Last summer. Picture it. You: frantically packing for your holiday. You: carefully folding your t-shirts at first, but slowly descending into frantically stuffing items into any available crevice. Sweat beads on your brow.
Your cab arrived and your heart beat out of your chest. You knew you’d forgotten something but… You looked down at your shirt. You ignored the Uber driver’s protestations and slowly started unbuttoning as horror rose in you like bile. Your eyes were wild as your swollen blancmange of a stomach was released from its confines. You unwound the window and wailed into the suburban sunrise with absolute, total shame.
You totally forgot to go to the gym loads and get a six-pack, didn’t you? Again. Tenth year running.
This year you swore you’d never again be caught short abdominally, surrounded by the cast of 300 in that pool in Ibiza. You swore to make a change.
We’re here to tell you that hope is at hand. There is time to get sort-of-a-six-pack for spring, when holidays are cheap and free of screaming children. You too can look better in shirts, in the sea, in Facebook photos and in those weird communal showers they have at the side of the beach sometimes, in front of your friends and - especially - your foes, and demand the attention you deserve with your Quite Good stomach.
A strong core is no substitute for a strong moral core, but it’s a bloody good place to start. So we interrogated fitness trainers and diet coaches to establish the most effective and fool-proof way to attain the abs you’ve always known you deserve.
SORT YOUR DIET OUT – NOW
If you thought you could carve some erotic abs while still shoveling bowl after bowl of Wasabi’s delicious katsu curry into your mouth then, sorry, but you were greatly mistaken. “You’ll need to put yourself into what we call a ‘caloric deficit’,” says LetsFit personal trainer Jonny Pease. “This, essentially, means eating less calories than you’re expending - and without this you’re fucked.”
SHOCK YOUR ABS INTO ACTION
The Bicycle Crunch*. The Cross Crunch**. The Spiderman Plank Crunch***. These are not obliquely-titled breakfast cereals, but are actually the exercises that will get your stomach muscles working as hard as possible. You’ll need to hit them with everything you have; like a small Victorian child in a poorly ventilated factory, you’re going to need to work them to absolute exhaustion. That means training and doing reps until you literally can rep no more.
*Get in a sit up position, raise your legs six-inches from the floor, alternate touching each knee with your elbow as your crunch. It’s horrible.
**Lay on your back and do a starfish. Keep your body straight, lift your left foot to 90-degrees and bring your right hand up to touch it. Then swap hands/legs. That’s one rep.
***Start in a push-up position and as you go ‘down’, bring your knee out and towards your elbow; bringing it back as you go back up. Then swap legs. Then repeat. Then cry.
BUT DON’T EMERGENCY-CRUNCH
It turns out nobody ever gets ripped just from doing a few crunches before bed. In fact, relying on last-ditch crunches for instant abs is one of the biggest misconceptions about getting into shape. “To get a good, well-rounded six-pack you need to put some fucking effort in,” says Pease. “Both in the kitchen and in the gym. Doing a ton of sit-ups won’t get you anything but a bad back and strong hip flexors. Sit-ups don’t even isolate your abdomen like some other ab exercises will.” We’ve seen him with his shirt off. Listen to him.
PRACTICE YOUR SECRET WEAPON
It’s called a Turkish Get Up, says personal trainer Ryan Alcock, and you should get to know it. “The TGU is a full body movement with extreme abdominal control,” says Alcock. The harder you focus on controlling your core, the more love you’re gonna get from it. “Starting from the ground, lying on your back, to the end position of standing up on your feet with the dumbbell above the head”. The whole time. You need to keep it up there that whole time. Hahahaha kill me now.
START (CARB) CYCLING
While getting an actual bike probably wouldn’t hurt when it comes to shedding pounds and toning up, Pease advises alternating between carb-heavy meals and fats to give your body the fuel it needs. “On a training day you would consume more carbs and then, on a day-off, you need to consume less carbs and more fats.” He says it’s crucial for kicking your metabolism into gear, which will help you get trimmer, and create a calorie deficit to increase fat loss.
EAT MORE PROTEIN
But, of course, protein is still a key component. “Lean muscle development can be supported with protein consumption,” says Maxi-Muscle nutritionist Gareth Nicholas. “As a guide, try between one or two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.” So, an 11-stone man should aim for 70 to 140 grams of protein per day after a tough workout in the gym. Stock up on eggs, whey protein, and dairy and buy some muscle vests while you’re there, and maybe you too could look a bit like champion bodybuilder Wolé Adesemoye. Maybe.
FINALLY, DON’T GIVE UP
“If you try and kill yourself every time you step in the gym, you will get injured or psyche yourself out,” says Freddie Watkins, head trainer at Slaughter & Paine. “People work hard, they don't see results, they give up. It’s that decision: when you have been really trying and nothing has happened, but push on for another week anyway, that really determines if you’re going to make to your goal. It sounds weird, but there always seems to be a time lag with fat loss - you work for three weeks and nothing happens, and then in week four it all starts to come off...”
(Main image: Rex Features)