Want six-pack abs? Here’s how.

Six-pack abs seem to be the gold standard when it comes to fitness level. It’s no wonder why. Having a strong core not only gives you that slim look, but it also helps keep your spine safe by aiding in balance and alignment.

six-pack ab training by daveynin via flikrReady to get started? Here’s the four-step formula for building a strong core.

Build the foundations. If you’ve ever heard an instructor say, “pull your abs in,” your first reaction may have been to suck your belly in. Instead of pulling in, think about tightening up. To help you get there, try this: Put one hand right below your breast bone (where your rib cage and stomach meet) and the other at your belly. Now cough. Did you feel your stomach start to tighten? That is the exact movement you want to feel when you’re engaging your core. By practicing that simple, but extremely effective, exercise, you’ll be laying the foundations to creating a stronger core. (Read: You’re building a six pack!)

Train often. The muscles in our core are just like the muscles anywhere else in our body. If you want to develop stronger legs, what do you do? Squats, lunges, balance exercises. To create a stronger core, we have to train it the same way. Sit-ups, push-ups, plank. Our abs recovers quickly, which means you can train it often. If you’re just starting out, begin with three days a week. If you’re more advanced, you can train your abs daily without worrying about overuse.

Watch your back. Keep in mind that the “core” is more than just your abs, though. It’s also important to note that without sufficient back strength, your abs won’t be able to reach their full potential. Core training (as opposed to simple abdominal training) means you’re also focused on strengthening all the muscles that help the abs get stronger. That includes the muscles around the spine and the glutes.

Eat clean(er). It’s no secret that eating healthful foods can make or break your goals of improving your physique. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You can’t out train a bad diet.” It’s the truth. When in doubt, use the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your health, wellness and physique (and therefore six-pack abs) is based on what you eat. The other 20 percent is from your activity.

Beyond building a set of six-pack abs, developing your core strength has a plethora of everyday benefits. So what are you waiting for? Start training your abs today!

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