The Top Three Reasons (Probably) You Can’t See Your Abs

As a trainer, here are the three statements I hear the most from new clients and folks thinking about making healthy changes in their lives:

  • I want to get in shape
  • I want to lose weight
  • I want abs like so-and-so

Good news: you already have abs! If you didn’t, you would be slumped so far over that you couldn’t be sitting somewhere and reading this post.

Other news: it takes a lot of work to maintain abs like so-and-so! Very few people maintain photo shoot-ready abs like that on a daily basis – and, depending on your body, it might not even be healthy for you to do so.

Still other news: you can get those abs if you’re willing to do the work!

What work?  Well, here are the reasons you probably don’t see the abs you’d like to see:

  1. You’re not lean enough.
    In other words, your body fat percentage is too high to see the muscle definition that you’d like to see.

    How to fix it: balance your food intake (including your macronutrient ratios – the ratio of carbs/fat/protein) in a way that promotes fat loss for your body, make sure to include challenging strength training workouts in your program, and make sure you’re doing the right cardio. I would love to give numbers here for macro ratios and how much cardio to do, but those will depend on your starting bodyfat percentage.

    Bonus points: incorporate HIIT or tabata sessions into your program 1-2 times per week.  Here’s an easy one to get you started!

  2. You’re bloated or otherwise improperly hydrated.
    I get it, I’m a woman.  There are 2-3 days every month when my ab definition is…challenged.  Even on the other days, having too much salt, eating foods that my body finds hard to digest, and being dehydrated (which can lead to water retention) can play tricks on me!

    How to fix it: drink water on a regular basis (you know the “8 glass a day” rule, but really you should be judging by the color of your urine…sorry, I guess we’re friends now!), avoid processed foods and heavily salted snacks to moderate your sodium intake, and keep an eye on your digestion – you might want to keep a journal of what you eat and how you feel afterward so that you’ll know what foods give you issues.

    Bonus points: drink water with a squeeze of lemon or a few slices of cucumber in it to promote fluid rebalancing…and avoid alcohol.

  3. You’re not engaging your core properly.
    There is definitely a right way to do core moves when you’re working out, but keeping your core engaged during the day (a.k.a. having good posture) helps tremendously, too!

    How to fix it: think “belly button to spine” every time you’re doing a core move, especially when you’re on your back. If you don’t consciously pull your belly button down, you won’t be getting the full benefit of your workout – and you may be encouraging your abs to stick out, which is probably not what you’re going for! Go for quality rather than quantity and perform all of your core moves in a slow, controlled rhythm.

    Bonus points: come by the studio and try the TRX rollout! It’s a super-effective move for toning, strengthening, and tightening the entire core.

There are many other factors, of course, like stress, sleep, the kinds of ab work you’re doing, and how much spray tan you’ve applied…but these three are the biggest factors in getting the look you’re after.  Abs are hard work for most people, but with a little effort you can find yours, too!

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