Straight Talk from Fat Loss Expert Tom Venuto, Author of burn the fat body transformation program
SIX PACK ABS REVEALED
After 18 years in the fitness business, “How do I get
great abs” is still BY FAR the most frequently asked
question I receive out of the over 30,000 emails that
come into my office every month. No doubt it’s because
abs are the one body part that most people are the
most frustrated with.
Although their questions are often phrased differently
and each person’s situation seems unique, my answer
to “How do I get great abs” is almost always the same…
and you’re about to hear it…
1,000 Sit-ups and Crunches a Day, and Still No Abs!
One question I received recently REALLY got my
attention because a young guy told me he was doing
1,000 crunches and sit-ups a day and said he still
couldn’t see his abdominals. He wrote:
Tom: I have been working out for around a year now and I
cannot get my lower abs into any type of shape. I’m
starting to see my upper abs a little bit, which is great, but despite doing 900 various crunches, ab roller, and 100 situps four days a week, along with my regular workout on the weights, I still have a tire around my waist. What else can I do?
What did I tell him? Well, I gave him the same answer
I’ve given thousands of people over the years, which is
the only true “secret” to great abs…
It takes training to increase strength, build endurance
and DEVELOP the abdominals, but to SEE the definition
in your abdominals—or any other muscle group for that
matter—is almost entirely the result of low body fat
levels. This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you can’t see your abs, it’s not an issue of “muscle development” at all. You simply have too much body fat covering up the
ab muscles. The lower abdominal area also happens to
be the one place that most people—especially men—
store body fat first.
There's a Scientific Reason Why Your Lower Ab Flab Is the Last to Go: Belly Fat—A Big Problem
Most people don’t have their fat distributed evenly
throughout their bodies. Each of us inherits a
genetically determined and hormonally-influenced
pattern of fat storage just as we inherit our eye or hair
color. In other words, the fat seems to “stick” to certain
areas more than others.
There’s a scientific reason for this. Your fat cells are not just inert “storage tanks” for excess fuel. They are
actually endocrine glands which send and receive
signals from the rest of the body. You could say that
your fat cells “talk to your body” and your body “talks
to your fat cells.” This occurs through a hormone and
For body fat loss to occur, you must first get the fat
cells (adipocytes) to release the fat into the
bloodstream. THEN, the free fatty acids must be
delivered to the working muscles where they are
burned for energy.
For fat to be released, the hormone adrenaline
(epinephrine) must be secreted and send a signal to
your fat cells. Your fat cells receive this hormonal signal via adrenaline receptors called adrenoreceptors.
Fat cells have Beta 1 (B1) and Alpha 2 (A2) receptors.
B1 receptors are the good guys. They activate
hormone-sensitive lipase, the enzyme that breaks down the fat and allows it to be released into the bloodstream to be burned. A2 receptors are the bad guys. They block the fat-releasing enzymes in the fat cell and encourage body fat formation.
How Body Fat Storage Patterns Affect You and Keep Your Abs from Showing
What’s the point of all this physiology? Well, it turns out
that in men, the lower abdominal region has a higher
concentration of A2 receptors, so this gives us one
possible explanation of why the lower abdominal region
is often the first place the fat goes when you gain it,
and the last place it comes off when you’re losing it.
(Incidentally, the fat in women’s hips and thighs is also
higher in A2 receptors.) This situation is dictated by
genetics and by the hormonal and enzymatic pathways
Think of ab fat like the deep end of the swimming pool.
No matter how much you protest, there is no way you
can drain the deep end before the shallow end.
However, don’t let this discourage you. Lower ab fat
WILL come off, it will simply be the last place to come
off. Simply put: First place on, last place off.
This helps to explain why abdominal exercises have
little impact on body fat loss. It’s a huge mistake to
think that hundreds or thousands of reps of ab
exercises will remove lower abdominal fat, except to
the degree that it burns calories and contributes to a
calorie deficit. What removes the fat—all over your
body—is a calorie deficit and that comes from
decreasing food intake, increasing activity, or a
combination of both.
What I suggested to this young man was cutting back
the ab training, spending the time he was wasting on
excess ab exercises for more intense, calorie-burning
cardio and weight training for the rest of the body. I
also suggested he do an accounting of his food intake,
get his nutrition in order and decrease his calories
slightly if necessary. As it turned out, his diet was a mess, and as nutrition experts like to say, “You can’t out-train a lousy diet.” It’s a monumental error to think that 1,000 reps of ab work a day will make your abs finally “pop” when your diet is a disaster and leads to fat storage. It’s not that ab exercises aren’t important. But all the ab exercises in the world won’t help as long as you still have body fat covering the muscles. You can’t “spot reduce” with abdominal exercise and YOU CAN’T SEE YOUR ABS THROUGH A LAYER OF BODY FAT!
My Championship-Winning Ab Workout Routine
Personally, I only do about 15 minutes of ab work two
times per week, with anywhere from two to four
exercises for about 10-25 reps per exercise. Forget
about thousands of reps of sit-ups—it’s a waste of time.
The reason my abs look the way they do is not from
endless repetitions, but because I get my body fat
down into the single digits with a highly specialized fatburning diet program.
Here’s a recent ab routine that I’ve used (for
bodybuilding/ab-development purposes). I do this
routine only twice a week and I change the exercises
approximately every month so my body doesn’t adapt.
I prefer a slightly higher rep range than other muscle
groups, but as you can see, it’s far from doing a
thousand reps a day.
Superset Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Hanging leg raises 3 15–20 0
Hanging knee-ups (bent-knee leg raises) 3 15–20 60 sec
Weighted Swiss ball crunches (or weighted cable crunches) 3 15–20 0
Incline bench reverse crunches 3 15–20 60 sec
How to Use Cardio for MAXIMUM Fat Burning
Times have changed since the aerobics revolution of the
1970s and 1980s. For years, aerobics was the darling of
the fitness world. Then scientists began to acknowledge
the benefits of weight training—for everyone, not just
Recently, the pendulum has swung the other direction
and we’ve actually started hearing fitness “experts”
suggesting that cardio should be kept to a minimum or
even avoided completely. That’s the way things tend to
go in the fitness world: they swing back and forth in
trends, from one extreme to another. Lots of cardio or
I suggest you avoid trend-hopping and pay close
attention to what actually works, by people who know
what they are talking about (such as bodybuilders, who
are the leanest muscular athletes in the world). Doing
nothing but cardio is a mistake. But cutting your cardio
completely is also a mistake. The truth lies in the
middle. Maximum fat burning occurs when you combine
cardio training and weight training together.
Those who are genetically gifted with above average
metabolisms will find that a slight drop in food intake
and just a few days a week of cardio will usually do the
trick. However, most people who are struggling with fat
loss (sometimes referred to as “endomorph” body type)
are simply NOT burning enough calories to get the
results they want. The answer for them is more activity
to burn more calories.
For health and weight maintenance, I suggest 3 short
cardio workouts per week, about 20-30 minutes per
session. But for maximum fat loss, I recommend 4-7
days per week of cardio or other physical activity for
30-45 minutes (based on results), at a moderate pace.
You can mix up the type of cardio you do, or choose the
type you enjoy the most—stationary cycling, stair
climbing, elliptical machines, aerobic classes and other
continuous activities are all excellent fat burners (it
doesn’t have to be indoors or on a cardio machine).
If time efficiency is a concern for you, you could do 2-3
of these cardio workouts as high intensity interval
training and you’ll achieve very good results with briefer
workouts. Even as little as 20-25 minutes per session
can get great results IF your intensity level is high
Remember, seeing your abs is about low body fat. Low
body fat is about burning calories and creating a calorie
deficit. You create a calorie deficit by increasing the
number of calories you burn and/or decreasing the
amount of calories you take in from food. Increasing
intensity is one way to burn more calories in less time.
NOTE: To reach the “ripped” 3.7% body fat level you
see in my photos, I do cardio 7 days a week for 30-45
minutes per session, in addition to my 4 weight training
workouts per week.
7 Nutrition Secrets for Great Abs
That leads us to nutrition. Many people say that
“abdominals are made in the kitchen, not in the gym,”
and there’s a lot of truth to that. You can do thousands
of reps of ab work every week, but if your nutrition is
not in order, you can forget about getting a great set of
Here are my 7 nutrition secrets for great abs:
1. Eat about 15-20% below your calorie maintenance
level. If you use a more aggressive calorie deficit of
25-30%, then do not keep calories too low for too
long; increase your calories to maintenance or
maintenance +10-15% 1-2 days per week.
2. Spread your calories into 5-6 smaller meals instead
of 2-3 big ones. Be very conscious of portion size. If
you eat too much of anything (even “healthy” food),
you can say goodbye to your abs. Period.
3. Eat a source of complete, high quality lean protein
with each meal (egg whites, lean meat, fish, protein
4. Choose natural, complex carbs such as vegetables,
oatmeal, yams, potatoes, beans, brown rice and
whole grains. Start with approximately 50% of your
calories from natural carbs and reduce carbs slightly
(especially late in the day) if you are not losing fat.
5. Avoid refined, simple carbs that contain white flour
or white sugar.
6. Keep total fats low and saturated fats low. Aim for
20% of your total calories from fat (and no more
than 30%). A little bit of “good fat” like flaxseed oil,
fish fat, nuts and seeds, and so on, is better than a
no-fat diet. Essential fatty acids actually assist the
fat burning process.
7. Drink plenty of water—a gallon a day is a good ballpark to shoot for if you are physically active.
1000 or more reps of daily ab work is an amazing feat
of endurance, but that’s not how you get visible, 6-pack
abs! If you were to do 1,000 reps of ab exercises every
day, you would have outstanding development in your
abdominal muscles and you would definitely have great
muscular endurance. Unfortunately, if your abs are
covered up with a layer of fat, you will never see them
even if you do 10,000 reps a day!
You Condition and Strengthen Your Abs with Specific Ab Exercises… But the Secret to Seeing Your Abs Is Reducing Your Body Fat!
I once saw a photo of a man who broke one of the
Guinness World Records for sit-ups. It was the most
paradoxical thing, but this man did not have any
abdominal muscle definition. He was not obese or
overweight at all, mind you, but he had a small enough
layer of body fat that the muscular definition did not show through. I’ve never seen a better real life example
that demonstrates the basic principle discussed in this
You get great abs from reducing your body fat,
and you reduce your body fat by creating a caloric
deficit through nutrition and metabolismstimulating
and calorie-burning exercise.
I’ve spent my entire career—through more than 18
years and 28 bodybuilding competitions—studying the
science and practicing the art of body fat reduction. I
speak from experience and I walk my talk as you can
see from my pictures.
If you’d like to experience for yourself what I’ve learned
about fat burning nutrition and getting your body fat
level low enough so that you can finally see a “6-pack
rack” of abs, then be sure to take a look at the burn the fat body transformation program. Thousands of
men and women call this their “fat loss bible.” For all
the details, click here:
Train hard and expect success,
Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Fat Loss Coach
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is an NSCA-certified strength and
conditioning specialist, lifetime natural bodybuilder,
freelance writer, success coach and author of the burn the fat body transformation program.Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best
Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom is also author
of The Body Fat Solution: Five Principles for
Burning Fat, Building Lean Muscles, Ending
Emotional Eating, and Maintaining Your Perfect
Tom has written hundreds of articles and has been
featured in IRONMAN Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding,
Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Olympian’s News
(in Italian), Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom’s
inspiring and informative articles on bodybuilding,
weight loss, and fitness motivation are featured
regularly on dozens of websites worldwide. For
information on Tom’s burn the fat body transformation program, visit
monthly e-zine, visit www.TomVenuto.com.
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