By: Mike Collette (Owner/Head Coach of CrossFit Prototype)

A popular question I often get asked is “how do I get abs?!” What this question means to me is “how do you get to the point where you can see the definition of my abdominal wall?” Something that stuck out to me when I was in college was at a cadaver lab we had the opportunity to shadow at Springfield College. Here, we saw three subjects, all varying in age, and we got to take a close look at the musculature under the skin. For several people in the class (me included), it freaked us out but at the same time we were extremely fascinated.
     What I noticed right away was how thin the abdominal wall (rectus abdominis) truly was. The rectus abdominis, or your “abs,” is a long flat muscle which runs from the pubis to the rib cage. This muscle, in reality, can be between 10mm-20mm in thickness and below is a picture of some US currency and the size of each coin. As you can see, a penny is just under 20mm and that’s how thick your abs can get! Not a very big muscle, so why do we train “abs” so much or think that doing sit up’s will get this muscle bigger. The fact of the matter is that it won’t, it’s science!
     I am sure you have heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” and to be honest, in my work with nutritional consultants, that is true! Below are some additional points I have made to give you more feedback on the “why” and also what needs to be done in order to get you that toned stomach you are looking for!
  1. The abdominal wall  is between 10mm and 20mm thick. That is less than the diameter of a penny!
    • Doing 1000’s of crunches and sit ups aren’t the only thing that will get your there.
    • You need to decrease your body fat more than thinking you can increase the muscle size that much!
  2. In order to see your abdominal muscles, you need to be in the 8-15% body fat range. This will vary for men and women, as women require more body fat.
    • Fact: Fat does not turn into muscle. It doesn’t work like that.
    • Fact: When fat is oxidized it exits your breath (yes, your lungs) as CO2 (the majority of it) and the rest leaves through water. (British Medical Journal, 2014).
  3. Eating is more than half the battle. Nutrition is 70-80% of the equation.
    • Maximize your nutrition by understanding how much you should be eating and what the breakdown of your macronutrients should be based on you (Hire a nutritional counseling coach!)
    • Change the mindset that you can eat whatever you want because you exercise.
    • Track what you eat to hit your macronutrient numbers!
  4. You need to Maximize your Metabolism!
      • BMR (basal metabolic rate)
    • This is the Minimal rate of energy expenditure at rest.
    • 60-75% of daily caloric expenditure.
    • Higher fat-free mass (muscle) increases BMR. (see below)
      • TEF (thermic effect of food)
    • Amount of energy expenditure due to the cost of processing food for use of storage.
    • 10% of energy expenditure goes into processing the food you’re eating.
    • Partly why we suggest having specific macronutrient calculations for you goals.
      • Thermal effect of physical activity
    • Dependent upon the type of PA that you do.
    • HIIT and weight training (think CrossFit) are going to be the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to maximizing energy expenditure.
  5. Promote EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption)
    • Your body requires more oxygen while you workout and after you workout.
    • Getting that oxygen requires energy.
    • High-intensity exercise promotes higher levels of EPOC after you work out (24+ hours)
      • This is CrossFit.
      • Interval training has shown to give the best bang for your buck over steady state cardio (traditional cardio can be boring anyway : ) ).
  6. Lift Weights…often. And perform the major lifts/multi-joint exercises.
    • Lifting weights promote increases in lean body mass (muscle).
    • Your body produces more heat and increases your BMR (good).
    • Creates a high caloric deficit and your body burns more fuel to help it repair and grow.
  7. Train 4+ days per week
    • You want to keep your body in a state of EPOC and increase your BMR.
    • This will help you grow lean body mass and decrease fat mass.
  8. Sleep 7-9 hours a night
    • Sleep deprivation increases production of the hunger hormone ghrelin, this tells your brain it’s time to eat. (WebMD)
    • Sleep deprivation decreases the production of the Leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you don’t need to eat anymore. (WebMD)
  9. Create habits which lead to traits
    • A habit is defined as a “regular tendency” (
    • A trait is defined as a “distinguished quality or characteristic” (
    • If you practice often enough, it becomes something you will just do.
  10. Be Consistent
    • If you want to change your body you need to change your mind.
    • You can’t be complacent with some progress if you’re not at where you want to be yet!
*Think about the points above. What aren’t you doing that you believe you can improve if you want to get lean? If it’s training, we can certainly help at our fitness gym! If it’s nutrition, we can definitely help with nutritional counseling! Let us know, our nutritional consultants and physical trainers are here for you! Fill out the form below to get results today!