Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Abs are made in the kitchen

Go to any magazine stand in the supermarket, find the area where men fitness magazines are located, and then look at the cover titles. More often than not you’ll find that one of the feature articles is about how to build a 6-pack, that term understood by all men to define a chiseled abdomen and core (ab/core) musculature. Most men would rather have, than not, a 6-pack but not all men want it bad enough to do the hard work.

So how bad have I wanted it, a 6-pack that is?

Well at various times I’ve wanted it sort of bad and, like many men, have done various ab/core exercises in chasing that dream. We all began with the basic sit-up as it was the first ab exercise most of us learned, probably in high school physical education classes and then with military fitness training for those of us who served. It is one of three exercises used by the US Army in its basic fitness test.

Later, we became more sophisticated with our ab/core training and started doing other exercises – crunches of all kinds, vertical knee lifts, hanging leg raises, back extensions, planks, side planks, and so forth. Then we may have gravitated toward various ab/core exercise equipment in the modern gyms where we trained; the nice shiny kind that allowed us to work our ab/core muscles while we sat on our butts in a modern air-conditioned gym. I’ve done it all.

The barbell guys laughed at all this because they knew how well their ab/core muscles got worked by doing squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, overhead squats, bent-over rowing and other standing compound movement barbell exercises.

The bottom line is that all of it is good provided we show up and do the hard work. For me, I’ve discovered the effectiveness and safety of the simple ab plank exercise. If there was only one ab/core exercise I could do for the rest of my life, the ab plank would be it.

Bodybuilders know that, in addition to the exercise part of the build a 6-pack equation, diet is very important because behind every big belly are ab/core muscles that aren’t visible to the eye. Look at all the great Olympic super-heavyweight weightlifters with their large protruding bellies. An uninformed eye might conclude that these “fat guys” lack ab/core muscles, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Well I’m not obsessed about building and having a 6-pack. At various times I’ve had very defined ab/core muscles and a bona-fide 4-pack, and caught myself chasing that coveted 6-pack too. But with sage middle-age man wisdom, I eventually made a “business decision” that my time and effort would be better spent elsewhere. In this journey the most important thing I learned is that all good abs are made in the kitchen.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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