I used to work really hard for my abs.
I'm talking two-a-day workouts, carb-counting, begging off whenever someone offered me a beer/bag of chips/opportunity to sit down and take a load off. Nobody ever had to ask where I was, because the answer was always the same: Mark? He's in the gym. I figured that working hard, sacrificing, and being vigilant was the only way you could get and keep your abs.
Well, I don't do any of those things anymore. And I still have my six-pack. But I also have my life back as well!
In fact, my new book, Eat This, Not That! for Abs is all about how easy it actually is to have the lean, firm, ripped stomach you've always wanted—if you stop working so hard and instead adopt some of the simple swaps and secret cheats that have been proven to whittle away unwanted flab. In fact, the more research I did, and the more lean, healthy, successfully ab-fitted folks I met, the more I realized I was doing things all wrong. You don't need to gut it out to get abs. Just the opposite. Here are some of the insider secrets of how to get six-pack abs. Put them to work for you, and then don't miss my Top 5 Best-Ever Foods for Abs—Guaranteed!
We Get Over FOMO
This is one thing that I didn't learn until I turned 30. I was always afraid that I was missing out on the coolest event if I didn't go to it or that something would happen if I left early. But guess what? I wasn't—and neither are you. By limiting the number of times I went out during the week, it had a snowball effect on my entire life. I was sleeping more, which resulted in better muscle recovery; I wasn't taking in extra calories from alcohol and munchies; and I was more productive because I wasn't hungover or tired from the previous night.
I am not telling you to be a hermit and stay in every single night, but I am telling you to choose your evenings wisely—and avoid these 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat.
Our Drinks Are Strategic
When I do go out, I usually order a vodka and club soda. A tequila on the rocks (120 calories, 0 g sugar) with a squeeze of fresh lime is also a great choice instead of a margarita, which will have an extra 5-10 grams of sugar.
We Plan Our Food
I know this sounds simple and silly, but it is true. People have a much better chance of having a slim waistline if they plan when they are going to eat and what they are going to eat. That's part of the reason my book is Eat This, Not That! For Abs and not just For Abs! Before I go to bed, I look at my schedule for the next day and plan out what I am going to eat and where I will eat it. I am on the road from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. each and every day. It is critical for me to either prepare and pack food the night before or plan out where I will eat if I am on the road! If you let the day begin without planning, it will be 3 p.m. before you know it and you'll wind up making an unhealthy decision.
We Schedule Workouts
And we keep our appointments! Try to know on Sunday night which workouts you are doing for the entire week. If you just let your week and each day get started and unfold randomly, it will get ahead of you before you know it—and you will be too tired to workout. Schedule an appointment with a trainer or a friend, book a class, or fit it in at home. You can even do one of my quick 15-minute workouts, like this one: VIDEO: 15-Minute Lower Back Workout for Killer Abs.
We Hang Out with People with Similar Interests
Do all of your friends party and get high? Might be time to look for some new ones. Try and associate yourself with people who will be supportive if you tell them you have to stay in because you have a 5 a.m. spin class or that you can't drink tonight because you have a long day tomorrow.
We Skip the Processed Foods
My rule when I'm doing my weekly grocery shopping: If it was made in a factory, it isn't going in my mouth. Chips, cereal, bread, pasta, candy bars, soda, deli meat, juices—they're all things that have been in a factory and processed in some way. I can count on one hand the number of processed things that I will ingest in a month. Not because I am afraid that my six pack will disappear, but because I know about the harmful preservatives and also how they make me feel! Check out these 150 Worst Packaged Foods in America so you know what to skip!
We Get Inspo on Social
It's not hard: Follow people who will motivate you to exercise, eat well, and lead a healthy life. There's no room for negativity here! You would be surprised how photos and videos can inspire you to get your butt to the gym, multiple times a week. While you are there, take some pics and videos of yourself…you never know who you might be inspiring!
We Have Routines
If you find yourself going to bed at a different time each night and waking up at a different time each morning, STOP! Your body likes routine. You want to get into the habit of going to sleep around the same time and rising at the same time each day so that you ensure you get enough rest each day.
Screen Time? What Screen Time?
About 40 minutes before I plan to go to sleep, I try and minimize the number of screens and light in my home. This tells my body that it is time to go to bed. If you have screens or TV on each night before you go to bed, your body gets confused and won't be producing the melatonin that it needs to fall asleep.
We Skip the Scale
Want to know how to get a six-pack? Stay off the scale and stop obsessing over an ideal number. Simply put, 150 pounds of lean muscle looks a lot different than 150 pounds of fat, doesn't it? So, if you are going just by the scale, you will be misguided. Take measurements or try on a pair of pants that you want to try and get into!
We Don't Bother with Sit-ups
The only things sit-ups can guarantee is an achy back and bigger problems down the road. You must train your core in a smarter and more functional way. I show you more than 30 moves in my book, but you can focus on front planks, side planks, push-ups and hanging leg raises. These will work far more muscles than a traditional sit-up—and also keep your back nice and healthy!
We Also Don't Do Hours of Cardio
Abs are made in the kitchen. Doing countless hours of cardio each week will only make you hungry. And guess what? You won't be craving kale. Instead, opt for cardio with 20-30 minutes interval training just two or three times a week. Focus on strength training the other two or three days a week.
Our Bodies Are Our Equipment
The #1 excuse that people have when asked why they didn't work out is because they don't have time to go to the gym. Well, what if I told you that you were walking around all day with the best piece of equipment ever? Yep, it's your own body! Squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, and planks are the staple to any exercise program. You can do these exercises in your living room, your office, the elevator…try this No Equipment Ab Workout!
We Really Do Try to Be Perfect
One of the keys to life is balance. There will be times when you want pizza, and guess what, you should indulge your craving! But get right back on the wagon! Trying to be as perfect as possible is actually one reason six-pack people succeed. You must recognize that you will sometimes deviate and that is okay—just make sure that this isn't happening daily! I like to treat myself once a week to something, whether it is a slice of pizza, a bite of dessert, or a handful of chocolate.
We Embrace Our Inspiration
People workout for different reasons. Many people want a six pack because it represents health for them and others want it to look good. There is no right answer as to why we do things and there is no right answer as to what inspires us to do them. I remember when I was 20 years-old, I saw the movie Fight Club and wanted to be cut like Brad Pitt. So, I printed out a photo of him, taped it to my bedroom door, and looked at it each day. It gave me something to work towards. When it comes to motivation tips, find what inspires you and embrace it because different things work for different people!
We Exercise in the A.m.
Did you know you are more likely to stick to your routine if you workout first thing in the morning? Most social events happen after work; plus, after a 12-hour day, you are probably too exhausted to do any quality exercising! Plan your workout for first thing in the morning to make sure you don't skip it. Bonus: You will also be more likely to go to bed earlier.
We Track Our Progress
One week a client did 5 pull-ups. Then 6 the next week. Then 8 the next week. Then 10 the next week! And he wrote it all down, which is what I do, too. It is very fulfilling to see where you started and how you progressed. Keeping track of your workouts and growth will provide you with a pat on the back each time you open your notebook to look back and see how far you have come!
We Try to Be Patient
Want a six-pack? Then set realistic goals! If you expect to go from super-flab to totally-flat in a matter of a few weeks, you will be sadly disappointed. Instead, I set short term goals and long term goals. This means I have 1-3 short term goals that are 1-3 months long, and then 1-3 long term goals that are 3-12 months.
We Cook at Home
Well, or we find a mate who does. Kidding. Not only does cooking your own food ensure that you are getting all of the healthy nutrients you need, but it also saves you money! On Saturday, look ahead at the coming week and see how many days you will be home for dinner, as well as how many snacks you may need for your days. On Sunday, go to the store and buy enough food for these meals. Now, after a long day of work, you simply open the fridge and start cooking. No need to run to the store! Psst! Check out these 32 Kitchen Hacks for Healthy Eating from the editors of Eat This, Not That!
We Are Consistent
Holiday, vacation, crazy work weeks…it doesn't matter. Every week, the people with the best six packs still stick to their best habits. My most successful clients are the ones who stay consistent with their workouts throughout the year; they don't let anything get in the way of their workout! It's like putting on their pants or brushing their teeth and is something that they wouldn't think of not doing!
We Jam Out
Music is like my kryptonite and I'm on the hunt for great new music every week! If you are anything like me, you have to assemble the best playlist possible before your workout. I go 50 times harder during a workout when I have my own music. Make sure you have your playlist ready, headphones charged, and even a backup pair just in case!