What to focus on for defined abs, advice from a personal trainer

  • If you want a six-pack, it’s a mistake to spend too long on abs, said one personal trainer.
  • Instead, prioritize fat loss through compound exercise and a calorie deficit, Patrick Wilson said.
  • Remember, genetics also plays a big part in what our midsections look like, he told Insider.

Spending too long on abs is a common mistake people make when defining the midsection, according to a personal trainer.

If you want a six-pack or visible abs, most people should focus on losing body fat, Patrick Wilson told Insider.

“Having definition in that area comes mainly from having body fat low enough to see your core muscles,” he said.

Instead of doing long ab-focused workouts, people would be better off spending their time and energy on actions that help reduce body fat in general, because you can’t reduce fat, Wilson said.

“All direct core drills are overrated,” Wilson said—an opinion shared by Hyrox champion Hunter McIntyre.

There are three main factors to focus on to lose fat, he said:

  1. Being in a calorie deficit through diet and staying active throughout the day
  2. Eating lots of protein to support muscle maintenance
  3. Strength training to build or maintain muscle.

Not only does having more muscle make it easier to lose fat because it increases your basal metabolic rate (meaning you burn more calories at rest), but it also creates a leaner, more “toned” look that many people want. said Wilson.

Focus on compound exercises to build a strong core

Wilson recommends that people spend their time in the gym doing compound exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, shoulder presses, bench presses, and rowing.

Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at once and are an effective way to train your entire body.

“They work different muscles and you have to use your core a ton to stabilize your body,” he said. “As you start doing heavier weights, your core gets stronger, too.”

A post shared by Patrick Wilson (@gainsbypat)

However, doing some abs-focused exercises can make them more visible — the abs are muscles that can grow like any other, bodybuilder Sunny Andrews and physique coach Cliff Wilson previously told Insider.

Adding weight to core exercises helps build muscle, Patrick Wilson said.

He recommends spending five to 10 minutes, two to three times a week, doing core work, doing exercises such as planks, glute bridges, bicycle crunches, weighted crunches, and hanging leg or knee raises.

Create a calorie deficit through your diet

A calorie deficit is required for fat loss, meaning your body burns more energy than you expend, but you don’t have to count calories.

Wilson recommends eating smaller portions and eating more protein, fruits and vegetables to help you stay full for fewer calories.

Similarly, staying active through cardio such as walking or swimming, and general exercise throughout the day (thermogenesis without exercise activity, known as NEAT) contributes to a calorie deficit, he said.

Genetics plays a big role

Wilson warns that genetics plays a big role in abs visibility because some people naturally store less fat in their stomachs than others.

Genetics also determine what your abs will look like if you’re slim enough to see them, he said.

“If your abs don’t look like your favorite actor or fitness influencer (even if you’re super slim), there’s not much you can do to change it,” he said. “Some people get super skinny and still don’t have their abs fully popped.”

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