Get to the core to show off those hidden six packs

One of the most common questions I’m asked as a trainer is, "Which machine do I use to get a six pack?"

My answer: "the treadmill." I explain that everyone has an awesome six pack and the trick is how to get it to show. People tend to think that if they do a million crunches they will have impressive abs. False.

There is no such thing as localized fat loss (unless you see a plastic surgeon). If you want those washboard abs, then you need to lose body fat. That means eating right and getting exercise. (See last week’s column on cardio machines at

When those abs do make their debut, you’re going to want them strong and defined. Training the core will assure that.

Effective core training is one of my favorite routines to show people. Once they understand the principles, then it’s not long before they are discovering the natural progressions to existing exercises and making up their own.

Activating the core is easy. Just draw in the bellybutton. Doing this tightens the abs, obliques and the erector spinae in the lower back. This is important because it straightens the spine, putting it in the proper position to perform exercises.

You might have noticed that in past exercise descriptions I require the core to be activated. This is why.

In the beginning it is hard to remember to activate or tighten the core. The more you practice, the less you’ll think about it. Core exercises can be done every day. For most people’s fitness goals, it’s not necessary to try building large abdominal muscles by using heavy weights. The goal is to make the core effective, not big. Repetition and correct form are vital.

Most muscles like to push (like the chest during a chest press) or pull (like the back during a row). The core likes to stabilize and hold its position. It does this all day long. Your core holds you in one position and stabilizes in another. When conditioning, if you can get your core to hold and stabilize, then the exercise will be effective.

Many exercises focus on the core. Using a few techniques can make all those old exercises in your routine new again. The first is to slow them down. When people get comfortable they tend to go too fast. Second, make sure the core stays engaged. No cheating. Third, when you have mastered an exercise, try a variation. Do it slower, on one foot, with a weight or on a smaller base. Always try something new.

Your gym most likely will have a machine for doing a rocking type of abdominal crunch. This crunch is the one that people tend to feel the most comfortable with. You may have even bought a home version of the machine after seeing it on a television infomercial. Doing this exercise with proper emphasis will strengthen your core while giving you a great burn.

Another good exercise for the core is the plank. You might remember the plank from school and you probably didn’t like them then either. The plank is good for the core because it forces you to stabilize your abdominal muscles.

Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. You can contact him at Before beginning any exercise program, consult your physician.

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