building training, intensive cardio and interval training can also help to approximate the fatty acid oxidation rate to the breakdown of depot fat and thus reduce the body fat percentage. The article on the top 5 sports to reduce the percentage of body fat provides a good overview of fat burn training.
- Disciplined nutrition
Abs are made in the kitchen! This “wisdom” has its right to exist. And anyone who has tried to specifically define their abdominal muscles and reduce the general body fat percentage to a level that makes the six-pack visible, will also know what is behind these words. Basically, the amount of energy absorbed must be very precisely matched to the basic energy requirement plus the respective output of an athlete. Increased nutrition-induced thermogenesis is favored by a protein-rich diet.
The combination determines the success
Extensive specialist knowledge of the abdominal muscles not only helps with the optimal selection of exercises that are gentle on the spine, but can also significantly support the muscle building process. Only those who understand how the abdominal muscles work can optimally use them.
The combination of measures is often decisive for successful abdominal muscle training. In general: about 2/3 of the capacity should be invested in adequate nutrition, the remaining third is used for training . However, the combination of burning fat while building muscle at the same time is quite difficult, which is why most athletes divide training and nutrition into a mass phase (muscle building) and definition phase (fat burning) , each of which is oriented towards completely independent and different goals . You can find out more about this in our article on the differences between the bulk phase and the definition phase.