- A personal trainer said that if you want a six-pack, it’s a mistake to spend too much time doing abdominal exercises.
- Instead, prioritize fat loss through compound exercise and a calorie deficit, Patrick Wilson said.
- Remember, genetics plays a big role in what the midsections look like, too, he told Insider.
Spending too much time doing abdominal exercises is a common mistake people make when trying to define their midsection, according to a personal trainer.
If you want six-pack abs or visible, most people need to focus on shedding body fat, Patrick Wilson told Insider.
“Getting defined in this area is primarily from having low enough body fat to see your core muscles,” he said.
Wilson said that rather than doing long exercises that focus on the abdominal muscles, it would be better for people to spend their time and energy on procedures that would help reduce overall body fat, since you can’t reduce fat.
“All the live core workouts are overrated,” Wilson said, a view shared by Hyrox champion Hunter McIntyre.
He said there are three main factors to focus on to lose fat:
- Being in a calorie deficit through diet and staying active throughout the day
- Eat plenty of protein to help maintain muscle
- Strength training to help build or maintain muscle.
Having more muscle not only makes losing fat easier because it boosts your basal metabolic rate (which means you burn more calories while resting), but it also creates the leaner, “toned” look that many people want, Wilson said.
Focus on compound exercises to build a strong core
Wilson recommends people use their time in the gym and prioritize compound exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, shoulder presses, bench presses, and rows.
Compound exercises train multiple muscle groups simultaneously and are an effective way to train your entire body.
“They work different muscles and you have to use your core a lot to stabilize your body,” he said. “When you start doing heavier weights, your core also gets stronger.”
However, doing some exercises that focus on your abs can help make them more noticeable — your abs are muscles that can grow like any other bodybuilder, Sunny Andrews and fitness coach Cliff Wilson previously told Insider.
Patrick Wilson said adding weight to core exercises helps build muscle.
He recommends spending five to 10 minutes, two to three times a week, on core work, doing exercises like 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, which means your body burns more energy than you consume, but you don’t have to count calories.
Wilson advises eating smaller portions and trying to eat more protein, fruits, and vegetables to help keep you full for fewer calories.
Likewise, staying active through cardio like walking or swimming, and generally moving around throughout the day (non-sports thermogenesis, known as NEAT) contributes to a calorie deficit, he said.
Genetics play a big role
Wilson cautions that genes play a huge role in body vision, with some people naturally storing less fat in the middle of the body than others.
Genetics also determine what your abs will look like when you’re thin enough to see them, he said.
“If your abs don’t look like your favorite actor or fitness influencer (even if you’re extremely skinny), there isn’t much you can do to change it,” he said. “Some people become very thin and still lack their abdominal muscles completely.”