Six-pack abs are a promise of magazine articles and supplement advertisements. But obtaining this coveted look isn’t as easy as performing a few extra crunches or drinking a protein shake. A perfect mix of a dedicated fitness routine, a precise diet and genetic gifts is what it takes for a woman to achieve six-pack abs.
Reduce Your Body Fat Percentage
For a woman to get six-pack abs, she needs to reduce her body fat to between 16 and 19 percent body fat. This is still a healthy body fat level (primarily for athletes), but far below what’s considered an average healthy range, which is 22 to 33 percent.
The average American woman is an unhealthy 40 percent fat. Unless you’re already lean, achieving six-pack abs will take some work. Abdominal crunches, twists and planks won’t get a female to lean body fat levels. Only a precisely timed and portioned diet along with cardio, strength-training and appropriate rest will get you there.
Know the Importance of Diet
Limiting desserts and eating smaller portions jump-starts weight loss when you’re overweight. But to get six-pack lean, you’ll have to be far more precise in your strategy.
Meals will consist mostly of lean proteins and vegetables. At one or two meals, you’ll add fruit or whole grains, as well as a little healthy fat from sources such as olive oil or avocados to round out your nutrition.
Because obtaining a six pack requires a very specific ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates and could be undermined by additives and unhealthy fats, foods prepared outside the home — at restaurants or friends’ houses — are usually off-limits.
Get Serious About Cardio
Lose weight without exercise, and you’ll end up losing muscle along with fat — which hinders the appearance of your six-pack. The standard Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exercise guidelines for adults call for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days and two strength-training workouts weekly to foster good health.
You’ll have to get more serious about exercise than these recommendations to reach the body fat levels necessary for six-pack abs. Cardio exercise, such as running or rowing on an ergometer, is important to calorie burning.
A paper published in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Obesity concluded that high-intensity interval exercise is more effective than steady-state work when it comes to burning fat, especially visceral fat that sits deep in the abdominal wall and secretes inflammatory compounds.
To do your own high-intensity intervals, alternate all-out efforts with periods of easier effort. For example, warm up for five minutes and then alternate one minute of sprinting with one minute of walking for 20 minutes. Finish with a short cool down. Don’t do this workout every day, though, or you’ll risk burnout.